Designing Branded Environments

Your space as a brand experience.

Everything about your organization communicates a message whether you want it to or not. These messages can be helpful or harmful and should be carefully considered. One area that many businesses often overlook is the message they are sending through their branded environments and brand experiences. These experiences may be the most important touchpoint an organization can have. Each and every organization is unique and the branded environments should be designed to reflect that. By looking at some of the general ideas of branding environments you should be able to see the amount of strategy that goes into every touchpoint (a touchpoint is anything that your audience directly interacts with) that is part of any brand, and you might begin look at the brand experiences you have in a new way.

For many organizations your space is where your audience directly interacts with you. This is a very high touch interaction and has the opportunity to seriously impact your brand's place in the mind of your audience.

Who and What is Involved

Designing branded environments and brand experiences is a process and often includes, interior designers, architects, construction crews, graphic designers and internal teams from the organization itself. Your environment should further your brand values and positioning in the same way any touchpoint should. Designing brand experiences is very enjoyable because it is a extremely tactile experience. It's a very different experience for the organization when compared to designing the logo or website. This is because the process of designing experiences needs to more experiential. You will think about smells, sounds, touch, lighting, the organization of merchandise, and everything else that goes into delivering a memorable brand experience.

Provided you started your project with research, it will play a huge role in the design of any environment for your audience. You need to truly understand their needs, preferences, habits and aspirations. By knowing your audience and what they are passionate about you can provide a place that they will enjoy coming to and will want to return to. You'll also want to refer to your research on the competition. What are they doing poorly, and what are they doing well? What does their environment experience communicate about them?

The experience should be unique. Your brand is unique (if you've done it right) as it is based around who you are and NOT what you do. Your space should reenforce the personal and cultural traits that make your organization what it is. It is imperative that you have fully explored and understand what makes your organization unique, if not then you'll be putting the cart before the horse.

Your Unique Experience

If you're an easy going, fun loving, teen centered, clothing store then that is what the shopping experience should be. You would potentially have large open areas, bright lighting, clearly displayed merchandise, etc. On the other hand if you are a high end specialty biker boutique that is pretty aggressive, and abrasive then the shopping experience shouldn't appeal to everyone. Maybe you have dim lighting, a rusty old Harley Davidson in the corner, dark colors, a much smaller selection of merchandise on the sales floor. If you've done it right the space and experience will inspire them to shop and be excited about coming back.

Structure the speed and quality of your service to reflect your brand positioning as well. Think back to a time you experienced really great service. Was it by design or was it because a certain employee delivered good service? Have subsequent visits resulted in a similar experience? Can you think of a establishment where the service was a little slower, but not bad? Looking back do think it was deliberate? I can envision a restaurant where the servers don't check (visibly) with your table as often because they want to foster an atmosphere of conversation and a place to hang out. To do this they might be instructed not to interrupt you as often.

The 5 Senses

With brand experiences you have to engage the whole person. We have five senses, touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. Leave nothing unexplored. What does the space look like? What kind of artwork? Do you even have artwork on the walls? What kind of seating? Softer seats encourages staying longer, more uncomfortable seating encourages people not sticking around as much. What temperature should it be? What materials are used? Metals? Wood? Cloth? Leather? Do you play music? If so what kind?
There is a reason that many fine restaurants have dim lighting. Don't underestimate the psychological impact lighting can have on a persons interaction with your branded environment. Everything works together to deliver a unique branded experience to your customers.

It is however not all about psychology and how the space makes a person feel. You do have to plan for the basics, like where the restrooms are located, meeting accessibility and fire regulations. This is not a job that most people can tackle alone, and why architects and others that know what the codes and regulations should be a part of this process.

Designing brand experiences is a tough but fun process that results in a exciting and effective touchpoint for your brand identity. Depending on your organization your space may be the one touchpoint your audience actually gets to experience. These high touch opportunities are few and you should give them the care and attention they deserve. Give the people that enter your doors an experience to remember, and one they can't wait to share with their friends.