Category Archives: design tactics

when disruption is inspiration

Much has been written about it since it opened in late December of 2013, but I would like to mention Dover Street Market/ New York in context of disruption, a retail strategy I wrote about back in October of 2013, as Comme des Garçons, the driving force behind this innovative retail experiment, has once again proven to be the master of this discipline. Established as the third and american brother of its  original in London we have to ignore the decadence that comes with Favella resembling environments, which sell goods at highest price points for their emotional values as a result of the endorsement of this place and the brands it carries. Instead I would like to draw focus on the creative aspects of the environment, which so refreshingly surprise and disrupt even the savviest retail expert on their discovery through this fashion temple.

Maybe I need to mention the choice of location as the first surprise, a corner in New York’s mid-town, that has absolutely no comparable retail in its immediate vicinity and is more characterized by uninspiring neighborhood restaurants and faceless apartment buildings and would in everyone mind be a financial suicide for such an undertaking. This is where brand confidence crossed with brilliant marketing comes into play, a long-held tradition for Comme des Garçons , where ever they go. ( I do remind of the “Orange Door” in a back alley of Tokyo’s Aoyama district that in absence of a logo lead into a 2 story world of high-end fashion for the ones “in the know” or the store on West 22nd Street in New York’s gallery district in the early 2000s, hidden behind the facade of a car repair shop). And for all those who never dare – it always paid off.

Not intimidated by the relatively small footprint a genius strike is the glass elevator that was brutalistically implanted in the center of each of the 7  floor plates to allow the customer a preview of the entire store offering in one ride to the top, regardless of the fact that it disrupts traffic, views and merchandising on most levels. It is the prime stimulus to the carefully choreographed creative chaos that is dispersed over 7 floors in a souk style fashion.

With displaying multiple brands comes the coexistence problem of multiple identities in one field. To which the creators of this stimulating environment answered by masking the individual brands with crafty expressions of carefully curated fixture (systems) and original to bizarrely defaced  furniture pieces to mini stage sets. If the product does not make you stop then the (art) installations displaying it may have a better chance. Or maybe the freestanding dressing rooms objects will make you want to explore? Whether it resembles high craft or random assemblies, this world of creativity is outfitted with surprises that disrupt one’s expectation at every angle, turning the retail journey into a highly entertaining and inspiring adventure.

It may not convince on all levels of execution but it certainly gains high appreciation on the conceptual end showing once again that Rei Kawakubo and her team are way ahead of their time having created an environment again that is unique and unparalleled yet.

omniform on dover street market

omniform on dover street market

omniform on dover street market

omniform on dover street market

omniform on dover street market

omniform on dover street market

omniform on dover street market

omniform on dover street market

omniform on dover street market

omniform on dover street market

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
regis pean + omni//form is a strategic architecture and design firm creating
experience based design around the world
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brand architecture

brand translated into architecture

shape from content

story telling details

finishes from context

The interior architecture is informed by the brand concept . The space is shaped by a structure of yarn into a minimalist decorative environment that speaks the language of precision, quality and detail. Careful consideration of lighting and product placement offers stunning effect with less to support the brand philosophy.

pas de calais

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Pas de calais, in Soho, NY since April 2013

regis pean + omni//form is a strategic architecture and design firm creating
experience based design around the world
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all bespoke

Many brands have evolved over many years after establishing themselves in the market. Once the positioning is solid they reach out for a greater consumer share in the need of bigger market share. It’s a tricky decision process for brand leaders as they have to decide to expand beyond their core position. Luxury brands have been observed to create sub brands to address the middle income customer, watering down critically their brand  sometimes dangerously close to  a brand image loss by alienating their core high end customer. The (sub) brand is suddenly found in outlet shopping malls and similar giving access to a customer that the high end loyalist would prefer to distinguish themselves from.

However  we can see an increasing contrary trend of brands expanding upwards  to balance out the offering and getting back the ultra exclusive clientele. The key word is “bespoke”, quite the original concept of “couture”, where goods are being customized for the customer. Below is a most recent example about what Prada is doing.

September 20, 2013

Prada’s Made to Order Collection Finishes Worldwide Tour in Milan

Prada RTW Spring 2014

“Ultimate Prada Made to Order Collection.”

Photo By Stéphane Feugère

Prada RTW Spring 2014

“Ultimate Prada Made to Order Collection.”

