Title: For sale: a house style for estate agents
Text: For sale: a house style for estate agents
Estate agents, like solicitors, funeral directors, bank managers and other professional men who form the stolid, respectable backbone of any urban community, are notoriously conservative, not only in the way they order their private lives but also in the way they run their businesses. They are not (usually) involved in the rapid changes which follow take-overs; they do not go in for glamorous publicity; and they are probably in firms which betray nineteenth century origins. This being so, it is to the great credit of the London Junior members of the Chartered Auctioneers and Estate Agents Institute that they invited Douglas Merritt, a graphic designer, to address them on how to put their own house in order.
Mr Merritt pointed out that in their
own communications with the public through siteboards, posters and stationery - most estate agents produce items which are completely unrelated in appearance, size and colour. "Your letterheads," he said, "in an attempt to look professional and dignified, are often timid, muddled and overcrowded, having little harmony between the heading and the typed letter. On your siteboards, the lettering is often ugly and too condensed to read well at a distance. The board is invariably cluttered with borders, box shapes and unnecessary wording, and there are too many styles and sizes of lettering - many boards look cheap and hurriedly constructed. Similarly, the title page of an auction booklet is often just like the auction poster in miniature, although the two will be seen in very different circumstances."
In case the changes which Mr Merritt advocated -the use of a graphic designer to design the agent's material to a set style. and
a general upgrading of the standard of printing, paper and siteboards - seemed too radical, he pointed out that such changes have been made by other bodies, including the big five banks. They, surely, are as respectable and dignified institutions as anyone would care to have. "Everything you produce," said Mr Merritt, "should have a simplicity and logic about it which makes it easy to read. You should have a house style which, in visible terms, will convey some of the qualities and personality of your business and the service which it performs to the public. It must do this with speed and clarity. It must also be adaptable to many different uses without losing its character."
Some estate agents have already adopted recognisable house styles. But most estate agents deserve the criticism Mr Merritt has given them. They would do well to follow his advice.