What makes a brand a brand? For architect-trained designer Brian Rojas, it’s more than an existential question. It’s an inquiry that leads him to robust architectural expressions with a versatile but sometimes overlooked building material.

Rojas is the founding principal of Houston-based Brilliante Group, an experience design agency that brings brands to life through collateral material, sign systems, and the built environment. You’ve seen his work for Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Miller Brewing, Shell, Jiffy Lube, Pennzoil, Exxon, Chevron, Phillips 66, and many other iconic brands.

Before.
Before.
After. Using ALPOLIC’s metal composite materials in a timber finish brought a modern, sleek look to this location’s brand refresh. By retrofitting the exterior application, the Brillante Group was able to deliver a completely new look for the center without requiring extended down time.
Nick de la Torre After. Using ALPOLIC’s metal composite materials in a timber finish brought a modern, sleek look to this location’s brand refresh. By retrofitting the exterior application, the Brillante Group was able to deliver a completely new look for the center without requiring extended down time.

But even those brands sometimes struggle to rise above the marketing din. Rojas knows the challenge. That’s why he views a retail location like a theater production, with the star of the show being … who else? … the customer.

“What do you want the customer to feel? Youthful? Confident? Thrifty? Smart? The choices you make with color, lighting, cladding, sets the stage,” Rojas says. “You don’t need a big sign. Design is the marque.”

Provided that the marque is uniformly displayed across dozens, perhaps thousands, of retail locations, Rojas often turns to metal composite material (MCM) to maintain aesthetic integrity. MCM is a cladding panel designed for interior and exterior applications, especially when strict fidelity to special brand colors is a priority. An MCM panel is formed by sandwiching a polyethylene or fire-retardant core between two thin skins of aluminum or other natural metals. If desired, the top panel can be painted in the customer’s precise color and gloss specification via a durable coil coating process before it is permanently bonded to the core material.

Rojas also illustrates some other reasons to specify MCM cladding.

Sustainability. MCM panels are composed of largely recycled materials and are easily recyclable. Rojas also likes the way MCM minimizes the environmental costs of deconstruction and construction. “In a lot of projects, 90% of the structure stays in place,” he says. “The existing building is reimagined with MCM cladding. It’s excellent for covering up aging fascia, brick, or metal.”

Stability. Beautifying a building with color is great so long as the color holds up. “MCM panels offer more color stability and confidence,” he says. “You know the panel colors will properly reflect the brand at different times and places throughout the country.”

Flexibility. When the brand design relies on special colors or finishes, MCM shines. For example, Rojas says his last project is a superb illustration. “We used MCM that emulated wood. It’s warmer, not as cold or technical,” he says. That broad palette goes even beyond that for some manufacturers. He cites his experience with ALPOLIC, a leading MCM manufacturer. “They actually come to me with different ideas and approaches that help enhance my value to my clients. There’s never the traditional, ‘Okay, here’s the spec. What options do you have?’ ”

Confidence. “I can’t think of any time a client regretted using MCM panels in the 20-plus years I’ve used them. I’ve never heard a negative word or callback,” he says.

No building material is perfect for every requirement. But MCM may come as close as any to creating the exterior or interior effect you want across nearly any architectural application.

To learn more about MCM cladding can enhance your next project, request an AIA presentation.