People behave in accordance to design. In a restaurant, warm lamps and candle lights create an impression that it is a romantic place. People talk softer, sit closer together, and the overall ambiance is calm and light. On the other hand, bright white day light gives an impression of liveliness and animation. Big groups of people can be talking and laughing heartily. Each small element of the interior communicate who and what the brand or business represents. It also guides how the customer should interact with it. Design is that powerful.
As far as businesses and brands are concerned, in-store design is part of promotion. It communicates the identity of a company. Ultimately, the architecture and interior design of its stores are integral to drive sales and business.
Retail and in-store design
Wide windows. These are fundamental to be able to attract curious passersby. The store has 10-15 seconds to capture them because that is the average walking time. The objective of the store is to maximize that time frame and persuade them to go in.
Wide entrances. The mistake of some stores is having entrances that are too narrow. It gives an impression that the store looks small and crowded. As I have always mentioned in my talks, having a sense of arrival is one of the most important experiences. It should be unique, memorable, and identifiable.
Proper lighting. Lighting fixtures are important, and many take this for granted. In a department store, the light enhances the color of the clothes which then makes it pleasing to the eye. Poor lighting will not help the buyer see the vividness of colors, and will make the color dull. For restaurants, it dictates the noise level, whether animated and lively or romantic and calm.
Placement of mirrors. Mirrors make the store seem larger and less cramped. Many restaurants use this technique so that the store will look spacious and feel comfortable. For clothing stores, proper angling of mirrors produces an effect on the body’s contour. If angled wrong, the mirror will make the person look wide.
Thematic design. The store should follow a theme, most specially if it represents a line of brands. The store should highlight the strengths of the brand and the product. A coffee shop usually creates a vibe of a rustic house or an Italian coffee saloon. Some department stores follow the New York high fashion design.
These are all just simple guides to consider when designing a retail store. Now let us look at retail design in a larger context.
The Urban context
Twenty four years ago, our firm Palafox Associates and I were given the opportunity to master plan one of the first mixed-use developments in the country. The area used to be a site of a power plant and we are tasked to transform it into a walkable, liveable, masterplanned community with a mix of uses. From the start we knew that we should make Rockwell Center a place to live, work, shop, dine, learn, and worship in a high density development and pedestrian-friendly, park-like setting. We created the masterplan of the Rockwell Center in Makati and design of its first five buildings – Rizal Tower, Hidalgo Place, Amorsolo East and West, and Luna Gardens– architecture of tall buildings and vertical urbanism.We used the triple bottomline approach of people first, planet earth or environment, and then profit or economic goals. This also resulted in increase in land values. By attracting more retailers and tenants, we encourage high foot traffic, health, and safety, completing the urban lifestyle.
Helping the city of Dubai back in the late 1970 to bring the Third World into the first, I gathered the global best practices and lessons to be applied in this project. There were three core concepts: Pedestrian-centric and walkable increase time spent on the streets; Compact mixed-use development increases land use and time use; and open space increases land value, health benefits, and serves as lungs for the city.
Rockwell is 51 percent buildable and 49 percent open space, with wide sidewalks shaded with trees and ample streetlight. The result was many residents bought units, and actually lived there. The occupancy was very high. Rockwell Center has the highest land values and property value appreciation in the country for the past 21 years. The adjacent Bel-air subdivision also gained significant land value. Multinational offices placed their main offices there, followed by a new shopping experience. Despite the surge of usage and traffic in the area, Rockwell Center has remained to be clean, safe, and sustainable. If you happen to walk along Rockwell Drive at night, you will feel that the air is much cooler and cleaner than the rest of Metro Manila.
The art of place-making should be appreciated both from the design of the individual stores to the larger urban context of its immediate surroundings in order to understand the total user experience. An unbalanced design will attract more people traffic to one side, making the other sides, especially the middle, less visited. Less foot traffic will be experienced by the retail stores, no matter how big a brand they are. Worst, a bad design also means high car-traffic in clogged entry points, while other entry points are underutilized. Design is unity and balance, at the same time integrating variety and diversity.