Following several months of discussions, Foster and Partners has announced an ownership transition offering up a brand revolution of sorts. Lord Foster has agreed to sell a stake in his professional practice to 3i, a private equity firm that last year earned $1.6 billion.

Following several months of discussions, Foster and Partners has announced an ownership transition offering up a brand revolution of sorts. Lord Foster has agreed to sell a stake in his professional practice to 3i, a private equity firm that last year earned 1.6 billion dollars. Mouzhan Majidi has been selected as the new chief executive of the Foster entity. Recently Norman Foster said that he wants the firm to stay alive and strong long beyond his personal tenure. His equity deal in the firm ownership transition is estimated to be just under $600 million. All of this for a firm of less than 700 very, very talented people. Next, the firm “wishes to further expand – to pursue other global markets.” Foster himself will stay on as chairman to “energize the brand” and build the “Foster trademark” of the firm.

In the chart below you will see how another firm located in Europe has progressively moved its brand reputation into a position of increasing relevance and guru status as evaluated by their clients and ten of their “would be” clients in their market focus. They have made considerable progress in recent years. Another firm (firm B) is a North American firm that has slid somewhat in their brand repute. Both firms are in similar and prestigious market segments, they both have a fine body of work in their history, and have recently competed against one another. They are both considered global players. However, a difference is being recognized inside and outside their firm. Firm A is growing steadily, firm B is stagnant and tending toward obsolescence. In just under two years, a dramatic story has unfolded.

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Brands change. They morph. They transform from positions of relative weakness into powerful and compelling winners. Brands also decline and die. The ephemera of brand is both a palpable threat and significant opportunity.

We love brands because they make life more interesting, attractive, and meaningful. In fact, client organizations define themselves through the architecture and design firm brands they commission. Brands have a complex mix of function and emotion; they are the essence of a firm’s DNA. Brands manifest a firm’s personality and talent.

Brands can sweep across the world. Their physical and emotional presence is often talked about in the media, almost to the point of omnipresence. Today’s leaders in design firm management have the power to shape brands to be more relevant and have more rapport with what the future expects.

Over the next few years there will be new firms who will stand out from the pack. They will be more relevant in their client’s eye. They will have more power and influence. Leadership is giving new attention to professional practice branding. Strength, identity, trust and a defining role in the future is all about branding to one degree or another.