Color Me Durable
“People draw on anything,” says Christie Kratzer, interior designer and principal for Cincinnati- based Reztark Design Studio. Anyone who has ever handed a child a crayon knows this to be true.
Now imagine creating a retail space at the end of an experience designed to ignite creativity. Fill that space with interactive displays that feature the entire Crayola product line (crayons, markers, paint, glitter glue and more), and then send 700 people through per hour. That was the task handed to Kratzer when Reztark was tapped to design the store at the newly renovated Crayola Experience in Easton, Pa., (the birthplace of Crayola Crayons). Her team was given three objectives: maintain the brand, make the product shine and ensure the store can stand up to heavy traffic. “It is all about color and fun,” says Kratzer. “And it had to be built like a battleship.”
Establishing the Brand
Situated in five historic buildings that encompass 55,000 square feet of space, the Crayola Experience is a one-of-a-kind venue. Following a significant renovation and expansion in 2013, the entertainment elements are better, bolder and brighter than ever before. Colors follow the theme of Crayola throughout the building. “The lobby is all about transporting the guest into a world of creativity,” says Kratzer, whose research and finish specifications for the retail store were also used throughout the Crayola Experience and café.
Visual branding in the space is accomplished by using Crayola’s signature color scheme. When dealing with a company based on hues, the color palette is not conservative, but it must be precise. “There are four main brand colors, two greens and two yellows. Then there are nine secondary and tertiary colors that can be used,” says Kratzer. ”We chose to use Abet Laminati HPL throughout the space because they have the best color range of solid laminates for matching the Crayola brand colors. Plenty of companies have great colors, but we could not get them as standard materials.”
Starting with the first interaction at the ticket counter, Crayola’s signature greens help to differentiate the brand amidst an environment devoted to all colors. The familiar yellow compliment is painted on the brick flooring as a means of way-finding in the facility.
Adjacent to the Experience is the 5,500 square-foot retail space. Visitors enter by crossing through bright yellow portals and descending a flight of stairs. This provides unique views, allowing even children to scan the entire store prior to entering. Of course, where there are children there must also be durable counters, walls and surfaces.
“The overall goal for the store was to allow the Crayola product to shine, which is currently hit or miss in other environments since retailers don’t stock all the lines,” says Kratzer. “This store is the only location where 100 percent of Crayola products are available. It gave an opportunity to tell the story and offer unique products that are only available there.”
Making the Product Shine
With the brand identity established, the next design intention was to make the product shine. The store is wide, divided into three sections and packed with Crayola’s full array of 121 hues. Colorful gift counters flank the entry into the retail space. “It was important to create an impression of movement in the store, so we cut two sweeping curves in the flooring to direct one’s eyes into the space,” says Kratzer.
Upon entering the store, guests get a glimpse of the main focal point in the back of the space. The biggest wow-factor is a 40-foot long wall displaying 75 colors of crayons and 12 colors of markers. “Each color is four inches wide and 12-feet high, so it is a veritable rainbow,” says Kratzer. “At the base of the bin, you can take a tin and select your own collection. Crayons and markers are out of boxes, and people are allowed to draw on anything and do what they want anywhere in the store.” The bins are built from mirrored Acrylite panels, which are translucent, scratch resistant and reflect the colors in the display.
“Everything about Crayola is bright and colorful, including the packaging,” says Kratzer. “We needed something to give it a backdrop and we didn’t want black, so we specified Formica ChemTop in white. The only way to keep fixtures from staining is to use the laboratory grade laminate. Color core, solid surface or regular HPL wouldn’t hold up to the constant coloring.”
The packaging for many Crayola products is Mylar with a three-dimensional effect. “We considered using 3DL for some of the installations, because that material also works from a stain-resistance standpoint,” says Kratzner. “But this is a one-off project, not a roll-out proposition with lots of fixtures in multiple locations, so we were not going to use enough material to make it viable from a budget perspective.”
White is also carried through to the countertops, which are rendered in LG’s Viatera quartz surface. After much research, Kratzer’s team found the material virtually indestructible. Perhaps more importantly, crayon can be easily wiped off with a Magic Eraser.
To bring the concept to life, Reztark Design Studio partnered with IDL Worldwide, part of Mathews Brand Solutions. “We needed a fabricator that could work in laminate, acrylic, metal and stone,” says Kratzer. “And we had a tight budget, so we needed someone who could efficiently engineer solutions.” With locations in Pittsburgh and Portland, Ore., IDL is a brand design firm with capabilities that span every aspect of retail channel translation: 2D to 3D design, architectural and spatial limitations, budget and investment levels, consumer behavior and brand messaging. IDL knows retail. The firm’s impressive portfolio includes Nike, Coca-Cola, Luxottica and more.
IDL works with clients in many different capacities, from full-service turnkey solutions to consulting specifically on brand messaging, retail design and installation. The company’s in-house competencies make it a great fabricator partner. “This project was a little different from IDL’s scope of work, because when Reztark came to us, they already had a great level of detail about the specifications. It is a thorough shop and we are proud to have been a part of bringing the concept to fruition,” says Scott Girard, senior national account manager for IDL, responsible for the Crayola project. IDL’s industrial design team engineered the cash wraps, ceiling discs and floor fixtures (complete with bumpers to ward off all the strollers) for the Crayola retail space. “Not only does the Crayola Retail Store celebrate the breadth of Crayola’s product collection, but it also provides specialty services that are only found at this specific retail location,” says Girard. “Our engineering and industrial design teams recognized the importance of taking the unique spirit of this environment into account when designing the store elements.” Its environmental, creative and execution team, differentiated by the name Crack, carried out the fabrication and installation of the project.
The Full Experience
Once in the Crayola Experience, visitors can inject dye with the make-your-own-marker machine and melt down old crayons to reform into fun shapes at the crayon hospital. There is a room dedicated to Model Magic clay, another that encourages different explorations of paint and exhibits that use technology to put visitors directly in the art they make. The entire experience is dedicated to color and creativity, and is compelling enough that the average time it takes to explore all of the interactive exhibits is 2-3 hours.
Upon exiting, the engaging fun continues in the store where visitors can “Pick-Your-Pack” of drawing supplies, “Create & Print” customized coloring pages or simply commemorate the experience by having their names emblazoned on giant crayons. Regardless of age, there is something in the Crayola store to spark the imagination of any guest. The brand is clear, the products shine and the environment is ready to take on the crowds.
photography by John Sterling Ruth