Change Management: Thinking Outside the Box

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Changing behaviors is difficult! Image courtesy of the author.

For the past few decades, change management has been the accepted best business process to transition individuals, teams, and organizations to new ways of working. Preparation and support through change are essential for people if you want to drive organizational success and outcomes. Yet, when it comes to the complex needs of people in dynamic work environments, the notion of change “management” is stagnant and unresponsive. According to the Harvard Business Review, despite a huge investment in change management tools and training, most studies show a 60-70 percent failure rate, a statistic that has remained constant since the 1970s.

Though ideal for many business operations, change management fails to take into account the complexity of human behaviors. Emotions and belief systems form the foundation for how people react to change. For many, change represents uncertainty, loss of control, and possible failure. The change may be creating behavioral expectations that are in direct conflict with deeply rooted cultural norms. For companies, understanding this concept is important. Unresolved feelings such as these lead to stress, which lowers morale and can result in reduced workplace performance.

For today’s businesses, moving forward requires adopting a successful transitioning process that not only benefits the company, but also engages employees and addresses their concerns. Forward thinking companies that broaden their horizons by combining change initiatives with creativity in workplace design are increasing employee engagement and generating greater results.

Understanding the role of change management

Change management is “the process, tools, and techniques to manage the people side of change to achieve a required business outcome,” according to change management firm, Prosci. Based upon traditional ideals of efficient management — on time delivery, reported progress, and expected results — this method focuses on resolving an issue by focusing on the facts of the situation. Straightforward change management is beneficial when companies seek to improve operations, such as rerouting deliveries or reorganizing assembly lines for greater efficiency. But because this method focuses solely on showing and telling about the change, it falls short when it comes to human beings.

If you want to improve your approach to change management, begin with understanding and engagement. Image courtesy of the author.

According to leadership consultant, David Rock, in his book, Quiet Leadership: Six Steps to Transforming Leadership at Work, the lack of success is due to the way people are hardwired: “Ordering people to change and then telling them how to do it fires the prefrontal cortex’s hair trigger connection to the amygdala. The more you try to convince people that you’re right and they’re wrong, the more they push back. The brain will try to defend itself from threats.”

However, this is just one of the reasons why change management is not always the best solution for transitioning people.

Here are a few others:

  • It underestimates the complexity of people. Individuals rely on emotions and belief systems to form new expectations and behaviors.
  • It overlooks individual concerns that can lead to workplace stress, disengagement, and reduced performance. According to the American Institute of Stress, workplace stress costs organizations over $300 billion annually in lost productivity as the result of turnover, absenteeism, and healthcare expenditures.
  • It fails to address increasing work complexity. Today, there is more ambiguity about the “what” and “how” of obtaining desired results.
  • It leads to analysis paralysis. People search for more data and/or more reasons to assess what has gone wrong; in the end, nothing gets done.

A better approach

According to management consultant, Peter Drucker, “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” Although letting go of preconceived notions and adopting new practices is challenging, “managing” people through change is not the answer.

Today, a successful transition requires a deeper understanding of the situation that goes beyond just reason and factual information. Reinforcing the fact that change is directly connected to belief systems begins by establishing a relationship with the people going through change. By engaging rather than managing, companies encourage everyone involved to embrace the change, allowing them to create their own best new processes and behaviors. In turn, this provides the group a better opportunity to express their truths and beliefs, reset expectations, and redefine a new “good”.

Remember, successful transitions are never linear. Image courtesy of the author.

When it comes to workplace design, engagement is equally important. Honest and open communication with the client allows the architect or designer to imagine possibilities. Understanding the customer’s needs leads to stronger designs that address gaps between behaviors and expectations today and those identified as needed for tomorrow.

Overall, every successful transition begins with recognizing the need for change, understanding the impact, and following a series of steps to reach the goal.

Here are four program stages that lead to engaged and productive project change:

  1. Assess readiness. Conduct a readiness assessment or gap analysis. Set aside time to listen to the stories of the people directly involved with the proposed change and take their suggestions into consideration.
  2. Ensure change alignment. Explain upfront that although not everyone may receive everything they seek, everyone adds value and is an essential part of the process.
  3. Communicate clearly and consistently. “Straight up” communications, transparent information, and periodic updates ease people into the new reality and also build a sense of community. Further actions, such as providing tours of the site, allow everyone involved to witness the progress firsthand.
  4. Measure results. Upon completion, reassess the process. Ask pertinent questions, such as “How close did we come to achieving to our desired results,” “Are the workers happy, productive and adjusting to the new space,” and “What, if anything, is missing?” Fine tune future processes based on the results.

Move forward with confidence

In business, change is inevitable. Yet, with increased work complexity and the need to address more people-centered issues, solving business problems is more challenging than ever before. Engaging the team in a comprehensive change engagement process can accelerate the new expectations of the workplace and behaviors for the work. However, enforcing change is rarely the answer.

