Himani Ahuja, CEO & Founder - One Digital

Changing the face of Architectural Communications in India Successful Entrepreneur Under 30, Himani Ahuja, CEO & Founder at “One Digital”
Himani Ahuja, CEO & Founder - One Digital
Himani Ahuja, CEO & Founder - One Digital

Organic media outreach is the epitome of communications. Tell us about your journey, the early days, and the advent of One Digital.

I always believed that the plethoric exchange of architectural viewpoints with designers is important to abbreviate the global boundaries in communication design. With this single minded goal, I started my career way back in 2013, when I was a consultant with various leading Architecture and Design firms in Delhi. Fortunately over the last two decades, Architecture and Design is not only limited to the elite, and so the need of cataloguing design projects rose. Since, I had been a part of forums like the World Women Economic Forum and had started to represent India as Country Reporter at the World Architecture Community, me and Nishit founded One Digital in late 2014 as a team of Architects, Design Journalists, PR Professionals, and Ex-Googlers serving the ever-growing design fraternity and built environment.

There has always been an evident need for awareness about architects who are making a mark, not only in India but around the globe. As an architecture student, I initially understood that not only architects don’t get their deserved recognition in the field, citizens in general are unaware about the contemporary Architectural marvels. The notion was to bridge the gap between the general audience and the professional fraternity while promoting the form and function of the new age buildings.

Imparting correct information based on the right facts helps validate an underlying principle of the society we live in: Competition in the marketplace of ideas & things. Similar intent is followed in the field of Architectural Journalism. Architectural Communications play a crucial role in establishing a well-designed project on a global scale. To a large extent, architectural journalism affects how the infrastructure of a society develops because architecture is less about the design and more about a steady increment in the quality of public life provided. I felt the dearth of a dedicated PR & Communications firm for architects, designers & allied brands. Therefore, I pursued this unique idea & laid the foundation of One Digital.

How did you develop an affinity towards Communication Design & Public Relations?

Even before pursuing architecture, I had a stark interest in the field of Journalism. Being one of the first batches studying Architectural Journalism, my passion for writing and exposure to global architecture helped to establish design journalism in India. Being an architect, my travel experiences had further enhanced my perspective of the built environs. Architectural Communications & PR, through the formulation of One Digital gave me the freedom to practice both & that’s how I choose to do it. I wanted to focus on the detailed research of the latest construction techniques, current trends of building materials, and the comprehensive analysis of existing/upcoming structures and building lifecycle, thus extending the confines of design through Architectural Communications. With my extended network with media and publication houses, I further developed interest in brand strategy and storytelling through design, leading to working with some of the prominent product brands like Jaquar, Hacker, Liebherr and Jindal Steel in the design industry and launching brands like Flou in India.Our love for Architecture and design centric content curation helped to become India’s only PR and Digital Communication for Architects, designers, and allied product brands.

What does One Digital do? How is it different from the other PR brands?

One Digital is a Communication Design & Public Relations firm dedicated to Architecture, Interior Design, Construction, and Building Material industry. We curate one-of-a-kind & captivating initiatives with renowned architects, interior designers, and design product brands from the subcontinent. One Digital pushes forward architectural documentation and communications, also aiding in creatively conceptualizing design-centric activities and events. Under my leadership, the creative team focuses on the built environment, including practitioners, designers, brand owners, and the wider community. The idea is to put forward their vision with a determined mindset, sharing it with the world through different brand strategies & unveiling a firm’s brand value.

With the strive to make communications stay relevant in the current day and age of social media, we keep fresh perspectives in mind at a corporate level and look towards merging the strengths to drive companies forward while accomplishing personal successes. Our strength lies in our content curated by a team of designers and communication professionals, this unique amalgamation gives us the edge over PR companies. Furthermore, our boutique agency approach helps us to offer personalised and customised services to our clients ensuring they see value in associating with One Digital. Atlast, being a part of the design community, helps to work on a feed-forward feedback model with unparalleled industry insights.

How has the world of Design Communication developed over the years, especially in the aftermath of the pandemic? How are the brands associated with One Digital reacting to the socio-economic-cultural shift, for example, the advent of social media and the digital age?

The previous year witnessed many industries taking a backseat, while there was a visible boom in the digital space as all media houses & publications switched to going digital. This instant amplification of the PR industry pushed professionals, including the AEC industry, to adapt to the advancing times and draft a future in the field. With time, many designers chose to work with public relations professionals who help navigate the ins and outs of the publishing world & aid in making strategic choices to connect with the right people organically.

PR is now more than creating awareness and media releases or making individual pitches to the editors. PR in 2021 is dominated by campaigns that hold genuine sincerity, compassion, and humanity, making design communication more intensified than ever.

With a focus on delivering quality rather than quantity, PR firms are looking at ways that highlight transparency and evolve design brands in 2021. We are standing at a point of time when the audience is demanding credibility & authenticity, making social media the most effective way to communicate the brand’s story every day. We have reached the universe where the cart is now driving the horse. The pandemic has proven to be an appropriate time to get creative- as many business owners have already explored, enabling remote working or shifting to virtual events & conferences. It won’t be long before this necessity turns into a modern-day trend.

Architects are realizing the need for them to become influencers by simply communicating through their design and in a language that the common man understands. Everyone we know is using some form of social media today, whether it be Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. While Facebook offers a more personalized approach talking about all interactive aspects at the firm, Instagram serves as a visual directory of experiencing designs through sight, and LinkedIn helps build a required professional network.

