The Top PR Firms in Design & Architecture

With the ups, downs and speed bumps interior designers and architects increasingly face, the role of the publicist is ever-more important.

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In 2023, art shows made a grand comeback, and the design world went all in, splurging millions on show-stopping mega-stands. Just ask Katharina Plath of Head & Hand, who's either jet-setting to art shows herself or sending her squad to soak in the creativity. But there's a plot twist: inflation and budget blues are shaking things up, with 75 percent of designers highlighting budget and cost hikes as major speed bumps, per 1stDibs' seventh annual Interior Designer Trends Survey 2024, which gathered insights from 624 designers worldwide. Despite these economic rollercoasters, designers are keeping their spirits high, betting on 2024 to continue parading the value of top-notch design. And here's a helping hand: Architectural Digest's AD Pro Directory, launched in 2023, is a treasure trove of design talent, from interior decorators to landscape maestros, making it easier for potential clients to find their perfect design match.

When it comes to A.I. in design, we're still in the opening act, with only nine percent of designers currently leveraging it. Almost three-quarters are either giving the tech the side-eye or still mulling it over. However, there's a buzz that A.I.'s role is set to expand. But here's a twist: digital art, while making headlines—The Last Agency founder Bradley Kal Hagen teamed up with the Kinfolk Foundation to spotlight artist-made digital monuments to Black history—hasn't quite dazzled the interior design scene, with a whopping two-thirds of designers not planning to incorporate it in 2024. (Though we can’t imagine designers scoffing at uber-realistic A.I.-generated renders for much longer.) Meanwhile, abstract, contemporary and modern art continue to rule the roost when it comes to collectibles, with artwork reaching record prices at auction last year.

With sky-high rents and a shortage of inventory, one trend that's turning heads is the transformation of office spaces into residential havens, especially in New York City. With 46 buildings enrolled in NYC's Office Conversion Accelerator since August 2023, and four already undergoing metamorphosis, over 2,100 housing units are on the horizon. Why does this matter? In a post-pandemic world, cities are evolving, ready or not. With hybrid work here to stay and a severe housing shortage pushing rents to record highs, turning empty offices into apartments seems like a smart move, albeit a complex and costly one. James Black, led by Anthony DeWitt and Katherine Curkin, is on the leading edge, representing Vanbarton Group, the developer behind Pearl House, the largest office-to-residential conversion in New York City. Below, we dive into more ingenuity from our PR Power List Honorees.

Visit our Power Index to view the entire 2024 PR Power Series.

Hello PR

Erik Perez and Marisa Jones Issa, the dynamic duo behind Hello PR, have been adding flair to the PR scene for over two decades. They've carved out a cozy niche in the design and architecture world, becoming the PR equivalent of vintage wine, especially with their long-standing relationship with KAA Design Group.

Their secret weapon? A mix of transparency, trust and a clever system that gives clients a behind-the-scenes look at the PR magic. Perez elaborates: “We built an 'editorial grid'—a dynamic, live link providing instant updates—so our clients gain insight into the progress of every initiative and discussion undertaken on their behalf. This transparency nurtures trust and highlights our steadfast dedication to their interests." 

In 2023, The Romo Group, a British icon, dipped its toes across the pond with a splashy collaboration with Temperley London. Lesser known in the U.S., they turned to Hello PR's wizardry to cast a spell and charm the American market. It worked like a charm, earning them a spot as Hello PR's main squeeze in the States. Then there's Coup D'État, the design gallery that decided to double down on its Californian dream by opening a second showroom in Los Angeles. With Hello PR's magic wand, they turned what could have been just another gallery opening into the talk of Tinseltown, proving once again that in the world of PR, Hello PR is the name that opens doors.

Erik Perez and Marisa Jones Issa Hello PR

Head & Hand

Since launching Head & Hand in 2012, Katharina Plath has been steering this New York City-based agency with a fierce all-female leadership, embracing their diverse backgrounds to navigate nuances, unearth cultural gems and forge heartfelt connections. Ask fellow attendees at fairs like Paris Deco Off, Salone del Mobile and Design Miami—Plath and team are the life of the party. “Unlike traditional agencies, our members don't just work for our clients; they live and breathe the ever-evolving dynamics of the art and design communities for personal enrichment,” Plath tells Observer.

With over a decade of alliances with design heavyweights like Roche Bobois and Dedar, Head & Hand is all about breaking the PR mold. Their recent foray into the art world has them curating a roster of stars, including Todd Merrill Studio—whose groundbreaking collaboration with Dedar for a Bergdorf Goodman showcase is a perfect marriage of haute couture and art you can actually buy—and up-and-comers like Objective Gallery. They've made waves with campaigns like the launch of Lasvit's Constellation collection with David Rockwell and the grand debut of designer John Pomp's showroom, rolling out an impressive lineup of 40 new products.

