Spatial Seduction by figure3

I was fortunate to have attended the wonderful and exciting Service Design Global Conference 2011 in San Francisco in late October, where Meld Studios also presented two presentations. The weather was lovely in San Francisco and I got to see a lot of the city which I haven’t seen before when I visited two years ago.

The theme of the conference was ‘From sketch book to spread sheet’. It focused on the exploration and discussion of what happens when service design meets business and how this relationship can be developed and grown into the future. Many speakers generously shared how they have implemented service design in an organisation including the struggles, ups and downs and solutions. Many also shared new tools and methods in how to approach future challenges in service design.

With my background in interior design, one of the presentations that resonated with me was ‘Spatial Seduction: Using Service Design to Rekindle Customer Loyalty’, presented by Jennifer Young and Andrew Gallici from figure3, an interior design firm focused on designing innovative spaces based in Toronto, Canada. It was exciting to see service design principles being used in the interior design industry where it is fairly unrepresented, and I hope that in the near future we will get to hear more about the use of service design in the built environment.

The process

Similar with service design firms, figure3 deploys a process that starts with a DISCOVERY phase, which involves scoping out the project as well as client and customer engagement and research. This phase is followed by a TRANSLATION phase where the findings, facts and stories are translated into insights and possible strategies that then inform the next stage of the process, IDEATION or design. The process ends with the REALISATION of the design, where the space is built and occupied by both the service provider and the customers.

In the presentation, Young and Gallici suggested that the environment is formed by the cultural, the behavioural and the spatial, and in the middle of the three lies the ideal user experience. This identification of the placement of the user experience is what makes figure3’s practice unique. Being an interior design firm, their design is not limited to the digital or the two dimensional, it is multi-sensory by nature. They are essentially creating an ecosystem that is inhabitable and three dimensional, and which also houses both services, customers, and the mechanisms that allows the service to be performed. As said by Young, it is to ‘Create an immersive customer experience’.

Case study 1 – Rogers Plus

In the two case studies that were presented in the presentation, Young and Gallici demonstrated how figure3 has used interior design and spatial planning to facilitate the service in the space. The first was Rogers Plus, a telecommunication provider in Canada, where the organisation has focused too much on the front end image and expectation to the customers through advertising and media, neglecting to match it to the service and physical store they were providing to the customers. The display cabinets that displayed cellphones and artifacts were locked and presented as artifacts similar to what we would see in a museum. This conveyed the perception that the products were too precious for customers to touch and interact. Through the creation of persona, fugure3 mapped out the environments that customers would be drawn to first and what kind of personal experience they would be expected to be welcomed by accordingly.

The outcome was a space where the the front of the store became the initiation point for conversations and engagement, where customers are free to touch and interact with the artifact and the back of the store provided privacy for more intimate and personal engagement between the staff and customer where personal product consultation can take place.


Redesigned Rogers Plus store. Image credit: figure3

Case study 2 – BMO

The second case studies was BMO (Bank of Montreal) where currently the tellers and customers are divided by a wall, which denotes the idea of ‘them and us’. The personal bankers, financial advisers and bank managers are enclosed and isolated in their personal offices with frosted glass. The overall atmosphere was unwelcoming and unfriendly.

The redesigned space aligned the space with the service. Young and Gallici described this interplay like dance choreography, ‘It’s about activating interaction in that space’. figure3 removed the physical obstructions to allow customer service to take place. Rather than dividing teller and customers with dividing screens or partitions, the partitions now casually divides each individual tellers, creating essentially an intimate and private teller station. The offices of each personal banker, financial adviser and bank manager is now fitted with clear glass with the staff all facing the entry into the space. The design not only changes the customers perception of the space and of the brand, but also changed how staff behaves in the space. As Young described ‘Everyone in this bank is a greeter’. Staff were not forced and going out of their way to provide the service, but rather they are naturally encouraged and facilitated by the environment to provide a welcoming experience and service.


Redesigned BMO branch. Image credit: figure3

Both design projects realised a change in the perception of spaces as well as change in behaviour in the space. This renewal provided an alignment of the space to the service they provide. With this in mind, if we look at it from another perspective, it’s to support the service, by creating an environment to optimise the service and consequently elevating the overall experiences. If anything these examples demonstrate how the unrealised potential within existing services can be changed through careful attention to the spatial interactivity of the business environment, without altering the essential service being provided.