Successful transitions in evolving business environments demand more than just moving a group from point A to point B. Understanding this journey rarely follows a linear path and requires thinking outside the traditional change management box. Companies that recognize the need to engage comprehensively with everyone involved accomplish this goal by listening, supporting, and informing their people in real time. In moving forward as a team, they are building workforces that are more capable of handling change in the future.

Thinking Outside the Change Management Box


IRDC 2016 – Postscript

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Eric Kuhn, BHDP Retail design leader, reviews his time spent at IRDC 2016 in Montreal, Canada.


change in retail design irdc 2016 eric kuhnGoodness! I’ve just now attempted to decompress and digest all that was IRDC (International Retail Design Conference) 2016. In the aftermath of what was presented, discussed and debated, I’m so very pleased to have attended – and just a tad proud to have had my own little audience! What it does for the creative soul, that level of immersion. And, within this post conference hindsight, what’s certain is that there is no shortage of innovation and provocative thinking. What’s uncertain is the form, shape and method our realm of retail will take. But that’s the exciting thing about all of it.

Much discussion was had on the subject of change. And more to the point, the speed of change, as threaded through my session Brand Evolution during which I shared how brands can avoid extinction through transformation, migration and expansion. What’s more clear than ever before is that idleness is the death knell for any retailer; conversely, change brings life.

As we think about virtual and augmented reality (concepts that frankly challenge my understanding of authentic experience), I’m compelled to acknowledge just how fast and far-flung change is coming. To this end, I found David Kepron‘s session particularly intriguing in his thoughts on how the disciplines of the neurosciences play into how and why we create experiences.

In fact, it’s in our acknowledgement of other realities and in the truth of neuroscience that force (actually, insist) brand evolve. But it’s not limited to just these realms; sometimes, a thoughtfully executed renovation can be just the ticket. But change it is. And this retail world is the personification of the perpetual conditions we all work within. And its one heck of a ride.

A big thank you to VMSD for allowing me and my very special guest, Aimee Morgida from Roche Bros., to take the stage. It was a pleasure to share and I deeply appreciate all the follow up conversations with those in attendance.

To further the conversation, please feel free to contact me at; to learn more about BHDP’s retail services, visit

Safe Stores: Five Design Ideas to Help Customers Feel Safer

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Andrew McQuilkin, retail market leader at BHDP, discusses ways his team helps retailers design with shopper’s safety in mind by creating safe stores.

how to design safe stores

During a recent European Department Store conference session on the global purchasing power of Chinese nationals, a fellow audience member—the president of a major department store—whispered to me: “No one’s talking about the elephant in the room. They (Chinese customers) stopped shopping in April. We all want to understand why?”

Reasons for the recent plummet in international department store sales are complex, but it doesn’t take much imagination to connect this trend to world events. The death of a Chinese man in the March Brussels terror attack—highly publicized in the Chinese media—and that of another Chinese national in the Istanbul attack, may have helped scare Chinese shoppers away.

Domestically, with the FBI now calling the attack at Crossroads Center in St. Cloud, Minn., that injured eight people a “potential act of terrorism,” the public’s fears about safety have been heightened.  In fact, the news these days is saturated with danger signals. Some people feel the threat of public spaces more acutely than others. Having been trapped in a building two blocks from ground zero on 9/11, I, myself, have become hyperaware. But even those with no direct experience are, at some level, fearful—and, as noted in and numerous studies of shoppers, fear affects shopper behavior. People change where and when they shop, or quit shopping in stores and malls altogether in favor of online buying.

On the last point, if you look at —a pattern emerges. From 2009 to 2014, internet revenues increased at a steady pace. But the increases accelerated in 2015 and even more in Q1 and Q2 of 2016. Again, the reasons for accelerating internet sales may be diverse. But it’s hard to imagine that the rapid-fire terrorist attacks—beginning with the highly publicized January, 2015 attack of a satirical newspaper in Paris followed by others in Paris, Brussels and Nice —would not spook international tourist-shoppers.

Given this reality, I’ve devoted a lot of thought to how we can make shoppers feel more secure in the spaces we design so that they will be drawn to a store, be comfortable staying, and finally, lose themselves in the experience and want to return another day. With attention to the following five strategies, I believe we can make shopping spaces more attractive to people consciously or subconsciously thinking about security.

1. Clear sight lines.
Most people’s worst fear is losing control. Being able to see what is going on nearby, and some distance away, helps give us a sense of control over our surroundings. Similarly, not feeling isolated and knowing others will be able to see us if we need help also makes us feel more secure.

As an example, studies have shown that at night, women are far more likely to enter well-lit gas station convenience stores with windows than dark ones with solid walls. Presumably this is because if anything goes wrong in the store, passersby will be able to see and respond.

In a department store, the scale is much greater—yet the same principle applies. Increasing light levels, adding windows and breaking down walls to open up sight lines throughout the store and within the store’s façade can give occupants a greater feeling of security. Even on upper levels, windows and clear paths to exits make shoppers feel safer than dividing departmental walls. The fitting room is perhaps the most isolated and vulnerable part of a clothing store. So we make fitting room entrances open and accessible, while ensuring that the full height stalls lock well enough to guard against intrusion.

