On December 4th, 2019, we hosted the first event of our new event series Creative Talks which deep-dives into one topic pertaining to one of our key expertise areas: Design, Communications and Events.
Our inaugural Creative Talk revolved about the transformation of retail spaces from point of sales to storytelling platforms. We invited industry leaders and opinion makers to participate and share their insights and perspectives on the topic of the day.
Our guest speakers were Nick Arauz, CEO of Caswell-Massey – the oldest personal care product brand in America that more or less used George Washington for its first “influencer” campaign – and Tyler Balliet, CEO and Founder of Rosé Mansion – one of New York’s most popular pop-up experiences that combines wine tasting with relevant stories and instagrammable moments.
We are always on the look for new and exciting hotels as we often need to host guests for many of the events we are planning. Obviously, location plays an important role for logistics and accessibility. Equally as important is the design and style of the hotel since we believe that this sends as much of a message as a press release does.
We always come across a lot of extraordinary hotels during our research. However, based on the criteria above, we often have to exclude some particularly exciting options from consideration for our events. Here are four crazy hotels that we will probably never use for events, but that we would simply love to stay at.
Igloo Hotel, North Pole
In April 2020, a temporary hotel will open at the North Pole. The Igloo hotel will consist of only ten temporary heated glass igloos that will allow guests to sleep under the Northern Lights with 360 degree south-facing windows.
The hotel is open for the duration of one single month, in April, due to the fact that the North Pole is not safely accessible for the rest of the year. This kind of exclusivity obviously has its price: A trip to the Igloo Hotel will cost around $105,000.
The Muraka, Maldives
This one is nothing for claustrophobic people: The Muraka is the underwater villa of the Conrad Maldives. The 600 tons underwater structure was designed with the help of aquarium technology specialists. At over 16 feet below sea level, it includes an emergency button and escape route to the surface.
The villa also has an overwater part with a private infinity pool, its own gym, butler service, and a private chef. If you have $50,000 to spare, you can spend a night there counting fish instead of sheep to fall asleep.
Giraffe Manor, Kenya
Giraffe Manor is not located in any extremely unusual spot but in a gorgeous 1930’s villa set in the middle of 140 acres of indigenous forest close to Nairobi, Kenya. What makes it special, though, are its non-human residents: A herd of Rothschild Giraffes visits the hotel every day during breakfast and tea time in hope of getting a snack.
A favorite amongst Instagram influencers, photos of these unusual encounters have been going viral since its opening. It might be an Instagram hype, but who doesn’t want to dine with a giraffe?
Von Braun Station, Space
This hotel is truly out of this world. Or it will be. Aimed to open for full operations by 2027, the Von Braun Station by the Gateway Foundation is one of many space hotel projects currently in the works.
The hotel is in the shape of a wheel which helps to artificially create gravity. The 24 modules can sleep 352 guests and will offer other cruise-ship like amenities such as restaurants, bars, musical concerts, movie screenings, and educational seminars.
The question is: Which time zone will these be scheduled in?
Do you remember the last time you went a day without going online? Nowadays, everyone is perpetually connected to the internet through smaller and more personalized devices. This new way of life has also largely changed the way people consume and purchase things. Bloomberg recently reported that online stores have gained the second biggest share of the U.S. retail market, surpassing grocery stores and restaurants. With the rise of E-Commerce, many feared that physical retail stores would disappear. Yet, in an increasingly digital world, brands have the chance to make use of people’s craving for physical experiences to prevent the so-called retail apocalypse.
OSK’s Creative Director Scott Faucheux has almost two decades’ worth of retail design experience for clients such as Samsung, Urban Outfitters and Kiehls. Alum of Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture and Urban Studies, he calls himself a designer and brand thinker who creates innovative combinations of brands, people and places to turn them into compelling experiences. Over the course of his career, he gradually evolved into the world of experience design and has been refining and redefining the role of experiences in the built environment.
Scott, you have been working on retail design projects for the last twenty years. Recently, an increasing number of retail stores are closing, which many attribute to the rising dominance of online shopping. Looking back, how would you say retail has changed over time and how is it adapting to the digitalization of life?
One of the biggest conversations right now is around the retail apocalypse. Why are all these brands failing? I like to think of the main factors as the four horsemen: Bad product, bad service, bad spaces and most importantly bad stories. There is an evolved sophistication that is happening and technology really has enabled it. More and more retailers are using data to understand what people are doing, which is kind of a paradox. Twenty years ago, if you said data is going to run the stores, people would freak out and say “Oh my god we’re all going to turn into robot people!” But the reality is that technology is enhancing personalization and understanding of how people shop, and also how a particular person shops. We can actually track and personalize experiences and build around an individual, which is a pretty fantastic change from just putting a commodity on a shelf and promoting it. Instead, we can build a story and create emotions around a product.
