WMD what's on my desk | v.1 | Andy

Hopefully the first in a semi-regular series. A peek into the madness genius that goes into retail commercial design. Our first submission comes from designer, Andy Drake, we asked him, "what's on your desk?"

1. hand drawn sketches
My desk is ALWAYS covered with sketches, traces and other sorts of hand-graphics. It's just part of the design process for me, and will always be so. It's very typical for me to grab a piece of paper and just draw something, not knowing what will come out of it. Very often, the finished product will reflect my early drawings that I did during the very first step of my designs. In this case, fixtures for a flower stand, the corresponding plans and another fixture are taking up space on my desk.

2. watercolor sketchbook
My watercolor art follows me everywhere. I keep a sketchbook on me most of the time I'm out of the office for doing quick hand sketches and watercolor art. Its just a hobbie, but often I blend it with projects or use past drawings for inspiration during design.

3. tools of the trade
Just as a musician will get very particular about his instrument, I am very particular about my pens… they are an extension of my hand, afterall, and I am only as good as my tools will allow me to be. Watercolors: Windsor and Newton in travel case. Pens: Black micro uniball for notes and quick sketches, uniball waterproof pens when watercolor will be applied.
4. snacks
I can't lie, I nibble… Hey! I break a mental sweat!

5. tape measurer
When fixtures or spaces are being designed, you can never forget you're designing for the human body. I constantly measure things to see if heights, widths and distances are claustrophobic, hard to reach or move around in. Having this tactile experience of special sizing is key to good design.

6. books
I keep an assortment around the office. Most of the references I go back to fall into two categories. Books like Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw focus on how we humans think and interact. Psychological studies are very important in decifering how a customer is going to act in a space. Paco Underhill has done a lot of research in this narrow field. Other books focus on design, and are written by people both smarter and more eloquent than I… which may be why I idolize them. My design bible: A Pattern Language, by Christopher Alexander, et all.
7. material samples
Along with sketching, having materials to apply to projects gets the creative wheel cranking! Here nice tiles are cluttering up my desk. I really like natural and honest materials the best. If the project is more modern, I will adjust these materials to be more refined… I don't decide what the project wants to look like; the project will reveal itself to me during the design process..

8. reusable mug (and coffee)
I don’t think there’s anything to explain. Science defines living things as made up of cell(s). I define living based on, “Have I had my coffee yet?”

9. headphones and iPod
Sometimes I just need to tune out what's going on around me. The design area can get pretty hectic at times and being tuned out of that anxiety/stress is key. Plus it helps the creative pursuit. Don't believe me? Change the vibe of your kitchen next time you have taco night: Salsa music in the background, lime wafting in the air and no shoes on. Doesn't that make you dive into the experience? The same is true for design.

10. magazines
Constantly keeping up with trends, learning about new products and seeing what others are doing is important.  Most of my design precedents and early inspirational imagery comes from magazines and photo journals. Plus, I’m a fiend for great photos.

11. color books
Pantone is my friend.  Without color, the world would be oh so dismal! Color is something to be played with, and I love matching and creating palettes! 


KRS Root Root Roots for the Home Team

We recently held a baseball night for our crew, families, friends, and kids. It was a gorgeous Oregon evening for our local team the Emeralds to take on the truly evil Spokane Indians. Hotdogs and brewskies flowed like water. Peanuts and cracker jacks flowed like champagne. We ate, we smiled, we rooted for the home team.

No one will ever forget Rick the Rocket and Ira aka Fast Eddy's stellar (::side eye::) performance building a human burger (we are the team on the left).

Lightning Lance threw out the first pitch.
Here's some more of the fun.
Oregon gear in the house. Featuring Dan and Ryan left and center.
KRS, the next generation. Keeping in mind that we are designers. Yes, we have designed our offspring to be extra cute.
Least appetizing burger in the history of the world. Most awesome burger in the history of all time.

Needless to say, it was an all around good time. We loved seeing over 200 KRS employees and their friends and family come out for the event! Final score was Emeralds: 8, Indians:2.


