Interview with Latch director Alex Atkinson
What made you go into design in the first place?
Initially I wanted to be a furniture designer. I had, and still have, a love for mid-century furniture – the simplicity, clean lines and pure beauty of Charles & Ray Eames’ work was a real inspiration to me. I guess I fell into the print side of things during a foundation year (where you try a bit of everything from photography to graphics). There was a project to redesign a CD cover (yes I am that old!). I chose Radiohead’s OK Computer – the original Stanley Donwood artwork was amazing and I basically copied it… badly! It was all very messy using acetate film, photocopying photocopies and using a beige Mac for rudimentary typesetting. That was really the start of it all. Today my friends would joke that I probably just liked colouring!
So where did the name Latch arise from?
Where to start! We literally spent hours brainstorming (down the pub), considering names for the agency that avoided the weird and the ordinary; whilst making sure it was related to property. Eventually we stumbled across Latch whilst spec-ing some for one of our own homes! And we loved it. It’s something you can’t easily forget and distinguishes us from competitors.
What is a typical day at Latch like?
I guess we’re much like any other design studio in that our days are varied. We all live reasonably local to the studio, so we can get our brains going by running or cycling in, before kick-starting the day with a cuppa and running through our project list, anything hanging over from the day before and anything that’s just landed. One of our designers is home-based, so we get him on a video call with Google Hangouts — so he feels he’s very much part of the studio. And then it’s down to hard work! We’re a pretty agile setup, so we all get involved with clients, making our work varied and interesting – one moment it’s organising logistics for a brochure delivery, the next it’s a marketing suite in East London or running through design options with a client. In between we find time for a bit of studio banter and lots of tea rounds to get our creative juices flowing – although the turmeric & ginger green tea is a bit to cultured for my northern palette.
In a nutshell what does Latch offer?
We are a design and marketing agency for residential and commercial developments. We’re passionate about bringing developments to life and firm believers that great branding and marketing sells properties. We offer everything from naming to identity or logo design, through to, brochures, websites, CGIs, eMarketing, hoardings and advertising. But… we’re always on the lookout for new ideas to help sell property.
What does marketing property involve?
At Latch, our approach is very much audience focussed. We bring consumer insight and creative thinking to the table; so that you get something truly unique and tailored to your audience. Each development is different and there are no hard and fast rules. What will work for one, will not necessarily work for another development. That’s where specialist experience counts. We pride ourselves on delving deep into each project, understanding the specific audience and development location, as well as keeping on top of new technology to improve property marketing.
How are you different from your competitors?
Essentially, we’re not that different – we should all be able to design! Yes, we’re a lot better than a lot of agencies out there – that’s not blowing our own trumpet, that’s what our clients tell us – but it’s not because our designs are so much better, more that our people, approach and commitment puts us ahead of the competition. Our difference is in building relationships, not just building property brands. Obsessing over the details, but also knowing when it’s ‘just right’, no unexpected invoices or missed deadlines. Simple stuff, but each and every one of our team has this ingrained in them. It helps us create great property brands with our clients that just work. Brochures, marketing suites and hoardings that we can be proud of — and that won’t burn a hole in your pocket!
There’s a lot of talk in the industry about ‘PropTech’, what’s your view on this?
We recently wrote about this on our blog, as it seems to be the buzzword of the moment in the property industry. It’s not really anything new, but as technology and use of digital evolves it is becoming more prevalent, and more usable in this industry. For example, it makes searching for a property much more instant, traditional agents are towards the end of the chain now, rather than the top. The way we present new developments, using photography and CGI makes it possible for the audience to fully engage with the development before they visit – yet this also this makes our job harder; as ultimately we want them to visit the development or attend marketing days. Every piece of material we design or develop for our clients aims to encourage the audience to do just that.
Is there a place for traditional property marketing alongside the growing digital trend?
Some agencies will tell you that traditional marketing is dead, that it’s had its day and that a traditional artist’s impression is out of date. We believe that each development should be judged on its own merits, and there are some instances where consumers not only want traditional marketing material but it may be essential to help their decision making. An artist’s impression could convey a homely feel to a traditional country development, that a piece of CGI might not achieve. But it could also give an urban cutting-edge scheme that extra bit of stand out. This happens in editorial design – they don’t just use photographs of interviewees, but mix it up with paintings, sketches, or even Wilfrid Wood plasticine sculptures! We prefer not to go default, but use our knowledge of the audience, development and location to propose the most effective solution to market each scheme.
What do you consider the future of property marketing?
Like the world in general, tech is disrupting and helping the property sector. Newer, interesting ways to market will no doubt emerge – better and faster VR and augmented reality, tied in with personalisation of billboard ads (Total Recall meets Minority Report!). In the short term I see much more use of social media – stories, Instagram video, ‘on the fly’ activity taking more of a prominent role. But there is no substitute for a level of human interaction, whatever the app the tech whizzkids conjure up next to blow our minds!