Core and Canvas: Connecting Values & Community Design

Core and Canvas: Connecting Values & Community Design

Core and Canvas: Connecting Values & Community Design 1440 428 Chute Gerdeman

Since opening the first store almost 35 years ago, Whole Foods has pioneered the practice of localized design. The core brand values exist in every store, but the local community influences the design aesthetic and the store becomes the canvas. No two stores are alike. The name carries the brand and expectations are delivered through experience. It’s this community-focused design that has allowed them to grow to be the leader in natural and organic foods.

Walk into any Whole Foods Market and you will find their core values and Higher Purpose Statement, “With great courage, integrity and love – we embrace our responsibility to co-create a world where each of us, our communities and our planet can flourish. All the while, celebrating the sheer love and joy of food.”

While these core values are elements of décor, they are anything but static. They serve as a visual anchor to the store design and a reminder of the brand’s mission. It serves as a message of employee accountability to which they expect to be held.

To achieve the brand’s store-level design approach, you can take a closer look at the company’s business model. Rather than a centralized structure, regional offices with store leaders and team members allow them to have stronger relationships with local businesses, suppliers and farmers. It creates a bottom up, rather than top down flow of communication that keeps them connected to the communities they serve.

The unique character of each store is a direct reflection of the customers who shop them. Each store design begins by going out into the community and consulting demographic and community research, including demographic data and even trips to local historical sites. It’s a process of being fully immersed in the community environment to understand the nostalgic elements and unique nuances.

To further identify each store with its own identity, a community mark is created to serve as a localized logo celebrating the community store name. Working along with the Whole Foods brand and visual standards, a new primary and secondary décor color palette, as well as font style for graphic communications are created to also reflect the community aesthetic.

The next level of design comes from elevating the individual brand stories from the community members—whether it’s the egg farmer grinding his own organic feed for chickens or the goat’s milk farm that serves as a source for natural body care products—the Whole Foods team is connected at an intimate level to the community.

In one of Chicago’s most successful urban areas, the Whole Foods Streeterville location brings out the best of old decadences. To pay homage to the city’s storied past, color, materials, and geometric shapes from the art deco era blended with an eclectic, modern styling. Golden accents, riveted dark metals and aged woods evoke images of the 30’s Worlds Fair.

For the DePaul Whole Foods location the store design centered on paying tribute to DePaul University, including pieces of reused basketball flooring throughout for space. Embracing the young, energetic character of the surrounding Lincoln Park community, vibrant oranges, yellows and chartreuse adorn the walls creating a backdrop for bright, fun graphics. Witty messages like “the world is your oyster” and “but first, coffee” give a nod to the spirited independent attitude.

While designs are created on a store-by-store basis, and the regions operate almost autonomously, their culture of collaboration prevents silos, but instead foster a learning ground for best practices. A critical element to Whole Foods’ design is getting out into the stores to see what’s going on and gathering constant feedback. It’s an ever-changing process with constant community influence; from the new products that fill the shelf to way stories are told.

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