Photo By Stéphane Feugère

MILAN — The “Ultimate Prada Made to Order Collection.” No, it’s not the working title of a new fashion-satire TV show, but an initiative Prada has been developing quietly for some time. The most recent addition: furs, a lineup of 35 intricately crafted coats in mink, sable and long-haired goat.

The collection has been on a worldwide tour since April, touching cities including Singapore, Moscow, Prague, Beijing, Tokyo, Beverly Hills, London, Dubai and Paris. The last stop is Milan, where the collection is on view — and for sale — through today at a frescoed early-20th-century villa on Via Melzi d’Eril. The property is owned by Prada and was the site of Miuccia Prada’s first fashion show in 1988.

The ground-floor salons were redone for the event. Furnishings include an arrangement of Prada’s saffiano leather trunks in onyx black and Verner Panton sofas reproduced exclusively for the house. Prada herself chose the major art pieces on display, including works by Enrico Castellani, Emilio Vedova and Damien Hirst.

This by-appointment-only initiative allows top customers to order designs unavailable at retail and to have those pieces made to measure. Delivery is within two months of the order. In addition to the furs, the program includes sizable ranges of custom handbags and shoes.

The feather-light furs, made in-house and by hand in Tuscany’s Fucecchio, include mink with hand-cut strips sewn into a chevron motif; sable with tulle lining, and stretch fox (worked on elastic net) lined with chiffon. Each solid-hued style is available in a number of colors; the hibiscus-motif from the recent cruise collection, in custom combinations. Similarly, the accessories are offered in various materials, 25 colors each of crocodile and ostrich, and 35 of silk. Shoes can be soled in black and pink, to which clients can add their initials, either embossed or studded.

The project focuses on two aspects of the Prada’s luxury oeuvre: craftsmanship and superior service. “Our aim was to create an environment that could express the quintessence of how luxury can be absolute and exclusive, as every single detail can be personalized,” said Stefano Cantino, Prada Group communications and external relations director.

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consumer engagement

Retail is entertainment now. We realize that today’s customers want more than product on display. They want stories to explore, communities to connect to, fun, excitement and surprise.  A trip to a retail store is expected to be a continuous discovery. What’s new? is not a question but a demand. And brands have to cater to it to stay in the game.

As product launches and visual stories have quantitative limitations ( per year/per season) it has become an unwritten rule to success to include other forms of engagement to quench the consumer’s increasing thirst for stimulation. The demand for innovative concepts is pushing designers and think tanks to generate constant surprises with a “never-seen-that-before” idea. Often this innovation is replaced by any type of gadget with the hope that technology itself will be the saver. But unless put into a relevant context to the brand story those gadgets often remain unused and ignored (think iPads with irrelevant or boring content).

Here are some better examples of tech gadgets:

QR code activation

The clever part of QR codes is that it requires no hardware ( and with that no maintenance) on the store side. The QR code is on the visual and the consumer activates it with their own handheld device to access the digital side of the brand.

 

 

 

 

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This actually works! The good part here is that it is coupled with a printer, so the personalized remedy for your skin prints out as a recipe to take to the counter for purchase and eventually home with you (so you wont forget!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smashbox Arnotts Dublin

We have seen a lot of these photo booths pop-up recently. They draw a lot of attention, especially with younger customers.  However, rarely are they relevant to the brand they promote.

We thought a fitting place for this would be a brand that is rooted in photography? So we included the photo booth into a setup for Smashbox Cosmetics, a brand that was actually founded in a photo studio. It infuses fun and allows for upload to social media and print outs to take home. Created-tested-photographed at Smashbox.

 

 

 

Barneys_NewYork_table

This dining table is a touchscreen. You order what you want to eat and while you wait for your food  you can browse and shop from the store the restaurant is attached to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apple

When your product is the tech gadget all you need to do is place it on a table and make it accessible. Immediate interactivity.

 

 

 

 

 

There are many advocates  for high-tech solutions, but in my experience the simple is often the better. The more intuitive the better. The less technical the more fail save.

Engagement can also mean low tech. Addressing senses to create a multilayered memory. Wether it is a scent, a sound, a touch those can all augment the experience.

Lego

What is more fun than playing with the product? Instant engagement!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunx

Smell triggers emotions and memories. In the world of beauty lots of products are chosen by consumers for their smell, which often is only a by-product of the formula. Making the fragrance a touch point creates an indirect engagement with the affiliated product.

