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Carrier Johnson, Blokhaus Have Designs on New Revenue Streams

Two of San Diego’s top architectural firms recently expanded design services offered to clients with the start of new multidisciplinary firms.

Carrier Johnson formed Culture and Blokhaus LLC formed Bhausmedia LLC and both now offer extended graphic design and marketing services.

Gordon Carrier, with Carrier Johnson, said Culture opens up doors he never had with an architecture firm.

“Culture is set up to help people understand how they can work differently, that is also in alignment with their brand. So that their environment becomes an advertisement for what they do, an invitation for their recruiting and ultimately a more efficient business,” he said.

Culture offers design services with an emphasis on interactive, environmental graphic design and collateral material, including company logos, letterhead, mailers, marketing and corporate brochures and postcards.

Carrier said this approach shifts the designer from the role of a decorator into the role of communicator, blending the disciplines of creative design with psychology, usability and sociology to define corporate culture, enhance brand identity and improve employee recruitment and retention.

“We look at design problems from a variety of points of view including sociology, product design, graphic design, environmental graphics, architecture and interior design all as one design entity,” he said.

A New Culture

In recent years, Carrier has interfaced with local product and graphic designer John McCulley on numerous projects, including DiamondView Tower in East Village.

“I always really admired John’s ability to create very unique interiors,” said Carrier.

Culture is where Carrier Johnson and the McCulley Group meet. The McCulley Group was a Solana Beach-based design firm focused on interior, signage, stationery and Web design. All six employees merged with a select design team at Carrier Johnson to form Culture this year.

Carrier estimates that the merger will increase the McCulley Group’s revenue numbers fourfold in the first year.

Covering All The Bases

Graham Downes is the head of Blokhaus, a collective brand for a group of related companies consisting of Graham Downes Architecture Inc., Blokhaus Development, a real estate development company, Rothschild Downes Retail Design Consultants and now a design media firm called Bhausmedia LLC. Downes also sees revenue growth opportunities in offering expanded services.

“The key is in referrals and the referrals go both ways,” said Downes.

Bhausmedia, which specializes in corporate branding, opened in October.

It combines the designs of Graham Downes Architecture with the latest technology in digital media and marketing, including 3-D modeling, Web advertising, collateral materials, corporate branding and signage.

“There was an expanded service that some of my clients needed that involved not space but their whole presence, their branding, their identity, their logo, their marketing collateral and their game plan,” he said.

Downes said instead of adding graphic, multimedia and product artists to his existing architecture firm, he wanted to start with a subset company that could offer something different.

“This added value brings us a lot of cache and offers us an edge over other architects,” said Downes.

Bhausmedia’s mission is to produce fresh, innovative, relevant ideas and products by applying the highest level of creativity and productivity. Downes has both an in-house staff of three and outsourcing partners that provide around-the-clock service for media projects.

Downes, a believer in boutique-style services and products, said he may even break down his architecture firm even further into specialized fields.

“People in the business place are looking for the number one specialist in the field,” he said. “People don’t want to go to the big, all under one roof company that will give them soup to nuts and end up building it for them,” said Downes.

New School Of Thought

Avery Caldwell, professor and chairman of visual communications at San Diego’s NewSchool of Architecture and Design, said the expansion of architecture services to include media arts is a growing trend in the industry.

“It is definitely happening,” Caldwell said. “Go to Craigslist and you will see many firms looking to hire graphic designers.”

He said the expansion of services is a response to competition on a national and international level. And the NewSchool is also reshaping its curriculum to reflect changes in the marketplace. In the fall, the architecture and design school with 400 undergraduate and graduate students plans to offer curriculum with a focus on an interdisciplinary blend of architecture and multimedia design in a new media arts and technology program.

“The trend is very much changing and shaping our curriculum, we see there is a market out and see there is a need for this curriculum.”


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