Starry and Bold in Carlsbad

On a recent trip to Carlsbad, CA I visited the Hilton Resort and Spa for dinner and drinks. I was really impressed with the distinct energy and personality of this property and wanted to share some of the highlights.
Most notably, the backlit wall panel fixtures are striking. Wood panels are arranged with variously sized holes, randomly located, to give a starry effect.

The combination of modern design elements mixed with rich, comfortable textures makes the space at once welcoming and indulgent.

Another interesting aspect of this space is the choice of light fixtures throughout. Some are so bold they flirt with feeling almost out of place, but the furniture and décor pulls it all together in a way that feels intentional and polished.

images via 1, 2, 3 (iphone)


Andrew's Chicago Restaurant Picks for IRDC

This year the International Retail Design Conference heads to Chicago for its 2012 educational and networking event for retail design professionals. KRS' creative leaders look forward to attending the IRDC again this year fresh on the heels of winning VMSD retail renovation of the year in 2011 for our design of Robért Fresh Market, New Orleans.

Want to know where you MUST eat while in Chicago? KRS' EVP, Andrew Swedenborg, called Chicago home prior to moving to the Pacific Northwest, and shares his "Can't Miss" food spots for IRDC 2012 (all within a seven-iron of the Renaissance Chicago Hotel).

Top Choice... Mr. Beef (map)
This place is ideal for a classic Chicago beef. Also a classic instance of no frills function, not to mention beef, triumphing over form. Down and dirty and delicious. May we recommend the Breakfast Beef as the perfect pick-me-up meal after a late night out. Mmmm Mr. Beef.

Snacks and Vino... Bin 36 (map)
Lavish selection of wines, cheeses, meats, entrees, and desserts in a great space. The atmosphere is laid back and the menu extensive.

Fresh Produce and Prepared... Chicago French Market (map)
An in-door collection of over twenty local food stalls in the Euro fashion. The worst part about this eclectic space is choosing just one or two eateries to patronize, honestly. Favorites include Saigon Sisters Vietnamese food and Pastoral gourmet cheese and sandwiches.

For People Watching... Hub 51 (map)
Great food, great people, great club. Hub 51 was created by Jerrod and RJ Melman, sons of Lettuce Entertain You founder Rich Melman, and creating "ermagersh" gastronomic experiences is clearly in this family's blood. Hub 51 is at once a great restaurant, a great bar, and a see-and-be-seen spot all within a gorgeous space.

Coffee... Intelligencia (map)
 Best coffee in the city. Period. It's frickin' great.

Oprah's Old Stomping Ground... La Sardine (map)
Across the street from the old Oprah Winfrey show studios, La Sardine is a classic French bistro in the best possible sense. Rich sauces, fancy desserts, and spot on cuisine without pretention.

When in Rome Chicago... Lou Malnati's Pizzeria (map)
Order the butter crust.

Where Local Foodies Go... Naha (map)
Simple flavors executed to perfection. City folk frequent this modern American space for its crisp, polished ambiance, exciting cocktails, and most of all... amazing food.

For the Bubbly... Pops (map)
This longstanding Lincoln Park institution for champagne is reimagined here for River North and it's awesome. A posh vibe, live music, and an extensive drink selection make Pops a go-to place for late night gatherings in Chi-town.

Get Yo Lounge On... Redhead Piano Bar (map)
Old school piano bar where you can still smoke on the patio. Martinis flow while the piano man does his ivory-tickling thing. Yes, it feels a little worn but that's really just part of the charm.

Get Yo Noodle On... Slurping Turtle (map)
Beautiful modern space, heaping noodle bowls, and other Japanese fare à la Michelin-starred chef Takashi Yagihashi. Nuff said.

