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Facade

September 11, 2013 — Leave a comment

photo by PlanPhilly

photo by PlanPhilly

According to Merriam-Webster, a facade is:
the front of a building; also any face of a building given special architectural treatment
a false, superficial, or artificial appearance or effect

The French word façade originated in the mid 17th century, meaning face of a building. It is a derivation of the Italian word facciata (front of the building) and the Latin word facies (face). According to the etymology of the word, it took about 200 years for the ulterior (sarcastic) connotation to take root.

In colloquial parlance, facade has negative connotations. It seems to imply that you’re hiding something beneath a flawless exterior. My guess is that this negative connotation took root after the great depression.

The next time you’re walking through an American city, try to pick out the banks built before 1929, they’re usually characterized by grand facades. In the era before FDIC insurance, how would you judge the stability of a bank? According to architect Albert Kahn, banks were designed due to “the psychology of the average business man. [The building] should … reflect the prosperity of the business carried on within and should inspire confidence in the general public” (source).

What better way to judge the financial stability of a bank than by the amount of money they could waste spend on a building. The more ornate the building, the safer the institution; this became apart of the story of their business. Consumers felt reassured walking into the marble covered lobby of a bank. The prosperity – realized or otherwise – was apart of the story that depositors told themselves.

In the digital era it’s easier (and cheaper) than ever to put up a facade. This facade dictates how your consumers will interact with you, how they will view themselves. The lower cost of digital facades means that not having a polished site is more expensive than ever. Your facade is a large part of your legitimacy in the digital era. Most end users have no idea if your site is build off of a wordpress framework or if its custom coded, but they can tell you if they trust your look and feel.

Its important to build a facade that you can deliver on, unlike the banking system of 1929.

What online businesses do you trust the most? Add your thoughts below