By AnnaRosa Biserni
Corporate Image or Branding dates as far back as the Industrial Revolution and since then reached its maximum expression of design creativity in the late 21st century with the fashion designers retail spaces. We are witnessing a new opening, a new horizon concept design creativity as banks loosen up on their long overstretched rigid formality and adapt their way of being to the modern times. Developing countries like Nigeria are not unaware of the importance of branding or corporate image but so far their attempts are limited to branding buildings. Zenith, Skye, GTB, InterContinental, Diamond and Oceanic bank (just a few) all have their office blocks, branches and corners distinctly branded. Question is: what of their interiors? However questionable in terms style, taste, aesthetics, historic references etc i.e. architecture, this appreciable efforts collapse helplessly as their interiors come into view. dReview meets CREA International design group, Milan: in other words: ‘taking bank retail-banking-design-concept to another level’ for an inspirational run-through of their creations.
At the end of march 2010 in Milan, CREA International’s Extrabanca was opened to the public. Extra in design and Extra in the socio-administrative impact, this bank occupies a special place in dReview’s heart also because of its mission. Mainly directed to immigrants, ExtraBanca addresses the need for them to tackle bank issues from a completely different platform than usual, the humane factor. Amongst its 20 employees in this first branch, eleven come from different parts of the world covering all 7 continents. From a purely administrative point of view, this sets a milestone!! …and in terms of tailor-cutting a bank design to suit this spirit originated by the founders, Otto Bitjiocca (Senegal) and partner Andrea Orlandini (Italy), CREA International takes the mic.
Camilla Croce, who captained the design team for CREA, consolidates the firms experience|experiments in the retail banking design concept based on the Physical Brand Design philosophy. First step: no more barriers between client and operator. The formal, distant and intimidating atmosphere that reign in the majority of the traditional banking halls are transformed through a pure design approach into a participative meeting ground between the two interacting parties. Achieving such an identity for ExtraBanca required an equally effective all-rounder graphic and architectural idea. In fact the Crea proposal is a metaphorical bridge connecting two different and distant realities with no interposed barriers. Hospitality, Listening and Information are the values of this Premium Multi-Ethnic bank.
The bank unwinds into a path which begins at the sinuous portal in wood, deep red lacquered finish, designed to emphasize the banks presence. This interior is spaced out with sinuous portal structures with wooden finish that brace seaters with alcantara cushions, and semicircular operational desks in walnut tops, ergonomically carved to meet standards. These desks, in synthesis, represent the nucleus of the bank’s design philosophy. That is where customer and bank employee can (in)formally talk (about the whether?) sitting next to each other.
The strong visual front communication is underlined by a sophisticated dynamic lighting system and graphic signs which flow in overlapping lines that runs from the front window through the whole branch. Sort of a guiding assurance that accompanies the client into a friendly ambient. The choice of corporate colours play a fundamental role in the retail design concept. Red, walnut, white, barrel grey with the eye-striking Red portal predominate in the interior while the stoneware floor quietly absorbs and links this succession forms and colours together.
Crea International is not new in the development of this kind of design operation. Branding is customized service, character, distinction, id. Expressing this package in a design concept is a challenge that calls for an innate motivation, thirst and especially the letting go of mental barriers to explore new frontiers of creativity. As you knock down design limitations you build your design manifest. Che Banca couldn’t have been but a CREA statement.
In Che Banca, the essential and welcoming proposal is made more effective by the use of vivid yellow colour to remember the logical organization of the solar system with the customer at the center of it. The old concept of bank is utterly dismantled an put away…forever. Crea creates an environment that puts human contact upfront in the first place. Looking at CheBanca, would expect to run into Peter or Paul, ask the clerk whether he’d seen Mattia, play with your lego in the children’s corner while your parents to finish with their video game; yet you are in a bank. It is sharp but not cutting, playful but not untidy, trendy but not superficial, fully web-era equipped but very easy going about it, CREA’s Che Banca land the future of banking spaces right on our laps with an overwhelming nonchalance. Bright yellow and white are the core design colours; sharp light lines cut through the ceiling in contrast with soft glows that emphasize the curved corners of the furnitures, built in ‘dialogue’ niches for friendly tête-à-tête and one more peculiarity: bank windows like boutique windows, transparency accorded from the streets – no hidden areas (in this bank dealings).
If practice makes perfect, creating improves creativity. The call for branding which is actually on-the-going all over the west offers another challenge for the consolidated CREA International Team. Country: Qatar. Place: Doha. ID: Barwa Bank, the most progressive Shari’ah compliant islamic bank. A perfect mix of modernity and avant-garde, strongly rooted with the tradition of the country. By using their well known Physical Brand Design methodology already experienced in the Italian projects, Crea International team approached the project starting to study the tradition and the country history to offer a product that is as close as possible to the way of life of the local population. Just one central banking area hosting multifunctional comfortable workstations, bank assistant and client seat looking together at the same touch screen, banking functions performed in total transparency and almost paperless; clients welcomed at the entrance by door assistant. Materials and shapes used take inspiration from the landscape of Qatar and its nature; the dunes inspired the smooth shapes mixed with clear cut geometrical lines, the flowers of the desert, symbol of energy and growth, with their delicate colours were a source of inspiration. The luminescent mother pearl covers the walls and floor letting in the typical landscape colours while Islamic arabesque inlays run along the perimeter walls. A fully transparent shop front without posters or displays characterizes Barwa Bank. Total transparency becomes the most effective way to announce the new ‘arrival’ in town. The final result is a delicate balance between tangibility, simplicity, intuitive space, fruition of the service model together with the warm but still precious environment and design that characterizes the banking space.
…lets add another inspirational font to our creative experience, today.