April 7, 2014 / Greg
Testing the Concept: Aerie Part I
Last year, American Eagle Outfitters called on MNA to revitalize their intimates line Aerie, but what they had in mind was more than a simple facelift. They were looking for a clean slate and a new playbook; a complete reshaping of the brand’s personality with emphasis on how their product was presented and merchandised and an aim towards a more interpersonal, customer-centric experience. In response, we proposed a design that redirected the brand away from its previous sophisticated aesthetic in favor of a more fun and whimsical look; blending casual ‘pop-up shop’-inspired elements with natural materials and the right amount of ‘shine’ in a manner that can be appropriately categorized as DIY-chic. Inside, an all-new fixture package highlights the selected material palette and reinforces the ‘pop-up’ aesthetic. The introduction of a centralized service area promotes a more one-on-one, ‘concierge’ consultation experience for the shopper and ensures an attendant is always close by and on-call.
Those were the aims; however in the design field and when new ideas are introduced in particular, there is often some level of ambiguity that the proposed design is going to function in life exactly as it was intended on paper. Sometimes precedents just aren’t enough and in this scenario, Aerie decided that a full-scale, working prototype be fabricated in a vacant warehouse to put the concept to the test. A functional, true-to-scale model offers a simulation of the user experience and allowed AEO and MNA to assess it firsthand and ensure its performance. Strategically, prototyping is also extremely useful in identifying functional issues that weren’t immediately evident in the drawing set and if necessary, explore alternative design avenues.
First up: the storefront. The brand’s new identity starts at the storefront which has a personality all its own. Two polished metal and glass display vitrines float weightlessly, sitting just ahead of the façade itself. Both are neatly framed within an internally-lit, wood batten “trellis” screen surround, which lends itself to the overall transparency of the storefront. A mounted, marquee-style sign places the brand name in lights and provides an additional touch of glitz and whimsy. The prototyping process not only helped realize the broad strokes of this design, but made it easy to refine and/or revise the finer details. We were able to play with varying light values and color tones within the trellis and marquee sign and observe how they altered the overall mood of the storefront. Conceptually, we proposed the idea of a “sheer storefront,” offering passersby open, unmitigated views inside, including through the trellis surround. Iterations of the trellis were also reproduced and evaluated in-house, each with varying wood member sizes and spacing dimensions to compare levels of visibility and perfect what was initially intended.
More progress photos to come as the prototyping process takes a step inside.