How To Win Work: The architect’s guide to business development and marketing

“You are a great designer, but no-one knows. Now what?” MVRDV Partner Jan Knikker gives a practical answer to this question in the newly published RIBA advice book “How To Win Work: The architect’s guide to business development and marketing”. The book explains all aspects of PR and Business Development for architects through anecdotes, general information, and a list of practical tips in each chapter. Featuring vital insights from a wide variety of architects, from multinational practices to small offices, this book is an essential companion to any architecture office.

MVRDV Partner Jan Knikker joined MVRDV in 2008 to enhance the practice’s public profile. A few weeks into this work, as he hyperactively pushed the portfolio of MVRDV into social media, the global financial crisis hit the Rotterdam architects, and in response, he started up the office’s Business Development team. When friends of the practice founders Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs, and Nathalie de Vries asked how the continuous stream of good news was organised, they referred to Jan. He started to write a small manual to help colleagues, because it is MVRDV’s firm belief that architects need to better organise themselves, collaborate, and stand stronger, for the benefit of the entire discipline. This initial manual developed into lectures for BNA and RIBA about marketing for architects, and before long, RIBA commissioned a book. Initially written in stolen hours during flights, and later assisted by the strange gift of time offered by pandemic lockdowns, the book has been completed just in time for the post-Covid restart.

This indispensable book, written by the Director of MVRDV’s Strategy & Development Studio, aims to demystify Public Relations and marketing for all architects, whether in large practices or working as sole practitioners. Even award-winning architects at the top of the architecture discipline cannot freely pick their favourite projects – a fight that starts at the foundation of an architecture practice continues forever. In this sense, Public Relations and Business Development are two extremely related disciplines: PR is the first step, building a practice’s general reputation and recognition; business development that reaches out to specific clients and secures projects is simply the second step.

Jan Knikker said:

“In my experience architects often feel embarrassed to advertise their talents and they hate the word ‘commercial’ because it is not what their passion and thinking is about. Even charities use marketing to support their good causes, so I think that architects can improve the business side of their work and raise their general success by using marketing. With the book RIBA asked me to answer the question: ‘You are a great designer, but no-one knows. Now what?’”

The book bridges the gap between architects and marketing by giving practical tips, best-practice advice, and anecdotes from an author with more than 20 years’ experience in architecture marketing. It explains all aspects of PR and Business Development for architects, including how to write a good press release, how to make a fee proposal, and how to prepare for a pitch. It gives examples of how others do it well, and the pitfalls to avoid. It offers a thorough explanation into the psychology of sales regarding artist impressions (renders) and how to master lectures, interviews, and a meaningful presence on social media. Most chapters end with a list of practical tips regarding the different subjects.

As marketing touches every aspect of architecture praxis, the book also discusses more general aspects which are linked to PR and BD, such as being a good employer, ethics for architects, sustainability, and the challenges in working abroad.

The book features a number of case studies in the form of interviews, exploring how Carl Turner (Turner Works), Nanne de Ru (Powerhouse Company), Hazel Rounding (shedkm), James Crawford (Studio MUTT), and others have mastered their PR and Marketing.

How To Win Work was made with the generous help and support of RIBA, MVRDV’s in-house editor Jessica Cullen, and Architecture Business Consultant Mariana Idiarte, who helped write the chapters on contracts and fee proposals. It is available from RIBA Books:

It will also be accompanied by a series of workshops for RIBA Academy later this year. The first workshop will be held on April 28; see all dates on the RIBA Academy website: