You describe yourselves as ‘retail design specialists’, what is retail design anyway?
Retail design is centred around the discipline of interior design but also integrates brand strategy, branding design and communications design to deliver a complete ‘customer experience’. Increasingly there is also a digital component that’s required.
There are many architects and interior design firms around but few that have this integrated capability and this customer centric understanding.
So you only do shops?
Our multidiscipline and customer centric approach can be applied to any ‘customer facing’ business. We have worked in most categories at one time or another from banks to cafes, fashion stores to cinemas and even education businesses. We’re certainly up for any challenge.
They say retail is dying, is there a future in this type of business?
We actually believe the opposite. There is a resurgence in the need for well designed physical retail spaces to compliment the rich digital experiences customers are engaged with now. A lot of so called ’bricks and mortar’ brands are just not keeping up with the evolving market. The sheer convenience of online shopping will no doubt play a huge part in the future retail ecosystem, however most experts agree that the physical experience will always play a critical role in delivering a brand experience, some businesses obviously more than others
How do you differentiate yourself from other agencies?
We are small, independent and flexible. We offer global agency quality and strategic thinking but with something closer to local pricing. We also don’t take every and any job on that we can find, we try and stick to what we’re good at, overdeliver and look to develop long term relationships.
As a client, what’s it like to work with SPARK?
Our clients love that they get to work directly with our senior partners, unlike some of the larger agencies. We are very available, allocate proper resources to projects and are totally committed to every project we work on. Our clients can rely on us to deliver.
What’s it like to work at SPARK as an employee?
We like to involve the staff in the decision making processes of the company and empower them with a flexible work environment. We want people to feel as though they have a stake in the company and are very much a part of its mission and purpose.
As with any creative business we also need to have a bit of fun with the projects aswell, this reflects positively in the end designs and the end customer experiences being delivered.
Also our ultimate aim is not to sell the company but to gradually hand it onto the next generation of staff who have helped to build it.
What services do you cover and what is it you don’t cover?
We focus on strategy and design through to technical drawings and supporting the client to deliver the initial pilot store.
Where the client requires it we are also very good at developing brand identities from scratch or refreshing existing brand identities as part of the overall project scope.
Once the store concept is proven and tested we generally hand off the material to the client for them to roll out across their store network. As part of this we sometimes provide design guidelines documents to help keep the design consistent as its rolled out.
We can also remain involved to support the client during the rollout depending on whats required, but usually in a minimal way
Do you do construction?
No, we don’t generally do construction unless its specifically requested and makes sense for the client and for us and for the project. We believe the designer and the contractor should be separated so their is a proper check and balance between the two, much like an architect and builder need to be.
What’s your process? And how long does a typical project take?
We use a simple 4 stage process to ensure we are able to deliver a great result every time and within agreed schedule. Each stage needs to be approved before we can progress to the subsequent stage. This is to protect both us, the client and the project. Project duration really depends on the scope of works required, it can be as little as a month or as much as 12 months.
What notable projects have you completed?
We’ve worked on projects for large global brands like Starbucks, Standard Chartered Bank, VW, Brother & Disney but also really love working with local and regional brands – some of these we’ve worked with include World Kitchen, Tiger Balm, Apollo Education, Derier Jewellery, Malaysia Duty Free, Drive Plus and Killiney Cafe
What is your specialty?
We specialise working with brands that need a brand vision brought to life in a physical space and an end design that is practical and scalable, i.e. that can be efficiently executed across multiple sites. In terms of category of product or service we don’t really have any particular specialty.
What sort of clients do you like to work with?
We love working with SMEs where we are helping the founders or CEO bring to life their vision. We also love working with large multinationals where their teams are empowered to make change and move the bar. Occasionally we also work with startups if their is a good fit and understanding between us.
What’s your background?
Personally I’ve worked for many years as a Regional Creative Director for one of the large global retail design agencies after which I was a Senior Director with a fast growth ‘retail group’, client side if you like, where we launched incoming franchise partner brands into SE Asian markets aswell as creating our own in-house brands from scratch. With this experience I made the decision to do what I love and establish my own boutique retail design firm to help growing SME’s around SE Asia.
How much do you charge? Are you expensive?
We are positioned as a company that delivers the same quality and thinking as the big global agencies but at a more ‘local company’ price. As we’re independent and do not answer to a big corporate holding company we are able to be much more flexible in terms of what we charge and work within client’s budgets. We understand that its never ‘one size fits all’. It all comes down to how much time is required to deliver the result that’s required.
What technologies do you utilise?
We have a very efficient work flow from running initial discovery workshops with the client, ideating and conceptualising designs, developing computer sketch models which are then taken into final photorealistic renders and finally into detailed technical drawings. We also have 3D VR headsets to allow us and our clients to step inside the designs. And we have partners offering in store customer tracking analytics to help us and our clients assess and refine store designs.
How about technologies in the retail spaces themselves?
Yes, even though we are not a technology company we need to be very aware of what technologies are available and be able to bring appropriate technologies into projects where they add value to the end customer experience. Interactive and/or animated digital panels for example, in store sensors, RFID tags, product scanners, mobile apps, security systems, music, scent – they’re all very much a part of what we do but they should ‘serve’ the end objective of delivering a great customer experience.
SPARK are Retail Design and Customer Experience specialists, we look to the future to help businesses re-imagine their retail experiences and ensure they remain relevant to the consumer, building brand value and maximising the potential of retail spaces.
SPARK is a Singapore based retail design specialist, delivering unique and effective retail design solutions for its clients across the Asia Pacific Region.