You have to reconsider what the purpose of the store is. In the past, the store has always been the transaction point and that is not true anymore.
“Experiential” has been one of the key words for a while now. How does that specifically affect retail design?
You have to reconsider what the purpose of the store is. In the past, the store has always been the transaction point and that is not true anymore. If we think about a store as a mere commodities point, it represents a very a different value than if we consider it as a communications point or as a brandscape to tell a story. Brands now are telling their stories in stores through sensory experiences that are multi-dimensional. Some incredibly rich and layered things are happening in new stores right now because the focus is not around the product anymore. Stores are taking consumers on journeys and telling them focused and curated messages that they can take on and add meaning to. People are no longer shopping for mere objects, but are finding cultural artifacts. Stores now have much more power as a story-telling platform than they do as a transactional platform.
What other societal trends are affecting consumer behaviors? How do you translate those into store design?
I think there are a couple societal shifts that have radically altered the way we think about communities in general as well as brand communities. One is the level of social sharing and the level of reach that each individual has into their network. The other is their ability to share their own ideas. It is really amazing to see brands which embrace that and invite their audiences to actually co-author an experience with them. What in the past may have been a brand just saying “Here is what we are, you take that message,” now, is a conversation around “Here is what we have to offer, what do you think?” This way, you can change opinions and create a much broader, more meaningful and relevant idea about what a brand is and what it means to a larger audience.
Are shareable experiences and moments the key to retail success?
There are definitely brands that are simply manufacturing moments that are meant for sharing, and I would say with a wide variety of success. The authenticity with which you create an experience should be natural and not forced. You see a lot of cool pop-ups with things like Instagram walls – that is manufacturing a moment to be shared in a very specific way. Instead, you should rather create environments where people can explore and find their own moment that they share because they want to and not because the brand says “Here is the format, go share it.”
Now, retail design is only one small portion of the design work that you do. Can you apply your experience from the retail world to other areas of your work?
The approach I use for my design work is one of really looking empathetically at what the visitor journey should be: What happens along the way? Where are the actions and where are the emotions that need to happen? All of those little cues and moments that make up a journey can be scripted not just in a retail environment but in hospitality and events as well. If we remove the words retail, event or pop-up from the discussion and completely do away with the labels that set boundaries around our work, and begin to think about it just in terms of the visitor’s journey, we can improve all experiences because we are no longer constrained by what we think needs to be. If we eliminate the automatic programing, there is a lot more opportunity to create more impactful and compelling experiences. We can actually innovate by looking at other formats and creating the right impact, the right sensory cues, the right drama.
How does the future of retail look like? And are there examples of brands that are already offering those experiences today?
I think there are three main divergent paths for what the future retail experience will look like. The easy answer is of course big technology with seamless interactions and all kinds of user-generated elements. Those immersive theaters of amazing technology are easily predictable. At the opposite end of that spectrum are brands like Urban Outfitters and Anthropology that are art-driven, completely unique and that are very tactile and sensual. You explore and discover that no two stores are alike and it is up to you to come and find what is cool and what works for you. I think it is that level of personal discovery that is really going to drive the future of retail – whether it is technology-aided or anti-tech. Those possibilities exist anywhere along that spectrum.
The third one that is also really fascinating is demonstrated by Intersect by Lexus here in New York: a brand world that is not necessarily about your product. It is about attention to detail, the appreciation of craft, and what you and your brand really stand for – all coming to life through a whole series of experiences that touch different parts of what we are interested in as people. I think those brandscapes coming to life have huge potential for the future and are something that we are going to see a lot more of.
What do you think will be the next big thing in retail?
I think the next big thing in retail is going to be human-centered design. We have to keep in mind that because the POS can be anywhere, the store itself becomes a story-telling environment and the level of service that you get along the journey is way more important – that really is becoming the transaction rather than the actual exchange of money for goods and services. Retailers who are not investing in understanding how to speak more meaningfully to customers are limiting themselves and no one is going to come to their stores because there is no value. Looking at how our understanding of a person, the data we collect around that person, and how that data creates tailored experiences is really going to be transformative in shaping the future retail experience.
Welcome to the world of OSK New York! You might have seen our website where we showcase our best work and talk about our impressive skill set – but this is not the same thing just in a slightly different format.
Our blog will introduce you to our micro cosmos, the world of OSK New York: NYC agency life meets creative/fun ideas meets relevant topics of local and global scale.
Expect to see impressions from the latest and greatest of our travel and adventures, our thoughts on new trends and cultural issues, topics that are of interest to us due to our work or personal backgrounds, and simply fun stuff. We will touch on anything from experiential pop-up spaces, flying cars, and PR stunts to food halls, the curviest roads to drive on, and the environment.
Our team consists of highly organized and wildly creative individuals who have lived and worked on four continents. With our different backgrounds, we complement each other in the work we do. On a personal level, we have grown into a multicultural family.