 

 

 

 

 

omni//form for Mac cosmetics

These displays are soft and squeezable. I designed these years ago to create a haptic memory in customers. The unexpectedness of the touch created lasting memories (and conversations!) Products for skin care  and beauty displayed on organic shaped skins. Hand mirrors in unexpected shapes fit perfectly into ones hands creating a “feel-good” moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sheraton

Sound: One can plug-in their portable music device into these rocking chairs and sound comes out of the back. Fun to experience and surprising. We designed this for a hotel lobby.

 

 

 

 

 

These are some examples of tactics of consumer engagement, however the most effective way is still the oldest and most traditional one: the human exchange. Nothing compares to a smile and a great advice from a knowledgeable sales person if you want your consumer to love your brand. No design can beat that.

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illusion in retail

As retail transforms increasingly into a world of leisure and entertainment today’s designers have to be able to craft environments able to tell stories and to amuse. Retail is standing in for the historic circus, constantly re-inventing its content  to entertain people with surprising effects and acts. The product is no longer the only intent of the visit when the retail space has become a social market place to meet, exchange, learn and discover. Cool hunters are out to be the first ones to discover the uncovered, unusual and unexpected.

Visual effects are tools that we borrow from theater design because they can support a story with a lasting emotional imprint. Sometimes a simple tactic can create a surprising illusion that fully transforms an environment to a fantastical un-real world. While such techniques usually have a short life span (once you have seen it, you are over it) they certainly contribute for the brand to be talked about. Like the buzz around an artshow.

Such effects can be found increasingly executed through new technologies of all kinds but my experience has told me to stay away from high tech solutions in retail as they are usually not suited for 20hrs of operations 7 days a week and when they break it leaves a very dull space behind. The tactics I am referring to are low tech with high impact.

To illustrate I am listing some  examples here below:

comme-des-garcons-nyc-chelsea-mens-japanese-1

comme des garçons in New York

Marking Entry: The futuristic entry into this store stands in opposition to the building. It is a threshold into a different world behind like the entry to a fairy tale.

Viktor&Rolf-Upside Down Store - Milan

Viktor&Rolf-Upside Down Store – Milan

Inversion: An even more literal take on the fairy tale this entire store was build upside down.

Camper New York

Camper New York

Repetition: An iconic products defines the whole environment.

Pop up store LVMH

Pop up store LVMH

Villa Moda - Dubai

Villa Moda – Dubai

Texture: Color pattern desorient and define the geometry of the space.

das brot - wolfsburg

das brot – wolfsburg

Ad absurdum: The unexpected use of roofing material on the inside.

Zeferino - Sao Paolo

Zeferino – Sao Paolo

Proportions: The distortion of the proportions creates an extreme spatial feel.

MAC Cosmetics New York

MAC Cosmetics New York

Unexpected behavior: Architectural elements peel away, destabilizing the environment.

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despresso – New York

Illusion: The space has seemingly been rotated to the side.

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Maison Magiela – Miami

Stage set: Fake doors & paper thin walls show an unreal setting.

Godiva - Tokyo

Godiva – Tokyo

Fairy Tale Effects

It is with such tools that designers can create memorable results which provoke internal reflection and intellectual engagements that create discussion, criticism and attention, all aspects that a brand would normally wish for.

 

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the importance of the experience

Human perception is built from experiences. Experience as a general concept comprises knowledge of or skill of some thing or some event gained through involvement in or exposure to that thing or event. The word “experience” may refer to mentally unprocessed immediately perceived events.One may also differentiate between physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and virtual experiences.

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For all matter the experience is directly connected to the emotional memory imprint we take a way from a lived situation and therefore of essence when pre-defined to achieve the goal of connecting a human to a specific situation, space, object or story.

When we design spaces, whether they are for residential or commercial purposes, we are setting the stage for the experiences that will happen to people, who will be using them. In the case of a theater the stage is exactly tailored to the story of the play with the goal to support or even enhance the story.

Retail, for example, is not much different. The more defined the story is, the more specific the space can be designed to enhance it. It is therefore essential to successful retail design to go beyond space and furniture planning, to a place, where the story, that will be told, is defined primarily.What good is a pretty store if the story is not told well and no emotions evoked?

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The story, that defines the brand, is ultimately what will drive the experience the brand wants their consumers to have.

At omni//form we have developed this process over years.We story board,animate or write out the experience. It involves a deeper understanding of human behavior, trends and fads in various cultural context. We try to think like the people, who will use our designs and research their likings, preferences, habits and rituals. For that we constantly update our global consciousness of cultural and sociological developments and trends. It allows us to create a vision around the scenarios that we have to accommodate and gives us a leading principle to the design development.

