SWITZERLAND. Zürich-based design and architecture firm Detail Design has marked its 15th anniversary by unveiling its newly renovated offices, revealing a new logo and corporate look – and announcing ambitions to grow in the airport retail and food & beverage space.

Roger Copeland: Aims to build on Detail Design’s track record in travel retail and airport food & beverage

The company has a strong track record in the travel retail business with design work for clients such as Nuance and JR/Duty Free (most recently at Perth Airport) as well as numerous brands.

It also has a number of clients in airport F&B, with projects including the HMSHost-managed Pier Zero Bar at Helsinki Airport (expected to open later in 2015), the Fernweh Bar, the NZZ Café and press & bookstore and the Sprüngli Café & Lounge, all at Zürich Airport. Detail Design has had a long and close relationship with Zürich Airport, for which it has undertaken many projects.

At the anniversary event, Detail Design Owner & Founder Roger J. Copeland told The Moodie Report: “We have a strong track record over fourteen years of working in travel retail. Our most recent project was with JR/Duty Free for their Perth Airport development. Not only is it an exciting channel to work in but it would be a waste of our many years of experience if we didn’t continue in that business.

“The relaunch of our company branding offers an opportunity to talk about what we can bring to the travel retail market. We find the entire commercial design world very exciting, from food & beverage to retail, and we enjoy working with brands. We want to explain to potential partners that we are reliable and creative, as we have proved in the past, and we can work anywhere in the world.”

Copeland – who is half-Swiss and half-English, but has spent most of his life in Switzerland – leads a small but passionate team of eight people from his stunning new offices close to the heart of Zurich. He began his design career project-managing retail openings for Swatch Group before going out on his own in 2000 – initially from a spare attic bedroom in his mother’s house and then moving into offices in the city in 2000.

Pier Zero: Stunning design for a forthcoming HMSHost-operated bar at Helsinki Airport

“I knew from my Swatch experience that becoming involved with retail and architectural design was something I wanted to do as my living,” he explained. “When you are involved in a major architectural project it can take two years or more to see the outcome of your labour. In retail you see it often within months and that is exciting.

“I like the international aspect of what we do and I like the diversity. I don’t want to design the same stores each time and don’t want only to do retail each time. I like change. That’s why we’re involved in airport projects, retail, food & beverage, hotels, apartments, offices and real estate, and even hospitals. Our ten-year strategic partnership with Zürich Airport provided an enormous amount of experience and know-how and that’s the reason we regard airports around the world as among our major target groups for future partnerships”.

The striking NZZ Café and bookstore at Zurich Airport

Copeland took us on a virtual tour of its project history when we visited last week – and the sheer diversity is striking.

Detail Design led the creation of Zürich Airport’s acclaimed Center Bar, opened in 2006. The lounge-restaurant-piano bar has become one of the airport’s most popular meeting points, not least for its stylish design and stunning views. It was described upon opening as “the most beautiful airport bar in Europe” by the airport’s then Chief Commercial Officer Peter Eriksson.

Other more recent projects at Zürich include the 440sq m NZZ Café and connected press & bookstore, opened in July 2013, which neatly connects gastronomy and retail. The landside 382sq m Fernweh Bar, opened in June 2014, also links F&B and retail with striking design, this time with a confectionery store built in. The elegant Sprüngli Café, opened in August 2012, is a highlight of the F&B offer airside. At Helsinki, where it is working with HMSHost, Copeland is particularly proud of the Pier Zero Bar concept. “We are pretty sure that people will think it is stunning once it opens. That can be a template for other things we can do in the food & beverage space.”

The high-class Center Bar is one of Detail Design’s signature projects

There’s more besides. Detail Design worked with Nuance on the 2008 opening of its vast 1,600sq m walk-through store at Stockholm Arlanda, and with JR/Duty Free on projects from Auckland to Perth.

There’s all that (and more) on the airport commercial side, but more in other sectors besides. The company has also designed hotels – namely Holiday Inn Express at Zürich Airport and another one in the agglomeration of Zurich. It has rolled out retail designs for brands, not least the Lindt & Sprüngli shop concept worldwide over the past five years; it has developed real estate projects, including architecture for apartments; and it has even delivered design projects for one of Switzerland’s leading private clinic groups, featuring renovation of therapy rooms, relaxation lounges and private guestrooms.

“We as a team want to be excited and stimulated every day so I prefer to have a rich diversity of projects,” said Copeland.

The Fernweh Bar at Zurich showcases the company’s imaginative approach

On travel retail specifically, Copeland lamented the “sameness” of airport retail spaces the world over.

“I believe in individuality and uniqueness,” he said. “The brands want their own look as far as it’s possible to implement but that does not always tally with what the retailers want. There is too much sameness in the look of the airport retail spaces but how do you convince the market to change?”

Cult (above) and Schweizer Heimatwerk (below) at Zurich Airport are among the designer’s speciality retail projects

Difference can come through local touches and other factors, he noted. “The casual traveller wants to see a sense of place, a touch of the country and city they’ve visited. It’s the same in food & beverage. Pier Zero is a good example. The Scandinavian design is key. We think this concept can stand the test of time and will still be relevant in ten years’ time. It’s about being unique and different. You need to identify the values of the country you’re in and the shoppers’ values there and to understand their mentality. If you take the time to analyse local conditions, then you can develop something special. We have a duty to represent the region in our designs and also to stand behind the work we do.”

Duty free partners have included JR/Duty Free and Nuance

On how retail formats are developing, Copeland noted the roll-out of walk-through stores around the world. “I always thought that walk-throughs could work but only done in the right way. There is a real danger, and you see it in some places, that you begin to offend people by pushing retail on them as they come straight through security. People need a zone of orientation to prepare themselves to shop and often they don’t get that.”

Digital will also play a key role in the consumer experience, and must be factored into retail design, he added.

“People expect technology to be part of the travel experience today and that will not change. But sometimes you feel there is an avalanche of information that becomes overkill. We have to be watchful of that.”

The designer has rolled out retail projects for brands such as Lindt & Sprüngli
The Sprüngli Café is a popular airside attraction at Zurich Airport

Overall, Copeland said design had a critical role to play in retailing – and that it can be a barrier or an encouragement to purchase.

“People are psychologically influenced by the spaces they enter, whether it’s by the colours, materials, illuminations or fixtures; we are all open to those impulses as we are all humans. And if you are not comfortable in that space your instinct is to leave it. But if we can encourage a mood of comfort, people’s behaviour is influenced and thereby their purchasing habits.

“Transparency and visibility – through the store and to the exits – are factors to ensuring people will feel comfortable. Orientation is key, as are uncluttered spaces within and openness; location matters too, as does store depth and size.”

Those are some of the principles that Detail Design hopes to bring to new clients as it re-establishes itself in travel retail. As it does so, and even with the diversity of sectors it operates in, Detail Design will remain compact and focused.

“We have a small but committed team of eight people. Only great people can make things happen and those that work here have great know-how. We also offer the chance for people to develop and we encourage that. We like to be small but agile. We love what we do, and we make sure it’s done right and professionally each time.”

Finally, I asked Copeland to sum up his design philosophy – and he offers an intriguing answer. “We hear a lot about trends but I don’t like the word as we prefer to work against trends. You need to be entrepreneurial so you cannot be guided too much by what is the common theme. You need to look at creating the unique and the special. And that’s what we do.”

Roger Copeland and Detail Design can be contacted at:
Tel: +41 43 210 82 22
email: copeland@detail-design.com

The company enters its next phase with refurbished offices and new branding