Brick and Mortar – Three Rules of Design and Branding

Design unique spaces for customer engagement that create the appropriate feeling.
Design unique spaces for customer engagement that create the appropriate feeling.

Your brand is a reflection of every interaction people have with your company. This is especially true for businesses with one or more physical retail locations – aka brick and mortar. Despite the proliferation of online buying and selling, the best retailers create an amazing consumer experience that builds brand loyalty. The question is, are you taking advantage of every branding opportunity?

One of our clients, the New England Federal Credit Union (NEFCU), is the largest credit union in Vermont, with over $1 billion in assets and 90,000 members. NEFCU also owns HealthOne Federal Credit Union, based in Detroit. For the more than 10 years, NEFCU has relied on Direct Design to make branding decisions in print, web, mailers, and perhaps most importantly, their brick and mortar locations.

Know Your Brand

Because NEFCU is a financial institution, personal interaction with their members is the single most important brand attribute, as stated by focus groups and member questionnaires. We’ve worked closely with NEFCU to make every visit to every branch a positive brand-building experience.

Here’s what we’ve learned in the process of serving this client, refreshing their brand several times along the way. For more NEFCU interior images, see our website.

My three rules of design and branding for brick and mortar locations:

Scale is important!
Scale is important!

1. Develop a Style Guide to document all brand attributes — color palette, fonts, proper logo use and graphics. This document streamlines the design and approval process, as many decisions have been predetermined.

2. Create a focal point (or most important visual attraction) to anchor the space and create the first impression. Great care is put into the materials, architecture and functionality of each space. Design should enhance the positive experience we want members to have.

3. Remember scale! Proportions needed in print and web are not the same as the experience of being in a three-dimensional space.

While not every business has physical locations, it is critical to remember that EVERY interaction with you, your staff and your communications affect how people experience your brand. Using consumer analytics and a solid Style Guide can set you on the right path.

Christopher Reck is a founding partner of Direct Design, Inc. and has extensive experience in managing brands for numerous organizations. His recent design of the New England Federal Credit Union Shelburne Road Branch was awarded a Diamond Award from CUNA (Credit Union National Association) in 2014.


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