Tag Archives: store design

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.

 

eye testerlip mountain

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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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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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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Richard Branson on the Importance of Design

No matter what industry you’re working in, if your business sells services, your ultimate goal is making your customers happy. At Virgin, we’ve always found that our front-line employees play a big role in that, with their cheerfulness, patience, resourcefulness, and dedication to listening to customers. But no matter how good they are, your staff will need you to set the stage for a great customer experience with good design — by providing a space that you, your employees and your customers love to be in.

A well-designed space immediately says that you care about the details and that you want to contribute something fun and meaningful to your customers’ lives — it will help them to relax and talk about what they’re looking for. We learned this accidentally, and early on — at our first storefront, in fact.

Our first Virgin Records store in London, which opened in 1971, was essentially a place for us to listen to music and meet new friends. It featured listening stations where customers could play records before buying them and beanbag chairs so that everyone could hang out. From that experience, my friends and I realized how important it was to create inviting, unique spaces that bring people together to discuss what they are passionate about: music, mobile apps, travel, even banking.

Yes, banking! When we launched Virgin Money in Britain, one of our newest businesses, we faced the challenge of making banking both fun and meaningful for customers. Our team’s answer was to offer people the opportunity to integrate banking into their everyday lives by eliminating lines and teller windows: The banks are designed to resemble living rooms, with both comfortable seating and work areas so that customers can use the space to meet friends, colleagues or our representatives. They can set up their laptops and use the space to do some work whenever they like, taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi, power outlets and newspapers we offer.

When you are designing your space, think about the problems that your customers are depending on you to solve. Many of our spaces address specific issues. For example, some people waiting in airports would prefer to spend their time productively, while others just want to relax, so we targeted both groups’ needs when we made our plans for Virgin America’s Terminal 2 at San Francisco International Airport.

For business travelers, we included Wi-Fi, power outlets and plentiful seating so that they can be as productive on the ground as they are in the air. For people more interested in recreation, we built a yoga room, a lounge with plentiful food and beverage choices, and shops featuring the best of San Francisco’s markets and chefs. We’ve heard from customers that T2 makes the airport an experience to look forward to, rather than just another stop along a tiring journey.

Remember, when it comes to design, it’s rare that one size fits all. Since the types of customers for your services may vary from location to location, you must be flexible. And as always, be sure to ask your front-line staff for ideas and get their thoughts on proposed designs. We have Virgin Active health clubs all over the world, and while they share common values, we encourage franchise owners to customize each club to fit the local community’s needs.

For example, many of our gyms in residential neighborhoods have terrific kid zones where children can be looked after while their parents work out. This allows multitasking moms and dads to get a break so that they can exercise — and relax afterward, too. Virgin Active Soweto, by contrast, serves many business commuters, so it operates a hair salon: After a good workout, people will look as good as they feel.

Even if you are putting everything you’ve got into just getting your startup off the ground, design is not an area where you should stint. The thought, effort and love you put into your business space shows your respect and consideration for your customers — the building blocks of great service. Relaxed, happy customers who know they are valued are more likely to engage with your staff, ask questions and find solutions tailored to their needs.

Have you walked into a store recently that made you feel comfortable, productive, healthy and happy? How did it make you feel about the company? What do such spaces all have in common? Entrepreneurs, tell me about your design challenge on Twitter, @richardbranson.

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/225685

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brand upgrade

Following up on my previous post I feel obligated to mention the new Victoria Secret Flagship UK Store on New Bond Street around the corner, which just recently opened up. This strip, which is known for luxury retail, has now been conquered by a “masstige” retailer. Certainly this must be seen as their high-end version to justify this location. The upgrade is done with a chic facade all in black, showcasing theatrical window displays introducing a nightclub/cabaret theme that features the infamous angel models in stage light settings.

To encourage  full accessibility and break down any possible barriers of customer hold back towards expensive looking environments the proven formula of wide open doors leading into a dark mysterious space pumping with music, as seen in their sister brands such as Abercrombie&Fitch or  Hollister,  is also applied here. The customer sees the most glamorous part of the store from the entrance, the fragrance area, boosting crystal glass, mirrors and lots of reflections in the dark.  A grand oversized video wall of beautiful girls literally pulls anyone in, who cannot resist to the sexual undertone of this palace of senses. The cabaret theme carries throughout the store in variations, its darkness allowing to remain unrecognized while giving way to intriguing illusions of perfect beauty and sexual retail fantasies.

Retail theater at its best.

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Victoria Secret London

Victoria Secret london -video wall

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