Feature Article: Client Demands Lead Firm to Creatively Forge Ahead

Read the original article, written by Lisa Brown, here on

Founded in 1980, FME Architecture + Design has worked on some of the most unique and visually stunning projects in the Bay Area, including The Battery and the VF Outdoor campus, solving design challenges for both new developments and revitalized spaces. As times are changing, so has the firm, with a recent rebrand as FORGE.

“We live in an ever-evolving experience economy and FORGE represents our commitment to furthering the stakeholder experience to meet the demands of our clients and communities,” said Eric Ibsen, chief design officer. “Our new name encompasses all aspects of our business and is reflected in our client interaction and internal culture. We are in fact forging ahead, utilizing new and innovative approaches to both creative and technical design and to the changing needs of our business.”

To determine the new name, the firm enlisted clients and contacts to serve on an advisory board to provide opinions on how they saw the firm and what they suggested as changes. The decision was a direct reflection of those conversations, further highlighting the firm’s commitment to client interaction and participation.

“We are so excited by how it all came together and are incredibly grateful that we have such engaged clients,” said Vanessa Pelletier, brand manager. “The rebrand was a deliberate and thoughtful exercise that was the result of a rigorous client feedback process. The outcome is a new internal direction that honors who we are today as a company.” learns that the rigorous client feedback process included 60 people, 30 past/current/prospective clients and stakeholders, and 30 FME staff members. Representative companies included prominent CRE industry players such as Kilroy, Hudson Pacific Properties, JLL, Cushman & Wakefield, Pankow and DPR Construction.

In order to gauge the external perception of the brand and to gain insights on the marketplace, key industry leaders were selected from the following groups: developers, brokers, general contractors, project managers and property owners/managers. In addition, to better understand the internal perception, every person on FME’s in-house team was interviewed including Jack Munson, one of FME’s founding partners.

“For the initial meeting, we asked for 20 to 30 minutes of each person’s time for a face-to-face interview at their office or preferred location. There were 10 questions in the survey, which were mostly focused on garnering qualitative responses. Our brand strategist from TheorySF, the consulting team we hired, attended a few interviews at the beginning, but then I completed the remaining majority of the one-on-one meetings,” Pelletier tells “Secondly, we asked a smaller cross-section of about 10 participants to provide further input, this time on a potential name change for the firm. These were in-person interviews, lasting about 15 minutes each. This additional feedback overwhelmingly led to rebranding FME and selecting the new name FORGE. Lastly, we invited a handful of participants–half clients and half staff members–to participate in 30-minute on-camera interviews. Questions from these interviews were focused around the concept of ‘What’s most important to you?’ as we found that the most essential attribute of any architecture and design firm is the people. We used excerpts from these on-camera interviews to produce a video for our new FORGE website.”

During this process, FORGE indirectly created an adjunct advisory board of professionals outside of the company who are invested in the company’s success. The process also served as one of the building blocks of FORGE’s 2016/17 marketing and business strategy, which is focused on a commitment to evolving the client experience.

In addition, the process produced a summary of topline results, including key takeaways, strengths/weaknesses, opportunities and recommendations that informed the development of the new brand identity. The FORGE brand has a primary emphasis on forging relationships and a new approach to design, while continuing to build upon the 37-year legacy of FME. And finally, the branding process built upon an ongoing client feedback program, on which the company will expand to include others, and double-back to maintain the dialogue.


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