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Drawing Parallels from Retail Design to Workplace Design

Design today has entered a new dimension and has spread to various genres. The core focus in design has shifted from physical aspects, like functionality or aesthetics to abstract aspects like user experience. Talking of workplace design, offices need to be ‘future-ready’; hence they need to be creative, adaptive, and more malleable. Workspace design does not necessarily end at creating well-designed layouts. It also has to venture into ensuring employee wellbeing, defining a work culture, and carving out a brand identity. In a way, this means workplace design today has to have an approach that places the associated brand in a bright light.

Isn’t this also the scenario with the retail industry? It has long been noted for its ability to attract, retain and make an impression on buyers, helping them convert into loyal customers. There is every reason it can do so and help create a loyal, unbeatable workforce as well. It can help retain the most talented employees around, and aid in building exceptional teams. It can cause an impact in workplaces, very similar to the one in its traditional sector.

Adaptations from retail design

Thus, drawing parallels from the retail design to the workplace design–we see that there is a need for adapting elements from retail, and using them to create powerful, emotional experiences for people within the office walls. Even more so, after COVID-19, as allwork states: “The purpose is to create a unique experience that supports people both physically and virtually.” Thus, the work environment plays a vital part in defining an employee’s identity and the employer’s work culture.

Let’s explore how.

Giving an Experiential Edge

Retail design majorly revolves around ‘user experience’. From the moment a customer enters the store to the point where a sale is made, it is all a journey. The design here is planned in the form of various ‘touch points’ that influence the decision of a potential customer to make a sale. In terms of design, this can be successfully translated into workplaces as well. Mapping an employee’s journey and defining the experience at their ‘touch points’ will improve their day-to-day work life.

Aspects like engagement spaces, wellness spaces, lounges, etc. can help add to this atmosphere, alongside places that help promote collaboration, creativity, and a diverse set of activities. The experience can also be enhanced through design & technology. The use of fresh colors and finishes, biophilic areas, segregation of work bays based on the activity, etc. are some of the great ways to begin. Eventually, things that add value to an employee’s work-life, will lead to employee wellbeing and increased productivity. In a way, it will also help spread a positive brand message across.

Demonstrating Authenticity

As Clayton Whitman at CallitonRKL wrote: “Authenticity Rules!”, identifying it as a vital part of the retail experience, and emphasizing its importance in workplace design as well. The motive of the design has to represent the vision, mission, and identity of the brand. Pretense has to be swept aside, and there needs to be more clarity than ever before. A commitment to sticking to its promise is what will go to great lengths to inspire loyalty among the employees.

If an organization promises altruistic qualities like diversity, collaboration, engagement, freedom to experiment, and a strong desire to succeed–its design will reflect all of those. From creative wall art that offers inspiration each day to well-equipped cafeterias, ultra-hygienic washrooms, regularly-stocked pantries–there are a lot of ways in which an organization can demonstrate its mission of employee wellness and care. Using the power of design, to mean what it says.

Enhancing Brand Identity

A retail experience holds no value if it fails to reflect brand presence. What makes the product unique, worthy, and inviting is often reflected through the design of the store. This is something that eventually leaves an imprint on the customer. Therefore, the same can be reflected in the employee experience as well, through well-thought workspaces. Branding-focused design can help make employees more intimately attached to their organization, which is a must for any great work-culture.

As noted by Emagispace: in a quote from Tamara Romeo, of San Diego Office Space: “The biggest brands in the world sell lifestyle, not products.” Something that once again brings it towards the ‘experience’ side of the spectrum. If the design is reflective of the professionalism, ethos, and altruistic qualities of the organization, it goes a long way into making a permanent impression on employees.

In Conclusion

Retail design goes beyond just “brick and mortar”. It is a space that generates value for its business. It has traditionally had a long-standing impact on its sector. Its positive attributes offer a direct translation to the workplace segment as well, as it has valuable effects on on-boarding, retention, trust, and loyalty. They help consolidate the mutual relationship and identification that an employee has to the workplace–and build a foundation that propels organizations to greater heights of success and prosperity.

For the designers themselves, it offers an avenue for creativity and exploration that helps them ascend to the next level in creating the best, brightest possible ideas regarding workplaces.


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