Tag Archives: design strategy

What it takes…

Brands want to be innovative and catching with their customers. They seek to connect on an emotional level. Designers need to deliver concepts that can facilitate this goal. Creating such a strategic design takes a lot of very deep considerations – for the brand, its back ground, history, people, message,operations, sales, intent and culture – and for the customers, who are seeking innovation and a unique experience.

A good strategic brand concept  for a store translates into designs at all scales that are custom tailored to the brand, its expression to the customer and its operational requirements.We task ourselves to invent environments that facilitate truly unique consumer/user experiences.

I will illustrate this along the following case study:

My first substantial task with MAC Cosmetics was to create a new retail store environment for them. The brand is rooted in professional make up artistry with a strong emphasis on individual creative expression.

mac cosmetics design

MAC Cosmetics design

Our first considerations were explorations as to what the environments, in which make up artists work, looked like and what did and did not work.It was clear that we needed something that was adaptable and flexible to suit the individual needs and promote the artists. A sort of open stage with a flexible arrangement of functional fixtures and tools. In response we developed a modular fixture system that could be re-arranged to endless configurations by any one without the use of tools.we sketched, drew and built models until we knew what worked.

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For the feel of the space we wanted it to be unique to the brand and the products, so we needed something that linked the environment to the idea of products applied to skin. We wanted it to be recognizable that this environment is made to showcase make-up and no other product. So we considered the theme of skin and its organic characteristics. We invented a material to skin our modular fixtures so that consumer would have a memorable touch sensation when getting in contact with our fixtures. Those top skins were equally modular so they would not impact the flexibility of the fixtures below. In line with this idea we developed displays from an animated scenario of attractors that simulated the interaction around the fixture through customers. It created organic displays, onto which we organized product along elevation lines similar to the lines found on maps of mountains.

Image converted using ifftoany

 

 

 

 

counter top wireframe

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all displayers

 

The long design process eventually led to beautiful sculptural objects. Some of the we lit from below to accentuate their shapes.

 

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lipstick copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further we developed accessories like hand mirrors with an organic look and touch to emphasize the theme of skin and beauty. The concept needs to apply at all scales. They were paired with sensor activated water fountains that emerged from the counter top skin creating another impactful organic moment.

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The space itself also needed to speak the same formal language so we created concept touch points through out the store such as areas where we”peeled” the floor off the ground to form an organic enclosure for privacy or  “melted” the ceiling to a softer, organic form or poured a thick 1″ layer of clear Urethane on the floor, to soften the hardness of the space. We choose finishes that contrasted and gave a dynamic quality to the space. The fixtures ended up being built from cement board and a custom formulated Poly Urethane. The space had elements of concrete and acrylic, rather neutral for it to function as a presentation stage for the sculptural fixtures.

 

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The whole effort of 4 months of design, 8 months of development and 4 months of construction resulted in an engaging, unique and innovative environment.

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MAC Cosmetics / New York

 

regis pean + omni//form is a strategic architecture and design firm creating
experience based design around the world
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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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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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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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The future of retailing?

I like the beginning of a new year. It is a time of reflection when we look back at what went right or wrong last year and make resolutions for the year to come. It is a time for dreams, setting out new goals and finding opportunity for innovation. What can be more positive than that?

Reviews and predictions are to find everywhere these days and as head of a creative agency who is always confronted with the expectation of bringing innovative solutions to our projects I ask myself:

what is the future of retail?

Here are my own few predictions for 2013:

1. shopping is more than ever becoming a lifestyle.

With product offering split between the real and the virtual world the actual retail experience in a store will concentrate much more on the service and interaction with the sales professional than the product purchase itself. Product stock may slowly disappear from select retail stores in favor of online ordering and they will change into show room type spaces, where social media come to life. People who shop similar brands have a commonality. Retail space will be used for social interaction, giving brand aficionados a platform to compare and exchange their passions about the brands they adore. Many retailers have already started “club memberships” to foster such trends. Service staff will need to be trained to initiate and assist this scenario to create memorable real life experiences with strong emotional connections.

2.Product stock may slowly disappear from retail spaces.

Customer like to get a deal and they are savvy. The best way to check where to find a product for the best price and get recommendations is online. Customers may not come to buy necessarily any longer, but to test and compare product in real and experience the brand. Then they buy it online later, where they sometimes can find a better deal. So the retail environment becomes the brand ambassador and must deliver the lifestyle promise of the brand. Retail spaces will be places,where customers will be educated on products, test and evaluate. Orders can be made on site but product will be shipped directly to the house. No need to carry out any longer. No need to stock much product. Justifying increasingly expensive sft prices stock space will be converted to valuable branded consumer front space.

3.Registers will slowly disappear.

As the act of immediate buying will not be the main purpose of a retail environment, cash registers will slowly disappear in favor of mobile devices, which will allow the sales person to place orders and no-cash transactions at any time during the experience in the showroom and have product shipped to the customer’s home (following the model that Apple stores pioneered).

4.Product immersion will be favored.

Product immersion will be the new focus. Showrooms are defined by the act of testing and handling a product. Sample product will be available for customers to try out before a purchase. All product is displayed for test use. Touching and trying a product gets a customer hooked faster.

5.Smart environments backed by big data.

Retail environments will be backed by data knowledge. Big data collection on consumer behavior will play an important role in direct marketing and play out in store increasingly. Retailers are already able to send personalized messages to customer’s mobile devices, guiding them to their favorite brands and items. Proximity sensors will allow brands to send support information on smart phones, when customers are present in stores or interact with a product. Digital signage will adjust  content when a customer is nearby. Sensors will “recognize” a customer, her likes, favorites and aspirations with individual data sets built from shopping histories combined with  social media profiling.What sounded like sci-fi a few years ago is available technology today that will show up increasingly in the retail world.

I believe that there lies a great future ahead for retailers, brands and creatives, who

1.are willing to think out-of-the-box

2.embrace the sociological changes social media and online shopping are bringing to the physical world

3.don’t miss to make adjustments to physical environments, staffing and service offering.

These are my thoughts on the immediate future of retailing.

I would like to open this up to a conversation and would love to hear other predictions.

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