By Jeff Mottle

Interview with DBOX - New Site Launch

CGarchitect had the opportunity to chat with Matthew Bannister, CEO and founder, about DBOX's new Tumblr launch and the future of DBOX and architectural Visualization.


Over the last year or so, DBOX has become a lot more visible on social media and you’ve just launched a Tumblr blog that is now your 'website'. What are your plans for social media in 2015?

Our take on social media has perhaps shifted based on who we want to connect with in the outside world and why we want to connect with them. In the case of our Tumblr, we see that as our website. It accomplishes everything a website can and perhaps more. New York Magazine once called DBOX ‘the pornographers of Architecture’ so, with that in mind, Tumblr was a no-brainer! It is a very visual platform. 

We don't see it as a tool to attract clients. We know who our potential clients are and it's up to us to bang on their doors, if they’re not banging on ours. Our site is more about sharing the work with a much larger audience of visually-minded individuals who scroll for inspiration. It's about connecting with potential collaborators, future DBOXers and the wild unknown of the anonymous.

More importantly, over time it will become a historical document and valuable internal resource for new DBOXers to learn about our past. The industry of computer visualization in architecture is still in its infancy. We want to create a place that is an organic representation of now and the last eighteen years. I believe this will have some real historical value twenty five years from now. The Tumblr kicks off with our first reel from 1996.

Your Tumblr has a nicely curated collection of some of your best work over the last several years. Are there any that really stand out to you as a favourite? 

I have no favorites - they all work as memories. My favorites always tends to be the next ones. 432 Park Avenue in New York and The Buckingham, adjacent to Buckingham Palace in London, have been wonderful projects for us. Unfortunately, a lot of the things we created for both of these projects, we are keeping confidential at the request of our clients. In many ways I judge the projects by the client. Clients get the design they deserve and the best clients we have had are the ones who have trusted us to do things that aren't on the menu. Our amazing client for 432 Park avenue said, “You are only restricted by your own imagination.” That’s an exhilarating - and at the same time terrifying - brief.

While many companies in our field focus exclusively on the creation of CGI for architectural marketing, most of the pieces you’ve showcased on your site feature high end branding and marketing collateral featuring your CGI and photography. Are you often hired exclusively for branding and advertising skills or does pure CGI still make up a good part of your time? Do you prefer to be involved in the entire branding process?

We are and always will be very focused on the visualization of architecture and the creation of desire through image making. For us, it is critical to frame our work and there is no better way than to design the pieces that the CGIs will be housed in. The initial transition into a full service creative agency was precipitated by seeing our visuals in poorly designed pieces that we had no control over. The only solution was to see the work through into the hands of the end user. Additionally, retaining copyright to all our work and ensuring that our clients have contractual commitments to credit us appropriately are crucial ways of controlling our visual assets. 

We do still create CGIs for presentations, but the majority of our work is marketing and advertising CGIs for the projects we are branding. The differentiation between these two types of work (presentation and marketing), and their end uses, licenses and value is something that I hope to talk to the Architectural Visualization industry about in the upcoming year. Yes, we do projects that are pure branding and design projects, whether they be the rebranding of a corporate concern or serving as the agency of record for an institution such as Park Avenue Armory. Ultimately, we embrace projects where all the disciplines in our studio can collaborate.

2013 and 2014 have been pretty good for DBOX and you’ve received some very prestigious awards and nominations. Can you talk about some of the awards and the work you did for them?

In 2013, we were 'Highly Commended' by the International Property Awards for our New York by Gehry marketing campaign, and our Branding and Visual Identity for Caye Sereno in Vietnam won a World Luxury Award. Last year, 432 Park Avenue's website was awarded 'Best Architecture Mobile Site' by the Mobile Web Awards, and our 432 Park Avenue book won the World Luxury Award in the Print category. Last but not least, our Branding and Visual Identity for The Buckingham won a World Luxury Award Gold Medal.

What part of the process of creating deliverables for your clients do you find the most rewarding?

I can’t speak for everyone, but I personally enjoy working on something where I am learning something entirely new, or working with a client that I can learn from. I personally learned a lot on the 432 Park Avenue project. The other greatest reward is seeing members of the team really take ownership of their work. We have internal design reviews, and these meetings are probably my favorite afternoons at the studio.

With big and notable clients often comes the restriction of non-disclosures. How challenging is that in being able to showcase your best work to solicit new business and share within the community?