As they eye the latter half 2024, Head & Hand welcomes fresh faces like Andrew Franz Architect, Found Collectibles, Maison Royère and Pia-Maria Raeder. They’re also getting smart with A.I., using it to sharpen their strategy and planning, zero in on customer pain points and whip up targeted pitch angles.

Katharina Plath Head & Hand

James Black

Founded in 2022 by Anthony DeWitt and Katherine Curkin, James Black quickly became the go-to strategist for brands looking to make their mark in a crowded field. Their opening gambit was a partnership with BoND Architecture, turning a simple West Chelsea residence into a New York Magazine feature and setting the stage for a collaboration to navigate the cultural currents of the art world, fashion and beyond.

James Black's playbook is a treasure trove of eye-catching stunts—think pop-up events with the coolest brands, residences decked out by the next design prodigies, or weekend-long immersive experiences. In 2023, they masterminded a rebranding heist for Classic Hotels and Resorts, rechristening it as Marc & Rose Hospitality and unveiling two historic properties on California's scenic coast. The relaunch of Carmel's La Playa Hotel was nothing short of epic. James Black roped in Shonda Rhimes’ IAMA Theatre Company and chef Andy Baraghani to turn a hotel launch into a Hollywood-worthy spectacle.

As the digital landscape morphs, James Black stays ahead of the pack, launching a creative and digital division that dives into A.I. and social media, and tapping into fresh talent from non-traditional hubs.

“We are seeing a whole new wave of young designers and artists bringing something new to the industry, including Kouros Maghsoudi, Dionysios, Pilar Zeta and Ceren Aslan,” DeWitt tells Observer. “As this next generation enters the dialogue, innovation is also changing in geography in places like Athens, Mexico City and Cairo as younger creatives forgo more traditional design cities to create room to innovate. As a firm, we are expanding to find talent in these areas to help champion their stories.” And with new clients like AD100 designer Billy Cotton and Vanbarton Group, the developer behind the largest office-to-residential conversion in New York City, James Black is gearing up for another year of trailblazing campaigns.

Anthony DeWitt and Katherine Curkin Photo by Blaine Davis

The Consultancy PR

Lauren Urband, the founder and president of The Consultancy PR, strives to give the design PR world a 360-degree makeover. This bicoastal dynamo, with offices in New York City and Los Angeles, caters to a global clientele of design and lifestyle movers and shakers.

Case in point: their partnership with MoMA Design Store, which opened its flagship in 2019. When the pandemic hit a year later, did they panic? Nope. They pivoted MoMA's press previews to a virtual stage, giving e-commerce a turbo boost. Fast-forward to their recent gig with Lalique. They teamed up with artist James Turrell on a limited-edition collection of light panels and perfume bottles for a debut at Paris+ Art Basel, a global sensation, with a media blitz that had everyone talking.

As the media world morphs, The Consultancy PR stays ahead of the curve, advising clients on the latest shifts and shaking up strategies to meet and exceed their goals. They're all about performance PR, like affiliate marketing, and have expanded their international media relations services to ensure a seamless global presence. And with their recent foray into affiliate marketing, they're not just attracting new business; they're setting trends in the direct-to-consumer and retail spheres.

“This pioneering initiative has not only led to expanded scopes of work with our current clients, but also successfully attracted new business within the DTC and retail categories,” Urband tells Observer. “As this field continues its rapid evolution, we have invested in providing extensive educational resources to our team at all levels.”

Lauren Urband Photo by Stephen Busken

The Last Agency

Born in 2022 under the aegis of managing director Bradley Kal Hagan, The Last Agency (TLA) has rapidly progressed into the design world's delightful interloper—where the expected is politely shown the door, and the element of surprise is the plus-one. This motley crew of mavens from fashion, art and even tech, brings a kaleidoscope of insight, making "same old" a phrase never uttered in their lexicon. 

Founding client Kelly Wearstler is the poster child of the design world’s "cool factor" playbook. When Wearstler's sixth book, "Synchronicity," hit the shelves in 2023, TLA turned it into a fashion statement, netting features in the glossiest of glossies and making headlines in the New York Times Sunday Styles and the Wall Street Journal Off-Duty. 

TLA also took to the streets with the Kinfolk Foundation, spotlighting digital monuments by leading Black artists across New York City, as well as creating a Mercer Street Block Party during New York Design Week on behalf of furniture designers Orior—a way to cut through the noise and prove that, in a post-pandemic world, community is the new currency.

“The furniture industry has cooled since the pandemic-era boom, and marketing budgets are realigning,” Hagan tells Observer. “It is more important than ever to build community for brands and establish connections with their audiences in order to drive sales.”

At the crux of TLA's narrative is a commitment to the long haul, exemplified by their journey with Wearstler. Looking ahead, TLA's got grand plans to sculpt the future of design talk. Beefing up their brand strategy and creative partnerships, plus plotting a global office web, TLA's laying down the red carpet for brands itching to jump from today's buzz to tomorrow's heritage.

Bradley Kal Hagan Photo by Patrick Lupinski

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