I believe that good design starts with interest for its user. It emerges out of consideration to create experiences that leave a positive emotional memory. That is what will make everyone return for more.

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who do YOU think could improve their retail experience? – leave us a note.

regis pean + omni//form is a strategic architecture and design firm creating
experience based design around the world

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merchandising strategy for multi brand environments

There are many different ways and strategic rules about store merchandising.

The food industry has probably best mastered product placement to maximize productivity through consideration in ergonometrics, easy of product access, visibilities, category management, adjacencies and shelf life as can be found in every better food market around the world. We can learn a lot from these strategies.

the leading example

the leading example
food merchandising

The human factor plays the most important role. In the end the products are to be sold to us humans and we have certain constraints in where we can reach, what we can see. We usually shop with an underlying need. Most consumers in a store are either looking for a specific type item or they browse to find a solution to a need (like a gift for someone or a dress for a night out or a hunt for a suitable accessory). In the professional world we call these “consumer need states” and I think that these serve really well as merchandising strategies.

Specifically in a multi-brand environment. A classic way of merchandising such a floor would be to give each brand its own space. Think of a department store and you can visualize how each brand has a dedicated area within its department. The problem with that is that it does not respond to the consumer need.

the traditional department store setup

the traditional department store setup

For example: A customer enters a department store’s men section with the need for a tuxedo. Every brand lives in its own silo, hence he is forced to look for the same item over and over again to compare as he moves from brand to brand. It is also difficult to compare choices as the various models he finds are not next to each other. Instead why not merchandise the floor according his need state? In this example it would be better to have all tuxedos together with all the accessories needed for a black tie event one area. Brands can still be sub-distinguished within that area to keep their identities. So the ties & bows, cuff links, shoes, belts all live adjacent to the tuxedos as it is done in supermarkets with pasta and pasta sauce.  It will not only make the consumer’s life easier, but he will also be more engaged to buy more because the whole “look” is laid out in front of him.

Or why is a customer, who comes for a blowout and style to the hair salon in the department store, not offered a makeup consultation or shown make up products at the same time to achieve a complete look? Or why can’t a business man, who looks to outfit his next business trip, find everything he would need to pack for in one place?

Shopping is partially entertainment today. To entertain we need to tell stories to people. Theme worlds are just that.  Customers will do much easier in a preset themed area than having to piece it together by themselves. So, while some stores have adapted such concepts, we wonder why such a setup cannot be found more often? Wouldn’t it make shopping in department stores so much more convenient and enjoyable?

merchandising themes (need states)

merchandising themes (need states)

regis pean + omni//form is a strategic design firm
with specialization in global retail concepts and roll-outs

http://www.omniform.us

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It starts with understanding the task.

You are looking for a designer ? You have written up your needs, a fact sheet or a brief and assembled some support documentation ready to send out, but how do you decide whom to go with when there are many choices with similar credentials?

The qualitative difference lies in the type of response to your request for proposal. A designer’s responsibility is to understand what his client really intends. To do that the good design partner will make the extra effort to evaluate both, the context you are coming from and what are you trying to achieve with the project –  in addition to the bare brief.

To really understand the task the designer must reach out to explore with his client who they are and what they do. That is true for individuals as much as for brands. What is the brand culture, who are the people behind it, what style do they promote, what fans do they attract, who is their target customer, what is the product all about and what is their point of differentiation from their competition? It is no different from a tailor taking your measures.

To make this process easier and more fun we typically prepare visual boards with specific questions, which we then answer in collaboration with a prospective client as shown in these examples below from a recent proposal.

omni//form brand story questionnaire

omni//form experience questionnaire

omni//form mood questionnaire

A committed designer would also want to know as much as possible about the context he will be working into such as, location specifics, traffic pattern, geographic orientation, adjacencies (specifically if there are competitors) and any restrictions. He would also want to learn about how the brand sees its product being accessed by its customer in store and other channels, as all of this is key to designing a functional (branded) environment. In the tailor’s analogy this would be discussing the fit, use and style.

This very first collaborative evaluation of the task is an instrumental step in defining a qualitative brief in the partnership between a designer and a client that will help to avoid misconceptions and shortcomings. Without this base work even aesthetically winning results will emerge outside of context and bear the risk to fail to often great surprise.

