about who they’re selling to, who their audiences are, who their retail partners
are, and how they want to communicate their products or services to them in
order to customize particular fits either for their retail stores or some aspect
of the product that can be customized for a particular customer.
Let’s say it’s Home Depot. They have their own brand, so anything you
do in the environment to sell your product to Home Depot needs to support
that brand, while at the same time encourage them to put your product versus
your competitor’s product on the same shelf.
What we’re doing here now is really pushing the envelope in terms of that
I&S: How so?
KC: Ten years ago, there was planogramming going on in those environments: Here’s a series of shelves, and here’s where we would like for our
products to go on those shelves, and we’ll help planogram around all the
other products so that we get the best real estate on that shelf.
The fact is customers who are coming to these places and giving up
a day or two days of their time want that experience to be customized for
them. That may mean that there’s a focus group that one wants and another
doesn’t. It may mean that we need to reconfigure a test lab for sharing real
product development with them. It may mean that the whole agenda for the
day is completely different and they may be going off site or outdoors. It all
varies, so the spaces that we’re designing need to be accommodating to a
variety of ways that our clients are planning to engage these customers.
KJ: We always say the building is a tool. It’s not just this static place with
walls where you conduct your business. The building and the design itself
can be an asset in the way that you interact with your customers.
I&S: Can you give some examples from your recent work?
KC: For [an infant and toddler product manufacturer] showroom, they wanted
their brand everywhere. Their brands are their products. They’re bringing their
customers in to see the brands, to see the customization to their product,
which is very particular to [their own brand], although [that] never shows up
as a brand in the retail environment.
KJ: And their aesthetic as a corporate built environment is completely different
than the products they’re selling. So they wanted their corporate brand to be
featured: a very mid-century modern kind of feel, which is the very opposite
of children’s toys. They didn’t want it to feel like a big playroom.
KC: To save time in that environment, we set up staged areas to feature the
various lines of their products, so customers get the essence of the brand just
by standing in each zone. Everything from the flooring materials to wall graphics,
lighting fixtures with branded graphics—all of this makes each area almost
feel like its own area within a retail store, yet there are still enough overall
similarities in materials and displays that they still feel like [the parent brand].
These branded vignettes live within the corporate branded environment,
so there’s this layering of brands that’s happening.
I&S: How are projects like this different from what other groups at
Perkins + Will are doing?
KC: Oftentimes we’re assisting clients in changing the way they do business.
Having practiced architecture and interior design, I think they both have a
major role in what we do, but at the same time, they’re not always changing business. They’re following a program, and a lot of times they’re slapping a logo up on the wall behind a reception desk or something like that.
All that has its place. I think it’s really good, but we’re not actually being
asked to do that. We’re being asked to communicate something that’s
more about a mission.
We really have to dig in and mine for information about their work, why it’s
important, what their vision is, what their goals are, how they want to differentiate
themselves and compete in a market. We also have to have a really good
understanding of who their customers are and how they’re communicating to
them, whether their story is about a product or whether it’s an actual experience that they take a customer through to develop something for them.
I&S: When it comes to design that actually changes the way your
clients operate, how are you helping them to identify the need?
KC: For these types of collaboration- or customer-centered projects, we typically
know that we need to get involved and have a really deep understanding of
what their current process is in order to meet their goals of an environment
that can support it. We’re sort of like undercover boss. We hear what they