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Design firms in retail and hospitality

T oday’s fast-paced, modern living requires brands and organizations to innovate, and an integral component of this innovation is design, not only in terms of marketing efforts, but also in the physical arrangement of their facilities. The interiors of retail establishments largely contribute to identity, branding and overall attractiveness of the site. Even the merchandise can be seen in a completely new light – literally even – depending on how the store looks and treats spaces. The commercial designer, indeed, helps the retailer sell the merchandise (Piotrowski, 2009, p.

183). Retail design is one of the two “most intensely creative and experiential” of the practice fields, interior designer Bruce James Brigham said in (Piotrowski, 2009, p. 184). Brigham refers to the much needed brand development knowledge, specialty planning, graphic design, interior architecture and storefront design. Brigham is the founder and principal of RETAIL CLARITY CONSULTING, a firm which values strategic planning and careful consideration of the shopping experience as vital to the retail facility design (Retail Clarity Consulting, 2006).

For Brigham, functional stores are not anymore enough, and designers have to approach stores with meaning, connecting with customers in the process. This is especially true given what Brigham believes as the evolution of the customer from “normal” to one who has “no time, no patience, no loyalty and maximum expectations. ” Based in Laredo, Texas but born in Nayarit, Mexico in 2001, Retail Clarity Consulting specializes in store planning and design, as well as retail brand development.

Its client list includes Cartier stores in New York and Paris, TSL Jewelry studio in Hong Kong (Figure 1), Benjamin Moore and Company, Miller Brewing Company and Nike, Inc. (Maurer & Weeks, 2010, p. 81). The firm’s approach is unique, in a sense, since it treats the design process to no longer be about selling products or doing drawings, but about selling knowledge and solutions (Maurer & Weeks, 2010, p. 83). And as its name suggests, the firm values clarity as a philosophy in retail design and development, that there has to be clear goals in innovating the customer’s shopping experience.

Brigham’s is a relatively lean company that he even travels alone with his laptop to client locations all over the world and uses the Internet to market his business, so much so that he does not print any marketing collateral (Maurer & Weeks, 2010, p. 83). Retail Clarity Consulting is powered by the vision of one man with an almost-faceless team, but should have a little more experience compared to SLADE ARCHITECTURE, founded by James and Hayes Slade in 2002.

It seems, however, that Slade has a broader range of practice in design and the firm’s website admits having a more collaborative approach in-house (Slade Architecture website) while the two principals take on a hands-on role in every project. Aside from being Ivy Leaguers, the Slades also have business and management backgrounds that contributed to the fast growth of their new company along Broadway, New York City.

Its youth, in fact, does not seem at all to be an obstacle for Slade Architecture. Rather, it is its edge. The firm received much publicity when it took on its first retail project, The House of Barbie in Shanghai for Mattel in 2008 (Figures 2 and 3). Slade had to express the brand as a global lifestyle and fashion trendsetter (Slade Architecture website), resulting in a facility with sleek contemporary interiors that is ultra-feminine but at the same time breaking through architecturally.

The firm proved that high concept does not have to undermine function by manipulating perception and scale (Leimbach, 2010). It is interesting to note that like Retail Clarity Consulting, the Slade couple also highly values the relationship between the user of the public space and the space itself (Leimbach, 2010)) – something which is integral to and an ideal of design but is not always achieved.

For Brigham though, the highlight in this relationship is client experience, while for the Slades it is deeper, something even worth investigating (Leimbach, 2010). A Washington Post article suggests how its execution had been successful: the launch of the six-story flagship store in Shanghai not only renewed an interest for Barbie in the 21st century but was also an expression of Mattel’s intention to gain a wider market. How? Long checkout lines, of course (Cha, 2009).

Aside from the high profile Barbie project, Slade Architecture has spawned other challenging projects such as the Martin Sitbon Designer Shop in Seoul, South Korea in 2001 designed with glass exteriors complimenting the luxury district it belongs to and a liquid-inspired interiors juxtapose shiny decorative objects and linear clothes merchandising. But Slade does not limit itself to commercial tasks alone, it also dedicates bulk of its efforts to educational and entertainment facilities such as the Shark Exhibit Building in Coney Island and the Montessori Progressive Learning Center in Queens.

If many of Slade’s projects are based in Asia, specifically in Korea, China and Japan, EVA JIRICNA ARCHITECTS are usually dedicated to undertakings in its homeland, the Czech Republic, for almost 30 years in practice. The eponymous firm based in London focuses on the classic materials of glass, steel and stone, using them in a language of modernity (Jiricna, CV). The aspiration is a harmony of architecture and engineering. Jiricna’s has background and training in chemistry and mathematics. The approach is essentially scientific and meticulous in its faithfulness to materials.

This is not seen in Retail Clarity Consulting and Slade Architecture, which both put the price on the external viewer and user, the customer experience and relationship with space. Jiricna has also long been on the field and whose standards are very European, espousing the attitude of modern schools of thought regarding purity, naturalness and truth to materials. This fearless modernity is best expressed through perhaps one of the firm’s most remarkable achievements – the four-star Hotel Josef in the heart of Prague.