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Here is an excellent example on how good creative design solutions can make all the difference in retail.

omniform for objet carpet in zurich

Selling carpets is a challenging business. Samples take up a lot of retail space so that retailers are forced to either rent large surfaces or store them in classifier systems such as pull-out frames, drawers, or shelving, which do not exhibit their goods well to their customers. It requires a sales person to pre-select samples and never gives an overview of the entire gamut. This little store, I spotted in Zürich recently, is defined by a long and narrow foot print, which would have made it even harder to fit in traditional large storage/display systems for their carpet samples.

The designers found a stunning solution to the problem:  By rolling up the samples and storing them in a grid of wall slots the designers did not have to take away much of the depth of the already narrow store. It cleverly allows for customers to get a full overview of the product line, while being able to touch and feel the product (a necessity when it comes to carpets).

The ingenious idea though is the decision to keep the entire store front unobstructed, exposing the whole showroom to the outside and turning the sample display walls into window displays. By framing the store front window in addition the designers created a powerful display. Accent lighting sets the product display walls in contrast to a reduced monochromatic black and white interior allowing for the product to be the hero on display.

The designers understood well how to take advantage of the long narrow space, the large vitrine and the location. No coincidence that there is a traffic light not far from the store forcing cars to stop right in front of the vitrine on a red light.

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roll out strategy

When retailers decide to take their brand abroad they know they must implement  a strategy of brand identity that represents them at best and stays relevant in the very diverse world of global retail. For a while the formula has been to develop a scheme that prescribes a predefined look at point-of-sales and as many standardized guidelines as possible to assure consistency in the brand message wherever they would go to open a new store.

What we realized though after a few years of this practice is that the world of retail started turning into a dull and very uninspiring scenario: everywhere you would go, you would see the exact same carbon copies of store concepts. Merchandising and window displays were the same and consumers could not differentiate any longer if they were in a mall in China, the US, Brazil or the UK. On the other side the local markets felt like they were imposed a retail scheme that, while representing the brand at its best, did often not really click with local consumers.

What was missing was the integration of cultural context.

Today we are looking at international roll-out designs with a different perspective. We like to design retail scenarios that follow a strong brand concept, previously developed at the heart of the brand. However, the declinations throughout the world are developed with cultural relevance to the local markets. These sometimes small variations to the original concept are key elements to hit the love-mark with a customer. Consumers in foreign countries have different shopping habits. We all follow cultural rituals, we have learned from early on, influenced by our heritage and culture. So it is no surprise that things are done differently in Japan or in Saudi Arabia than in the US. It is more likely to create a successful retail environment by learning these behavioral variations and adapting them into the design concept.

When we took Mauboussin, the french jeweler from Place Vendome in Paris, to Casablanca such adaptation seemed necessary. Even though there is a long-lasting affinity between France and Morocco there is a strong difference in the cultural context as well as behavioral patterns. Led by tradition and religion the role of men and women are very different from the western model, hence the shopping rituals, especially for jewelry – often a prestige object to show affection between the two – had to be taken into consideration.

So for this store we made two major adaptations that I list here as example to support my theory above:

1. we included a women only tea salon. The idea was to encourage women to come on their own as we provided a “safe” environment for them. This unit is attached to the retail store, which enables women to meet with their friends and family without male company and combine that with a shopping experience, which otherwise would be less accessible.

2. we removed the cash desk from the sales floor. This creates a decent environment, where money transactions are being conducted in privacy, secluding the sensitive part  from the communal shopping experience. A very important scenario for male customers in this cultural context, who do not want their shopping partners to see what they are spending.

In addition we adopted local materials and construction techniques in some areas into the design to create recognition to traditional crafts and therefore connect to local customers on an emotional level. For example the facade was covered in broken tiles, a technique found in many residences in Morocco, enriched with sparkling pieces here to make it look precious. Interior walls were covered with Tadelakt, a rich plaster and application method unique to this country. Further we created lace covered moldings on the wall reflecting on the rich local culture of embroidery. All of this did not distort the image of the brand but instead gave it a meaningful interpretation. Now, 2 years after the store opened, we can attest that our strategy was successful as the store has become a staple in its hometown.

Exterior facade cladding realized with local broken tiles

Exterior facade cladding realized with local broken tiles

Interiors - Tadelakt and lace molding

Interiors – Tadelakt plaster finish and lace molding

Tea Salon

Tea Salon

Mauboussin, Boulevard Al Massira Al Khadra, Casablanca, Morocco

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