Virgin Mobile by II BY IV
The UK public’s most admired brand, the happiest customers in Canada and now, the ‘sexiest virgin in the mall’ a retail concept that perfectly represents the stellar attributes of the iconic and iconoclastic brand empire created by Richard Branson.In 2005, II BY IV Design was contracted to create the head office for the newly launched Virgin Mobile Canada. Just as an edgy and irreverent launch campaign demonstrated the company’s unconventional style, the offices reflected the brand’s personality novel, ingenious, fun and more than slightly irreverent, while respecting and empowering employees and customers alike. The designers accomplished this through a painstaking analysis of the brand character and adaptation of Virgin’s graphic symbolism for its passion, energy, drive and commitment.Three years later, Virgin Mobile returned to II BY IV with the express directive of creating a new retail concept that would build on the headquarters’ dynamic and efficient design. Standing up to the test of time and change, those offices continue to convey the brand values of quality, good value for money, innovation people want, and brilliant customer service, all with a flair that is fun and young at heart. Virgin was confident that II BY IV could meet their retail aspirations equally successfully.Branson is fond of saying that his entrepreneurial approach is based on such principles as ‘find good people and set them free’ and ‘it’s attention to details that really defines great business delivery’. Set free to explore store design with no preconceptions, the designers created an utterly simple, profoundly functional, and wildly energetic concept that is based on perfectly-thought out details. Whether capturing attention as a freestanding kiosk at mall centre or delivering a bigger-than-life performance in an inline store of less than 250 square feet, the new Virgin Mobile sales venues both express, and live up to, the brand promise.Within the 10 x 15 footprint, there are three kiosk options: the standard double tower, the single tower, and, for use in malls that supply a canopy, a towerless model. What is a tower? A vertical glass and metal accent that demands attention and directs it to the ‘hero fixtures’ where the newest and greatest product on offer is displayed. It’s also the exclamation point that concludes the minimalist but immensely powerful superstructure frame an angular ribbon of glossy Virgin-red powder-coated steel that unites the island kiosk elements, creates an impression of privacy for customer transactions and establishes an inviting portal for the inline store.Those kiosk components are entirely surfaced in white Corian a highly textured version with horizontal stripes as well as the classic smoothly seamless finish. Stainless steel and glass complete the materials list. In the store, the only two floor units are similarly constructed: the service desk a straightforward rectilinear column of the textured Corian; the cash and wrap, a dynamic and sleekly smooth trapezoidal unit. The ‘hero fixture’ for the kiosk is another straightforward pedestal in mirrored glass with a graduated red pattern, while in the stores, its footprint mimics the ovoid shape that backs the Virgin word mark and executed in high gloss enamelled 3D, is reminiscent of a retro handheld telephone.In both the store and kiosk designs, lighting flatters the products and makes a strong design statement. LED cove lighting tucked into the kiosk superstructure culminates in a vertical drop fixture, a light baton that also spotlights the hero fixture below it. Another angular powder-coated aluminum structure this time in glossy white is suspended above, and follows the shape of, the store’s cash / wrap desk not coincidentally forming a large, flying V when viewed from the side. Grey-veined white marble is used for the store’s faade and flooring; high glossy black paint creates a mirror effect on the drywall ceiling; and the walls are finished in a custom white-on-white vinyl wall covering with a tile-like small hexagonal pattern. Black, white and dramatic red the Virgin logo colours are architecturally translated elegantly.In a fine example of ‘form follows function’, the designers actually developed the entire concept starting from the risers out. The resulting kit of parts can be used in both kiosks and stores interchangeably. The POS information print or digital slips into red powder coated framed units amid white ones used to display the zip-corded phones. Ingeniously, the entire phone display housing simply lifts out for secure storage at the end of the day. On the kiosk’s hero fixtures (or on the corners of the non-tower units), the newest products are displayed within glass cubes their untouchable status adding to their allure. Additional POS information is displayed in snap frames suspended along the store walls and in a 42″ vertical digital display. Only four feet wide, the conventional ‘back wall’ fronts a storage room with a striking graphic on its sliding door. Easily seen from either direction, the full length of both side walls make strong statements with logo, graphics, product display and dramatic lighting all executed with minimal detail.The expansive feeling, clean lines and extreme visibility of the tiny, wedge-shaped prototype store superbly demonstrated the flexibility and effectiveness of the concept leading Virgin to consider small, oddly shaped and economical sites in malls across the nation, much to the envy of their competitors. Virgin’s retail philosophy is about service and simplicity, not the maximum number of SKUs. Their new retail design concept is about convenience, practicality and simplicity, not the maximum amount of ‘stuff to look at’. The purest brand expression, these are the biggest little retail venues in the sector and, yes, the sexiest virgins in the mall.