In Andrew's own words, "I could go on and on..." If you have any questions for KRS' resident Chicago tour guide, feel free to shoot us an email. Otherwise, we hope this list comes in handy for those of you traveling to the windy city and look forward to IRDC next week and hopefully seeing you there.

images via 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11


Peek Behind the Curtain

Ever imagine what the offices of a retail design firm might look like? We took our point-and-shoot for a mini tour of our designers' workspace and thought we'd share. It might be a little cluttered with swatches, but we are proud to call it home.
Coming soon: we've seen "what's on your desk" features around the blogosphere for years and find them insightful and interesting (and a little peeping tom-ish which is always neat). Look for "what's on your desk" at KRS coming soon to the blog.


The Lego Story

Check out this cool video about the Lego story. As designers, I'm sure we all started out as kids building lego creations!

Lego, especially the classic, basic pieces in bold, bright colors that we all remember playing with as kids, has always been an inspiration to the imagination. The company released this short animation to mark its 80th anniversary.


What's in Store, Third Edition

What's in Store, KRS' quarterly newsletter, exploded on the retail scene yesterday with its third enstallment.

This time we took a look at retail trends and statistics for summer and fall 2012 like the NRF's recent release of its annual list of the hottest 100 retailers, the POPAI (Point of Purchase Advertising Institute) 2012 shopper engagement study findings, and the 2012 International Contemporary Furniture Fair in NYC.

Our quarterly e-rag also takes a look at how KRS' top retail design clients (including groceries, convenience stores, big box, quick service restaurants, hospitals, and more) are faring against the general economy. In a nutshell, is retail re-design and upkeep good for business? With 11% growth this year alone, signs point to "yes" for KRS' clients.

KRS has been busy in the public eye lately, featured in publications like Entrepreneur, speaking at industry engagements, attending events and tradeshows, and publishing our own retail design white papers. Wanna get on the wire? Email whatsinstore@kingrs.com to be added to the distribution list.


Stores to Watch: The 2012 Hot 100 Retailers

Each August the National Retail Federation (NRF) publishes its annual "Hot 100 Retailers" list which serves as a definitive ranking of the nation's fastest growing retail chains. A huge number of factors play into which stores thrive while others faulter. Personally, we look forward to reviewing the list each year and taking note of the qualities that have sky rocketed certain brands to the top of the growth charts. While we anxiously await the 2012 version of the Hot 100, here's a look back at some of the 2011 rankings along with our own brief commentary on what these retailers are doing "just right" to ensure their business is booming.

#6 Bodega Latina dba El Super
With locations throughout California, Arizona, and Nevada, El Super's key to success is Southwestern authenticity. As the store's name implies, El Super has a Hispanic corporate culture that is geared towards the Latin American demographic (roughly 17% of the US population). The store makes a point to stock the unique, authentic fresh and imported food products that its customers most desire and to offer products at a value price point. Because of this, its popularity is widespread to other demographics, including cooking enthusiasts. The stores offer a clean, friendly, latin-flavored environment with signage and other elements in both Spanish and English.

#7 Apple Stores
Apple's award-winning stores, maybe more than any other retail space, represent the zeitgeist of today's plugged-in world. And trendsetting products aside (we're sure you've never heard of Mac computers, iPads, iPods, or iPhones) Apple has really set the bar in redefining the modern, functional, and beautiful retail space. From nerd bars to glass staircases, shoppers appreciate, identify with, and often even identify themselves by Apple's values of simplicity, beauty, and function. Think, "I'm a Mac." Traditional and non-traditional retailers look to Apple as a flagship for how to present themselves to the modern shopper.

#9 H&M
Swedish retailers, Hennes & Mauritz, have quick become the second largest global clothing retailer with their fast-to-floor approach to fashion. The store hits home for Millennial and Gen X shoppers (for example, we all got VERY EXCITED when they partnered with Versace last year for a cheap chic line of clothing) with merchandise that changes pretty much daily and is always affordable and on-trend. The stores showcase their product in bright, modern retail spaces with modular fixtures, perfect for an ever-evolving offering.

#19 Tractor Supply Co.
This popular chain of outdoor-based department stores, Tractor Supply's tagline is, "For life out here" and its product offering follows suit. For small town, rural, and even suburban dwellers, Tractor Supply's balance of farm and garden gear, tools, and household supplies makes them a perfect one-stop-shop. The retailer also offers clothing, select groceries, and animal care products for critters from cats to livestock. The retail space is departmentalized and due to the extensive mix of product categories, requires easy-to-navigate directional signage.

