International design firms need committed Project Localization teams to collaborate with to get designs off the ground.
VM&RD chats with Shyam Sunder, Chief Architect & Director at Four Dimensions Retail Design who have recently collaborated with Dalziel+Pow, London to jointly deliver ‘Global Design with Local Rollout’.
Why do stakeholders associated with large brands, shop outside the country for design on retail identity projects?
I’ve been asked this question many times before, because of 4D’s proximity to large brand rollouts. According to me, “retail identity” as a clear deliverable is still not clearly articulated in India - even though it has been an emerging facet of our retail skyline over the last 8 to ten years.
But the big plus here is the rate at which things are changing, in visibly dynamic proportions. Stakeholders managing large brands in India are addressing highly evolved audiences with a global exposure to brands and retail environments, making it imperative to seek the perspective and experience of international designers. I think there’s a lot to learn and absorb from highly evolved, mature markets in Europe, the UK and US.
What challenges do these international firms have, when it comes to working with project teams in India?
Like any other import of expertise and thinking, last-mile delivery of design intent can face some very serious road blocks. Primarily because international designers need to 'localize' design strategies against ROI in Indian terms –encompassing material selection and balance, quality of delivery and aggressive timelines. So it’s important to find the right Indian partner, with the right mix of experience and resources.
What kind of a learning exercise is it for the Indian partner?
At 4D we have learnt to evolve a logical process, which keeps improving project after project. The learning curve has been formidable as we work to strengthen our international build expertise, with Indian flavors the customer can identify with.
For us the learning curve has been enjoyable and has taken us from strength to strength – which is a great armory of skills to bring to the table.
What are the many ways the overseas design team benefits from the partnership?
There’s more than one visible benefit as we have seen, on our projects. One, there is no transmission loss between concepts to execution. Two, the process of localization does not lose out on the international design matrix of the brand – the deliverable still measures up to a global audit. Three, and this is important, we ensure ‘best of design delivery’ without physical intervention in the build process – which is a key leverage point in the partnership.
At the end of the day, it’s a win-win situation for both sides of the partnership, eventually benefitting the client in a very integral way. The client gets the best of both worlds in an well managed, seamless exercise.
Can you give us a recent example of a successful design localization partnership, in retail identity?
Allen Solly is a good example of such a collaboration. In the early nineties, Allen Solly gave the urban Indian a whole new dress code for the workplace – making headlines with 'Friday Dressing'. The platform aimed to infuse vibrant colors and break away from the cookie cutter approach to work wear.
Dalziel+Pow our collaborative partner, through their India office, have worked on the new retail identity project for Allen Solly. The Dalziel+Pow strategy was based on an eclectic mix of heritage and contemporary expression. The big challenge here was to reincarnate this with a look and feel that was distinctly Indian – without any dilution of design or business intent of the identity.
This is where I’d like to give you a snapshot of the micro-management we went into on the detailing. The exact color & shade of the powder coating specified for fixtures was clearly outside the scope of our process stream, so we had to work with a supplier to re-formulate his palette to get an exact match. The effort to conform closely, went across the board – right from wall papers, flooring, light fixtures, merchandise fixtures, and more - to deliver quality and standards that made the grade and measured up