Brand Experience for New Retailers: The How and Why

Brand Experience for New Retailers: The How and Why blog post hero
Insights Branding / Customer Experience / Retail Design

Think of your experience walking up to a storefront or restaurant.

Are you greeted with a fresh and simple, stark modern facade? Or a moody, dynamic and culturally-referenced traditional facade?

Regardless, the atmosphere has surrounded you before you’ve even made it onto the front step. You already have a sense of what your experience at the restaurant, or inside the store might be like, and you’re enticed to walk into the space.

In other words, you have embarked on a brand journey.

This magic that creates the brand journey can be expressed even by the front door, or perhaps door handle, of a well-branded restaurant or retailer serving a specific purpose. It is informative of a direct representation of the brand and it invites you to have your first tactile experience and open the door to step inside a crafted experience.

Feuille Facade Exterior in Vancouver BC

Silk store entrance illustrating how to create a brand experience with interior design

All that’s required on your end as the retailer / restaurateur is a recurring representation of your brand to find its way in front of your clients’ eyes frequently enough to keep the spark of that first special encounter alive and growing.

This overall branding and experience effect is created through the strategic use of interior design features that:

  • Reflect your brand
  • Communicate your story
  • Create an intentional customer experience or journey

Brand design features are the foundation for creating powerful customer experiences that leave an impression and build brand equity.

Silk road tea retail store brand design features

What makes a brand feature in a retail or restaurant environment?

A brand feature is any interior feature that is designed to create a specific brand impression, from small subtle details to iconic statement pieces.


  • A focal installation
  • A special fixture detail used across all fixtures with continuity
  • A specific colour and texture palette
  • A common reference, like a symbol or phrase, that harkens back to something special about your brand story

Whatever it is that’s special about your brand story is communicated, subtly or dramatically, in these elements of the built environment.

Silk road brand design feature examples 1

When people move through the collection of materials and finishes in the space they associate the feelings they get from the ambiance with your brand offering.

Silk road brand design feature examples 2

Once the connection is established in people’s minds, the experience is shared and conversation sparked.

Why are brand design features critical?

In a nutshell your brand is your promise to all those who come in contact with your brand. It’s your public offering and promise to your customers, partners, employees, audience and community.

Your brand will help you tell your story and it helps you build trust as it informs people what to expect. If done right in the built environment, brand experience will also help differentiate you from your competition and increase your ROI.

“Brands are long-term, valuable investments that account for an average of 75% of a company’s financial worth.”

How are brand feature pieces designed for interior spaces, conceptually?

A specific design language is created by the designer to emulate your brand story.

This process starts with a few key words, an image, or a visual montage that initiates the seed of inspiration for every design decision that follows: line, shape, colour, texture, composition of materials — everything must harken back to the initial concept seed callout. Design principles and elements are used to deduce a curated design language.

Closeup of wooden desk and chair hatching at Silk Road Tea's interior furniture and design

For Example:

The concept of a “deconstructed greenhouse” connotes a certain visual.

Words and statements like: earthy, patina, organic, simple geometry, fresh, and artful come to mind.

From there, an associated colour palette and specific materials and finishes are sought and arranged to be placed in such a composition containing an intentional statement. This statement could be a balanced harmony, or a contained discord amounting to just the right effect; whatever the direction, as long as it is intentional and calculated with purpose.

Like the call and response that sparks a conversation, a solid concept should lead to a physical space filled with objects and finishes that speak to your brand and the identity you wish to represent. A specific experience is created.

Brand design call response example for commercial store interiors

How do design features communicate a brand?

Designed features communicate a brand by the way objects carry the curated design language created by the design team. Objects, graphics, logos, fixtures and spaces can be distilled down to simple lines, shapes, forms, textures, colours and light, scent, and the composition of these elements in a space, in the built environment.

The distillation down to these foundational design elements creates the building blocks and criteria for all design decisions.

A great local example, here in Vancouver, is the iconic blue feathers of Earls Restaurant’s Parrot sculptures which hold the story of the brand and heritage as well as represent the common recognizable thread of brand history.

Earls Blue Feathre Parrot Example branding

That single reference to a key design feature: a specific flock of oversize symbolic blue parrot sculptures triggers, within the knowing local Vancouverite, all the qualities and memories and attachments to the entire brand association. A brand experience is born.

In Summary

To create a powerful retail or restaurant environment that communicates your brand story and makes a lasting impression, brand design features are key.

Every time a guest interacts with your space, they are embarking on a journey. The strategic use of brand design allows us to influence this journey, produce a specific experience, and build brand equity.

Next is to understand the thread of design language and specifications, and how that thread carries the feature pieces in the space and holds everything together in a purposeful way. Though often subliminal, the almost invisible details can also say a lot. I’ll be covering this and more in Part 2. Stay tuned!

It is exponentially beneficial to work with an interior designer who understands this process and knows how to create the design language needed to properly reflect and communicate your brand. This is exactly what we at Cutler do for our clients, some of the top retail and restaurant brands across Canada.

Get in touch to learn more, ask questions, or tell us about your project.

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