#30 Whole Foods
Undeniably a trend leader for US and global grocery, Whole Foods has tapped into modern consumers' need to know the story behind the food they're eating. Each store is unique to its locale, with great care paid to design with local flavor - from layout, to color palette, fixturing, signage, and materials. The stores focus on value through natural, quality products sold in a beautiful, comfortable space. Whole Foods, similar to #7 Apple Stores, is as much a culture as a retailer, with an incredibly loyal following.

#57 Kohl's
In just a few years, Kohl's has risen from low profile to the status of a top department store. With traditional sections such as kitchen, bed, bath, clothing, and accessories, the stores provide a welcoming, traditionally designed, and nicely polished environment in which shoppers can pick up all the necessities. With notable brand partnerships such as Tony Hawk, Jennifer Lopez, Lauren Conrad, and Simply Vera Vera Wang, the stores offer a welcome option for shoppers looking to spend affordably and still purchase quality, ultra stylish merchandise.

 #59 Gymboree
With hundreds of children's clothing store and play areas throughout the US, Gymboree is a lifestyle brand for active parents of infants, toddlers, and primary aged youngsters. Their store spaces are brightly lit and beautifully designed with fun in mind.

#86 Ikea
Ikea's innovative store layout of showroom-to-warehouse with a side of meatballs have made the Swedish retailer of BIY (built it yourself) furnishings and affordable housewares an internationally recognized retailer and brand leader.

#95 Jo-Ann Stores
With the current economic slump coinciding with a renaissance of craftsmanship appreciation and entrepreneurialism (think Etsy people) it's no wonder that craft supply wonderland, Jo-Ann Stores made the list. Organized by department, with significant seasonal merchandise, the retailer relies heavily on display fixtures, merchandising, and wayfinding as well as a navigable layout to encourage shoppers to travel around and through the space with the easy ability to find what they're looking for, from yarn to scrapbooking supplies to gold sequine lame.


Congratulations "Papa" Marco!

As you know, it is incredibly important to shovel things with frosting in your face when celebrating a life event. We take these kinds of social mores very seriously at KRS. Birthday? There shall be things with frosting! Holiday? Things With Frosting! Wedding? Things With Frosting! Wednesday? Again Yes Frosting! New Baby? Bring it! And by "it" we mean "Frosting!"

In addition to the excuse for frosting, we are all so excited for our senior designer, Marco, who is about to become a first time papa! Andy made cupcakes.
We taste-tested baby food (yes we did!) and Anna proved to have the most refined palate. She knew her pears from her apples and also brought the brightest smile.
And then there's the man of the hour. Get ready to not sleep for at least two years, Marco! We are so so happy for you and your growing family!
If you were thinking, "wow KRS must have joined Instagram look at all those square pictures with hip retro filters," then you are right. We have no idea what we're doing with Instagram but so far it's been a lot of fun. If you're on Instagram too then come follow us we're @KingRetail.


KRS and Pizza Today

KRS Creative Director, Christopher Studach, was recently interviewed by Pizza Today on ROI and best practices when it comes to a pizzeria remodel.

Click the link above to view the article in its entirety. Here are a few snippets of wisdom, straight from the Chris' mouth:

"Any trendy design element will quickly date itself and negate much of the benefits of the remodel in the first place... If you don’t have that synergy between design, brand and target customer, then you won’t be maximizing sales. Not at all... How successful over time is a direct result of an educated and targeted design process... A simple face-lift (no kitchen, furniture, etc.) can be very affordable..."  

There's more, of course there is, so click that link up above to read the whole article. 

pssst. Looking for pizzeria eye candy? We were. Here's what we found... 

images via 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

From traditional to industrial modern to just super mod modern these stylin pizza shops from around the world each represent pitch perfect design in a thoughtful environment. Che bello!