It can be frustrating to sit on work we've produced. There are some pieces we have done over the years that will never see the light of day.  We recently produced a series of CGIs for The Buckingham which we cannot share at the moment. I believe they are visuals that the industry would like to see. There is also a highly unique film we created for 432 Park Avenue that we completed almost two years ago and the only place you can see it is in the sales gallery we designed for the project. Access to the gallery is extremely limited to legitimate and ‘qualified’ buyers.

You recently opened a new Miami studio. Can you tell us about the studio and your goals for the expansion?

Miami is transforming into a cultural city, and now holds a firm place on the global tourist ‘top destination’ list. I obviously include Miami Beach in this equation. People are moving there and I am myself now a Florida resident. I spent 73% of 2014 on South Beach. We have a studio in 1111 Lincoln Road, the Herzog and De Meuron renovated SunTrust Building next to their stunning parking garage, in the center of South Beach.

From there we have been servicing local accounts such as the Ritz Carlton residences by Pierro Lissoni, The Surf Club by Richard Meier, and we have just started a confidential mixed-use project which will involve branding and creative for a hotel, residences, marina and retail. As always, we grow very carefully and slowly.

We did not open a studio in Miami to make a big splash and grow into a big office there. We are cherry-picking a few good projects, clients and people. The CG department in Miami is being headed by someone who has gone through the ranks, starting in London and then to Miami via New York. It’s a very solid foundation and our initial hires in CG, graphic design and project management have been fantastic. I am thrilled about the prospects in Miami. I am in NY today and it’s absolutely freezing. Looking forward to getting on a plane later today and heading back to DBOX Miami.

Over the last 12 months we’ve seen an extraordinary amount of hiring going on the industry. What are your thoughts about growth in visualization and architectural branding over the coming years?

We have not hired that many people. We much prefer to turn down work and only take on special projects that really fit into our production schedules. We sometimes have to turn down really good projects. I imagine it’s a little more complicated for us as we need to carefully balance the work across all disciplines. I suppose if we were just CG, we could hire a lot of people and make hay while the sun is shining. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and our reputation is only as good as our last project or image. I think that architectural visualization has a bright future but it is time for the industry to grow up and become perhaps more united over contracts, intellectual property rights and business practices. Real estate marketing is evolving all the time. It's becoming less formulaic and that’s a very good thing.

Can you walk us through your hiring process? With a number of international studios and recent growth, what do you look for and what makes for an exceptional member to the DBOX team?

We look for people who really want to learn and grow with us. It is a big plus to have people with artistic ability outside of computer visualization - I personally like to see people’s drawing and photography. A person with a calm, modest personality is preferable. No “lead singer-itis” is tolerated at DBOX. We also shy away from people who jump around from company to company. We look for people that we believe can eventually grow into creative directors who will be able to direct an entire branding account through all the disciplines. 

If you are hired as a CG artist, it doesn’t mean that that is all we expect from you in the career path. There are a handful of Partners at DBOX both in the UK and US who started in CG many years ago and are now leading their own branding and marketing accounts. Seven years ago, I interviewed someone in our old Amsterdam office. He said, “I have looked around, I’ve researched all the companies, and there is only one studio where I want to grow my career, and that is DBOX.” That same person was made a partner in the NYC office this month. That’s what we look for in a hire.

What’s in the future for DBOX?

To continue doing what we do. We have in the last year rebuilt our entire digital team, and the work we are starting to produce with branded sales experiences is really exciting. By this, I specifically mean sales or leasing spaces that are interactive and immersive. This is an area where all the disciplines can come together - Architectural Design, Graphic Design, Digital, CG, Photography, Film and Audio. We are also, of course, excited about future technologies that are poised to make visualization less passive, and the potential that has for for these brand spaces and experiences.


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Cource, the guy is very entertaining and down to earth ;) "Thinking that everyone would benefit from hearing some soothing music, I selected something suitable on my iPod, plugged it into the beach hut’s sound system, turned up the volume, and played the doom-laden and anxiety-inducing “Apocalypse Now” soundtrack instead." It's all about the giggles. grts
Totally agree, great interview and really interesting.
Great interview. Could be longer and more under-skin but nonetheless useful.

About this article

CGarchitect chats with Matthew Bannister about DBOX's new Tumblr launch and the future of DBOX and arch viz.

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Jeff Mottle

Founder at CGarchitect

placeCalgary, CA