While it is crucial to establish one’s social media presence on individual platforms, another critical aspect is to link all of these together. For instance, linking Pinterest accounts to Facebook and Instagram profiles and linking Instagram to Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr help gain better reach and traction. Consequently, these platforms acquire more power in circulating traffic between each other, enabling various communities to connect. Brands are through with the concept that putting forth project stories and vision stories on Digital Portals & Platforms exposes their design firm to an international audience as well, consequently broadening the scope of work.

Brands today have understood the vast possibilities to explore and elevate their image with the advent of digital media and thus transform their strategies to help boost their image. They are now creating and publishing rich content relevant to their expertise and allowing them to become a thought leader in your industry.

Briefly walk us through the process of making a successful brand.

Creating that unforgettable brand image is a deliberate one-step at a time process allowing you to shape your brand with intention and control. So many details go into creating a brand that creates value for its audience. The holistic brand building aids a designer to present their work with a defined level of professional finesse at various practical platforms, including tender filings or a rendezvous of other architects/potential clients sitting anywhere in the world. It’s essential for a design studio to be aware about terminologies like search traffic, number of leads, partnering opportunities, etc. The branding building journey entails the following steps -

1. Create an overall business strategy- The overall business strategy of a firm should embody the core of what the practice stands for & its values, design language, audience, project typology thus serving as a starting point.

2. Identify your target clients- The narrower the focus, the faster is the growth. Identify the target clients & develop your profiles suitable for the client at hand. It is quite relevant to research and understand the target client’s perspective & priorities.

3. Develop your name, logo, and tagline- Every visual element should showcase a cohesive visible language to complement each other. The firm’s name, logo & tagline are a way to communicate or symbolize the studio's design language.

4. Develop your website- Architects & Designers strive to make sure their brand gains ample visibility. A website is a catalyst where all the prospective clients turn to figure out the services and experience the firm provides.

5. Go Digital - With the advent of digital media, being active on social media, be it Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook is utmost important. IIt aids in getting the message of the brand noticed and comprehended by not only by the clients but the users of the space.

Architecture influences the way society develops. How do you ensure that Architecture Communication stays an important part of the design lifecycle?

I believe that Architecture & Design makes a world of its own through strategies targeting the Profile Building of a firm, hence aiding them in gaining organic recognition. The architectural communication & PR field has given the firm numerous vantage assignments that have galvanized my journey in becoming a brand strategist & communications specialist while being an architect. Architecture and Design, like art, is perspective based and hence I always say, “Talk design”, make the inhabitants or users of the building realise the thought process which has gone to design the building and create the overall build environ.

For architects & designers, who have just started their practice, I aid in translating the manuscript of establishing a successful brand identity in a more straightforward dialect. The motive is to encourage maximum people to engage with the firm. We offer ways to communicate with the world while differentiating yourself from potential competition. I have always emphasized the importance of following a successful brand development strategy. A brand identity is any firm’s most valuable asset. The strength of a firm’s brand is typically identified via reputation multiplied by visibility and how relevant it is to its target audience. The services offered leave an everlasting impression on customers long after they’ve been fulfilled. With architectural communication, we prioritize building a brand’s identity. It doesn’t only involve a logo & color palette; it requires curating a comprehensive visual language that can be applied to even the firm’s website and social media pages. Firms that establish a face & maintain it consistently over time develop credibility among their competitors & trust among clients. These steps ensure that communications always remain a part of the design lifecycle.

The pandemic has provided a lull to many businesses, making them pause and take a second look around. What are some ways an entrepreneur can start branding and planning a future digitally?

Start-ups & SMEs in all domains, be it technology, hospitality, or finance, are facing massive business turmoil due to the unprecedented pandemic. While many entrepreneurs have faced challenges in the past year due to the sharp decline in business activity, most of them are being forced to adapt to the uncertainty spread by the pandemic. I believe the crisis is the perfect time to let one’s business grow and explore avenues that once they were apprehensive about.

An entrepreneur needs to understand that Social Media and other online portals are heading the digital communication world these days. Hence, communication has become a significant aspect for an Architect/Designer, helping lay the foundation of an organic exchange of design ideas and theories.

Here are a few tips that Architects and Designers can use to brand and plan their future better digitally.

Participate In Webinars- This pandemic has introduced everyone to the new concept of hosting webinars via zoom meetings. Connecting with other architects and members of the design fraternity can aid them in having a broader perspective on how to cope with the current scenario and move forward with a better ideology.

Online Design Competition - Participating in design competitions held on various social media platforms aids in stimulating idle minds and instills a sense of healthy competition. Due to the mass following and reach of the platforms, Design Competitions are the perfect way to display one’s work and attract prospective clientele while showcasing the brand through such activities.

Brand Building Activities Through Social Media - An architect can explore interactive brand building through social media activities in a language that the common man understands.

Online Presence - Website - A website is beneficial to promote skills & services while serving as the place where most clients form their first opinion about the firm. Creating a website that visually displays their work ensures their brand gains and visibility, all while sitting at home.

Today, due to the advent of Digital Media, Architectural Communications have evolved considerably. Architects, designers, and entrepreneurs can use the time efficiently to gain a wider audience and ensure a sensitive & valuable approach to creating meaningful content.

To advertise with us Call Now: 011-4121-9292 or email: onlinead@theceo.in

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