The Role of the Architect as We Prepare for the Next Phase

By | Architecture, Food for thought, Interior Design | No Comments

These days we are having many conversations and asking questions centered around ‘how do we move forward from this?’  That is only natural, of course, but what is also natural is the need for architects to problem solve.  The very nature of the study and practice of design is to provide an optimal solution that balances function, aesthetics, context, and budget.  Our current situation requires a quick, yet informed, response to a new set of problems, but fortunately the strategies to find the solutions are no different to those deployed by our profession on a regular basis.

collaborative board

At d+k, we view ourselves as collaborative partners with our clients and their customers.  We feel it is our job and our responsibility to use the creative tools at our disposal to provide forward-thinking, proactive solutions in the best of times, and also in challenging ones.  There are opportunities out there right now for both businesses and service providers to craft inventive responses to stressful situations, and we know there are ways to integrate the data around this pandemic situation to make sure we move forward in a responsible, yet still positive, manner.

IMG_1140

In our office, we have been having big conversations about the civic role we – as a team- want to play in the near future, and to that end we have tasked our teams with preparing concrete plans that could be implemented by our clients, help revitalize our city, and provide options to consumers.  Ideas are flowing, conversations evolving, and solutions are emerging.

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 1.09.13 PM

If your design needs are changing right now, or if you are unsure as to how to proceed with your ongoing projects, we can help!  Using tools like virtual whiteboard sessions and online consultations, we can discuss your challenges and plan the next steps.  Our network of vendors and installers includes products and services ready to deliver and integrate into designs for your spaces, and we can provide guidance and education regarding what options might be appropriate.  Many businesses are not looking to renovate, but need a temporary strategy for reopening, and we can help with that as well.

Please feel free to reach out to us if your family or your business needs design-based solutions to the challenges you are facing.  Together we can move forward!

 

 

d+k Q and A – First Ascent Climbing

By | Architecture, Food for thought, Interior Design | No Comments

At d+k, we take pride in connecting with our clients and partnering in their success and happiness.  To provide some insight on our process and how we provide a comprehensive level of service to a variety of clients, we are sharing a series of conversations with clients that have completed projects with us recently.  First up is First Ascent Climbing, an indoor climbing and fitness community with several Chicago area locations, and more on the way – we spoke with Dan Bartz, Director of Marketing and Adult Programming.

2020-02-27_0003

d+k : What is First Ascent’s ultimate goal as a business? (Where do you see First Ascent in the next 5 years?)

DB: Our mission is to serve and grow the climbing community by creating a warm, welcoming “third place” for people of all ability levels to experience adventure, explore movement, meet new people, connect with old friends, and enjoy life in real life – no devices required.

That mission has enabled us to impact thousands of people in Chicago and Peoria over the last few years, and making that impact really is our ultimate goal. As we consider the future, we’re excited to continue expanding our impact by building more First Ascent locations in the Chicagoland area and beyond.

Some have asked us: why do you think climbing is so popular right now? There are many reasons we could point to, but I think the best reason is simple: people need to move, and traditional fitness is boring and isolating for many. Boutique fitness is exploding because it’s fun and social. Climbing creates that same fun, social vibe with a splash of adventure and a dash of problem solving. It engages the full person: body, mind, heart, and soul. And a climbing gym makes all of that accessible and approachable for the general public. If that sounds exciting to you, then let’s climb!

We also feel the sector of boutique and specialized fitness facilities is growing because of the increased density of urban locations populated with our target demographic.  Customers might not be willing or able to drive long distances to get to locations that fit large, traditional gyms.  They want to be able to walk to their workout, or drive less than 5 minutes if possible.  Smaller, specialized facilities can more easily fit into dense neighborhoods and still be profitable.

firstacent2018-001

d+k : How did d+k integrate with your team?

 DB : d+k team members made a sincere effort to work with us as a partner, and act from a ‘pursuit of understanding’ towards the specialized needs of our business.  HVAC, lighting, and other building basics have to be approached differently in a climbing facility, and d+k made a more concerted effort to listen to our concerns and integrate them into the design than other firms we have worked with in the pas

d+k : How has your brand identify evolved since working with d+k? (Has d+k, Help/assisted in this?)

DB : d+k helped elevate the ‘fit and finish’ of our branding and corporate identity, and achieved it in an affordable way.  They were able to integrate our brand into lighting, finish and furniture selection, color choices, and the design in general.

d+k : Where do yfirstacent2018teasers-007ou think d+k has added value within First Ascent projects?

DB : The design team provided guidance as to where to add aesthetic focus, and that process became streamlined as designs for subsequent locations were composed.  Each iteration has made the design process more successful and efficient for both FA and the design team

d+k : What did d+k bring to the table that might have surprised you?

