A Web of Connections
Shopping center empire the Westfield Group tapped the Los Angeles-based firm Rios Clementi Hale Studios to reinvent the mall experience for families. A comprehensive system of design elements that spans everything from architecture to graphics helps parents navigate the mall’s kid-friendly features and–more importantly–keeps kids happy.
The firm conducted consumer research studies in multiple cities around the country to understand how parents shop, and what could be done to improve the experience of visiting a mall with small kids in tow. The feedback informed the design, selection, and implementation of program elements.
Starting with the mall’s Web site, parents can plan their shopping with kids by following graphic “breadcrumbs” left by the designers. “The goal was to create a program of amenities that would engage both kids and adults, and make the Westfield shopping center their destination for fun, food, education, and shopping, while also making it easier for parents to navigate the mall,” says partner Julie Smith-Clementi.
From Web to mall the designs were all kid-tested, and natural Learning was put forth as Smith-Clementi phrases it: “the themes also promote eco-consciousness and healthy living to everyone who experiences it”. As it is often mentioned as the common expression for ease of use, “Plug-and-Play” caracterizes the approach used to design the kids’ spaces for the 119 shopping centers globally. “Westfield Group needed a modular system that could be easily installed at–and translated across–existing malls. The modular play areas come as a kit-of-parts so each can be adapted to different physical conditions. Walls can be arranged into irregular shapes to fit floorplans, and removable elements like cling graphics were employed.”
Nothing essential for kids and parents was neglected: Throughout the mall, everything is based on a show-me-the-way sign system to support wayfinding, and “signage gives fun facts about the rainforest and points families toward the play area, food court, and bathrooms”. “Kiddie Menus” can be found at all the food court restaurants, and rest or park areas respectively allow for nursing times for moms with both infants and toddlers and for security, extending the mall’s family-tone experience with brightly-colored graphics. Does this sound familiar? Does it remind you of what we call functionality in interface design?
Well, talk about 360 customer experience! I am v-e-r-y impressed…and not surprised that the whole concept derives from user research studies…and I want a mall just like that right here in Montreal!
Read the FastCompany’s article “Making the Mall more Family-friendly” by Alissa Walker (November 24, 2009)