In the hotel’s homepage it says, “In the very heart of one of the most beautiful medieval cities in Europe, designer Eva Jiricna has managed to create a modern masterpiece. The 109-room Hotel Josef in Prague’s Old Town offers a design concept that elegantly blends the most modern elements with the rich history of its surroundings” (Hotel Josef website). The hotel perfectly encapulates Jiricna’s values of lightness, transparency and truth so much so that the Telegraph describes the Jiricna hospitality creation not only visually impressive but serene, uncluttered a tranquil refuge within the bustling city (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, 2008).

If for Brigham of Retail Clarity Consulting, hospitality is, at least theoretically, the other of design’s most creative and experiential fields, Eva Jiricna Architects lives it. The designer said in an interview that her counter-inspiration for Hotel Josef is hotels in other continents that are dark, enclosed and cluttered. The result is a creation that is is open, with natural light and things essential for comfort (Friday, 2003). “We wanted to articulate the details in a way not irritating in the context of Old Town and its architecture … to make a modern building that would blend in without screaming, ‘I’m a new building,’” she said.

Eva Jiricna Architects does not rest only in the hospitality field though, since a large number of its clients are designing retail outfits such as Harrods London and Boodles Jewellers in London where the firm’s fascination with glass and metal are exhibited. These designs that are very much consistent with their design philosophy entails close coordination among the team members and extensive experience of working together. EJA’s loyal core group is made up of Jiricna, Duncan Webster, Georgina Papathanasiou, Wanda Wilson and Gillian Gould.

Identity is probably what makes Eva Jiricna Architects highly successful as a firm – and something which the Slades and Brigham have to develop and invest on as young practitioners. Organizational loyalty and loyalty to materials are two of the most valued characteristics of EJA. Toronto-based EVENTSCAPE shares the latter most especially. The firm is known globally as not only a design practice but also a manufacturing company specializing in custom frame structures out of any material (Allen-Milne, 2009), resulting in a robust synergy of industrial and interior design and materials engineering.

It is multidisciplinary firm working with designers who sketch their ideas for Eventscape to render into reality. The philosophy is green, and with this Eventscape produces efficient, lightweight, recyclable structures (Eventscape website) adaptable in any environment be it hospitality or retail. An example of this is its awardwinning design is the HBC Olympic Store in Vancouver (Figure 4) which features massive custom engineered arches and frames and incorates glass, acrylic and concealed lighting on garments (Allen-Milne, 2009).

The firm also involves itself in restaurant and entertainment design such as Casino Niagara and Blowfish restaurant. Eventscape also developed the Kapsel environments for offices and boardrooms that stimulate emotional responses through virtual surroundings (Harman, 2007, p. 76). Eventscape probably does not mouth it as their principle, but innovation is something seen to be a key concept the team of industrial, interior and graphic designers, architects, metal fabricators, material specialists and engineers embrace.

The four firms examined in this paper work on retail and hospitality projects as something they have in common. In terms of philosophy, they also have intersecting values, but the core belief of each one is unique resulting in different organizational cultures and identities. Retail Clarity Consulting is probably the one most oriented towards interactivity and user experience, while Slade Architecture goes all out in their contemporary design to achieve the aspired relationship with individuals. In this sense, the two of them as young companies think of the client’s brand and customers first especially in retail design.

Eva Jiricna on the other hand is quite European, enclosed in an almost inflexible modern identity and philosophy, but open in terms of design style and aiming for pleasant atmosphere. Eventscape is more industrial compared to all of the others in a way because it has its own positioning in the industry and is known as not only a design entity but a producer as well. This way, the firm has a more holistic grasp in its execution, having a say not only in the use of space and materials, but in also how such materials are to be made and installed.

The collaborative regard is outward, working with other designers and firms in creating spaces and structures, while the rest of the practices in this paper have it inward, opting to coordinate with their respective teams in certain projects to wholly own the attribute. # Reference List Allen-Milne, E. (2009, January 26). Eventscape – HBC wins retail design award. Metropolis . Cha, A. E. (2009, April 6). In Shanghai, never too old for Barbie. Washington Post . Eventscape website. (n. d. ). Green philosophy. Retrieved June 4, 2010, from Eventscape: http://www. eventscape. net/2006/main. html Friday, D. (2003, March 23).

Architecture: Essentials of comfort. Prague Tribune . Harman, M. (2007, November 19). Office life by design. Canadian Business , p. 76. Hotel Josef website. (n. d. ). Hotel Josef Prague, a design hotel by Eva Jiricna with WiFi complimentary. Retrieved June 4, 2010, from Hotel Hosef: http://www. hoteljosef. com/prag_zentrum_hotel_801. aspx Jiricna, E. (n. d. ). Profile – extended profile and CV. Retrieved June 4, 2010, from Eva Jiricna Architects: http://www. ejal. com/pdf/EJAL_CV. pdf Leimbach, J. (2010, March 3). Slade Architecture – New York. The Architect’s Newspaper . Maurer, T. , & Weeks, K. (2010).

Interior Design in Practice: Case Studies of Successful Business Models. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Mr. and Mrs. Smith. (2008, December 4). Hotel Josef, Prague: full review. The Telegraph . Piotrowski, C. M. (2009). Becoming an Interior Designer: A Guide to Careers in Design. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Retail Clarity Consulting. (2006). Resume of Bruce Brigham. Retrieved June 4, 2010, from Retail Clarity Consulting: http://retailclarity. com/ Slade Architecture website. (n. d. ). Profile. Retrieved June 4, 2010, from Slade Architecture: http://www. sladearch. com/main/page. php? a=6&b=1&c=1

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