DB : Their level of attention to detail and their effort to understand FA in all aspects was a pleasant surprise.  From a marketing standpoint, FA found that having an ‘aesthetic partner’ in the d+k team meant that photography, presentation of the spaces, and first impressions of customers all became more successful.  It was appreciated that d+k brought with them an appreciation for professional photography and how the space will be shown on social and print media.  User response has been positive, with great feedback from members, guests, and even from pro climbers like Alex Honnold, who called the Block 37 location a ‘next level’ facility.

firstacent2018teasers-002

d+k : What could d+k have done better? (within the process)

DB :  While we don’t have complaints about our experiences thus far, we are confident that the First Ascent team is continuing to learn from and observe how we interact with our new spaces.  We intend to relay any new concerns or necessary changes to the team and d+k, knowing they will find solutions that evolve with us and our business as it grows.

All photography by Kyle Flubacker Photography

Can Art Installations Help Your Business Rise To the Top?

By | Architecture, Interior Design | No Comments

In a time when consumers put a premium on individuality and “social media worthy” experiences, it’s no wonder that a lot of businesses have embraced design as a tool to differentiate themselves and build up brand recognition. When done right, design can really bring the brand to life in the physical space, increasing its authenticity as well as its ability to emotionally connect with the customer.

In this context, art installations are emerging as a powerful element to up the expressive potential of branded spaces. We are not talking about artwork used as an after-thought to “dress the walls” but as an integral part of the whole design concept and the experience it wants to elicit.

It’s about creating custom pieces that communicate the spirit of the brand and do so in a unique and interesting way.

This is the kind of immersive design approach that the d+k team specialize in. It starts from getting a deep understanding of the client’s brand – its roots, its psychology, and the culture to which it contributes – and then using it to guide every design decision.

What Art Can Accomplish When Integrated Into the Design of Your Place of Business.

INSTAGRAMMABLE MOMENTS

Designing art pieces with social media in mind helps the business increase curiosity and engagement, becoming a go-to destination. In this project, for example, we used a custom neon sign that not only speaks to the philosophy of the brand but also makes customers want to share it on social media, generating buzz and amplifying brand exposure.

halfsmoke020

LOCAL FLAIR

Art installations can emphasize locality, knitting the brand into the character of its community. In this case, the use of a bike and bucket light fixtures spoke to the urban and “on the move” lifestyle of the brand’s customers.

taylorgourmet018

For retail chains, custom art can help tie each location to unique aspects of the local culture while keeping the core brand elements consistent from place to place.

ESCAPE AND INTERACTION

Murals and 3D art can heighten the ambiance of the space, immersing customers deep into the world of the brand and transporting them into a different time and place.

2020-04-28_0001Taking it even further, art can be used to invite the customer into unexpected moments of interaction that enrich the experience, as we did here with this wall-mounted scrabble board. Not only did it give patrons something to do; it was also perfectly in line with the overall atmosphere the client wanted for their old English-style pub.

dkthedarlingflubacker068-extrasquashed

AUTHENTICITY

The use of art is not limited to customer-facing places. It is also a powerful design tool for corporate offices to express the brand culture. For the Simple Mills offices, we used a fun, informal and interactive installation to remind employees to stay true to the company’s down-to-earth origins by recalling the way the business developed organically from its founder’s own thoughts and vision.

2020-04-28_0002

Doing It Right

Just like with everything else we do, the d+k team approaches every art installation looking at how it can support your business goals. We then take care of every detail – from concept and partnering with the right artist to overseeing every step of the process – ensuring it is consistent with the full design, the brand, and its customers.

 

How can art and design help your business rise to the top? Give us a call to discuss your project!

 

 

For Boutique Fitness Studios, Design Is Critical To Success

By | Architecture, Interior Design | No Comments

Boutique fitness studios are in hot demand. These specialized workout spaces are still a relatively new trend but one that has quickly taken the wellness industry by storm. New companies are entering the market while already established ones are multiplying their presence.

2020-02-27_0001

For these new generation fitness companies, the design of their locations is critical to fulfilling user expectations.

Unlike the rather anonymous and one-size-fits-all gyms of the past, boutique studios must offer a unique environment reflective of a specific brand (and lifestyle) philosophy. After all, that’s what their customers are seeking and willing to pay a premium for: a different kind of experience, accompanied by the feeling of belonging to a very cool and well-defined community of like-minded individuals.

To facilitate the desired connection with the customer, the design must integrate the brand fully into the space and execute it in every detail.

Using Design To Create Brand Super-fans

At d+k, we call this “brand elevation.” We work with both existing and developing fitness brands – from rowing and climbing gyms to revolutionary yoga studios – and use design to magnify their differentiation points and expand the experience they deliver, all while staying true to their identity.

Our approach is rooted not just in design but in our expertise in brand development and execution, from A to Z. That’s why we believe in the importance of really understanding the four core aspects of every project:

  • The soul of the brand
  • The psychology of its customers
  • The specifics of the lifestyle it fits into
  • How the user should feel in the space

2020-02-27_0002

We also believe that the brand’s business goals and what it wants to communicate should be the North Star that guides every single design decision.

Developing an in-depth knowledge of how our clients want to position their business in the boutique fitness movement enables us to knit ourselves into their brand and bring it to life in the space, in all its nuances. No detail is overlooked, as every aspect of the design must work in unison with all the other elements of the brand identity in order to maximize differentiation.

We plan the flow, look, and feel of our clients’ studios – from the moment the user walks in to the moment they walk out – to help them turn their customers into super-fans.

Row House – https://www.therowhouse.com/location/old-town

First Ascent – https://firstascentclimbing.com/

Y7 Studio – Coming to Chicago VERY SOON! – https://www.y7-studio.com/

Ready for it? Give us a call to discuss the vision for your boutique fitness studios.

Re-energizing Retail

By | Architecture, Dining, Interior Design | No Comments

So much has been said about the death of brick-and-mortar retail and shopping malls but the gloom-and-doom talks, in our opinion, miss the point: The evolution of shopping habits presents a great opportunity to re-imagine these large retail centers into places more in line with today’s lifestyle.

Shopping malls can still be what they were originally conceived for: destination community spaces. In order to play that role, though, they need to adapt to the new ways we like to gather, shop, and spend time. The truth is, consumers of all ages – even digital natives – still enjoy in-store shopping…providing it offers them an experience they cannot have on their device. Re-engaging them means making alternative and creative uses of the existing spaces.

Key Components

Step 1: Giving Consumers New Reasons to Come into the Mall

EXPERIENTIAL COMPONENT: Anchor tenants like Sears and JCPenney used to be a shopping mall’s main draw and all the other retailers wanted to be close to them. Now, those empty units must be reborn into dynamic hubs of community activities.

firstacent2018-001

“Places that were once unwelcomed in malls – event venues, gyms, skating rinks, rock climbing spaces, dirt bike tracks and other recreational facilities – are now the very thing that can turn the fortunes of a mall around because they bring people in.”

Concept1

“On the other hand, places that have long been a staple of shopping malls – like food and beverage establishments – must evolve from being purely a commodity to deliver a more comprehensive experience rich in entertainment and engagement value.”

Creating an alluring experience also implies dismantling the impenetrable “big box store” architecture in favor of a more open and welcoming exterior aesthetic that invites people to explore all that the site has to offer.

Concept4

SERVICE LOCATIONS: In the context of bringing people in, even outpatient medical facilities, co-working spaces, and some type of corporate offices can now find a place in malls.

LOCAL FOCUS: Consumers are showing a growing interest in supporting local businesses, so upping their presence can make malls a more attractive destination. Plus, local businesses are less likely to offer online shopping options, which further increases their role in drawing foot traffic.

Lifestyle ConceptLOCAL FOCUS: Consumers are showing a growing interest in supporting local businesses, so upping their presence can make malls a more attractive destination. Plus, local businesses are less likely to offer online shopping options, which further increases their role in drawing foot traffic.

BRINGING THE ONLINE IN: Online sellers are now starting to expand their visibility with pop-up stores. Whether these are short-term or long-term retail strategies, malls can greatly benefit from presenting themselves as ideal locations for these physical extensions. Creating opportunities for visitors to engineer “Instagram-able moments” is another way to integrate the online world into the new mall experience.

2016-03-31 AE - Lab Rendering

2020-01-07_0001

*Mojo’s Kiosk located in the common area of the AMA Plaza. 

Step 2: Designing for Engagement

The choice of which type of amenities and stores to bring in is only one part of the equation. Ultimately, it’s the design of the entire mall space that will determine how much time consumers will spend there and what they will do while there.

Key Qualities

At d+k, we believe the goal of design is to maximize the value of the property, for both the user and the owner. That is why we have long focused our expertise on revitalizing commercial buildings that have lost their appeal and using immersive design to create experiential spaces for greater engagement. We are constantly studying trends – how people live, shop, interact with each other and their surroundings – and create designs that not only address those trends aesthetically but first and foremost, turn the trends into business opportunities for our clients.

When it comes to reviving malls, we pay attention to how each asset interconnects with the rest of the space. We look at how the design can facilitate the seamless integration of the retail moments with the social and lifestyle moments people crave, so that the amenities enhance the shopping experience instead of distracting consumers away from it. We make sure that every detail is cohesive and every square foot that is re-purposed into a community space raises the value of the entire mall and goes to the benefit of every tenant.

Do you want to explore the opportunities that revitalizing your mall can create? Let’s talk! Info@dk-arch.com