2. Make navigation intuitive.
Have you ever had trouble finding your way out of a department store? Store floors are large, sometimes purposely designed as mazes so shoppers will end up browsing longer. However, to the safety-alert shopper, the feeling of being lost is extremely uncomfortable. Not being able to find the exits—particularly your point of entry—does not feel secure. Furthermore, as a parent myself, I know that losing track of family members can induce panic.

At BHDP, for instance, we try to counter disorientation by placing strategic landmarks throughout a store. These icons are large, memorable, and easy to locate, so that shoppers can easily find their way back to the car, to the mall, or to meet their companions. A classic example of such a landmark is the massive bronze Wannamaker eagle at what is now Macy’s, in Philadelphia. In addition to creating landmarks, we avoid confusing room design symmetry, whereby everything looks the same. We also try to keep exits and service elements just off the main circulation.

3. Serve and protect.
Another way stores can make shoppers feel safer is through staffing and surveillance. Who, if anyone, seems to be watching people entering and exiting the store? Is that person visible, or behind cameras? Knowing someone is paying attention to who’s in the store acts as a comfort to shoppers and a deterrent to those with ill intent.

Next, do the door and customer service staff seem vigilant and professional? Uniforms, old-fashioned neatness and other signs of professionalism make a store seem well-run and therefore safer.

Lastly, people do notice (sometimes subliminally) and appreciate practical security measures such as cameras strategically placed both inside and outside the building.

4. Designate safe places and emergency procedures
Current mall ‘incident’ policies generally instruct store owners to hide customers in the back, and to roll down and lock the grilles/doors until a crisis is over. Stores could designate areas where patrons should shelter in the case of a lock-down. People will feel safer once they understand that store proprietors feel some responsibility for protecting them.

Through longstanding experience, Israelis have developed interesting approaches to public safety from terrorists. For instance, some playgrounds contain painted concrete bomb shelters children are trained to run to in case of an emergency. Malls feature hidden barricades that slide out from within walls to contain and compartmentalize attacks. Such efforts to make stores safer will not be lost on customers.

Since 9/11, when I had to invent emergency procedures on the spot, it’s been a priority to train my team on how to keep safe and factor safety into projects we design. Retailers, too, should consider bringing emergency experts on board to train staff and help plan their stores.

5. Offer an escapist experience
If fear starts in the subconscious, can we create an experience that makes the shopper forget herself—like a mental vacation? Once her basic safety concerns are met, we can leverage tactile immersion, experience and story. Positive interaction with employees, music, merchandising displays and so on can allow the customer to relax and be taken away from daily anxieties. This is crucial—this kind of experience acts as the primary payoff for actual (vs. virtual) shopping and is what will keep customers coming back to the physical store.

Disney has mastered both immersion and safety, allowing every guest the freedom to become a part of the story. At Disney Springs, the franchise’s new retail reinvention of Downtown Disney, many of these ideas are in practice.

A new way to think about the customer

As terrorism continues to advance globally, the world will need to become more vigilant about how we plan and design retail destinations. I and my colleagues at BHDP feel that most retailers today are concerned with this problem and interested in finding solutions. As store planners and retail designers, we will need to bolster our customers’ experience with specific, beautifully designed solutions that focus on the development of engaging, yet safer shopping.

Andrew McQuilkin, FRDI is the International Chairman of the Retail Design Institute and Retail Market Leader at BHDP Architecture in Cincinnati where he provides design leadership and inspiration for forward thinking retail organizations. To learn more about BHDP’s retail work, visit To connect with Andrew directly, email

A version of this article appeared in Chain Store Age; republished with permission.



Project Story: American Family Insurance Dreambank

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American Family Insurance believes in the power and purpose of dreams. Offering a variety of insurance products, they seek to not only protect the American dream, but to propel the American dreamer to new possibilities.  A brick-and-mortar DreamBank space, located in the heart of downtown Madison, Wis. (not far from American Family’s headquarters) provides an inviting space for community members to explore their dreams, share stories and gather ideas through temporary exhibits and seasonal programming.

american family insurance dreambank dream fearlessly madison wisconsin

BHDP worked with American Family Insurance to create the Summer 2016 exhibition, titled “Choose Happy.” Drawing visual inspiration from the look and feel of a farmer’s market, our team of designers crafted a journey by which DreamBank guests could explore answers to the question: What makes you happy? Design elements include a mock lemonade stand featuring tips for turning negative thoughts into positive ones; baskets displayed as vegetable bins at which visitors could “shop” suggestions for joy-filled activities; and a park bench photo-op. Exhibit giveaways include a farmer’s market tote bag with the BHDP-designed “Choose Happy” logo screen-printed and custom journal encouraging visitors to make time for joy in their everyday lives.

This successful design implementation resulted in BHDP winning ongoing work with American Family Insurance. “We are very pleased with how everything turned out with this first exhibit,” said Amanda Tillman, DreamBank Manager. “The creativity of BHDP’s design team, their ability to implement ideas quickly and their professional partnership with our team is a triple win!”

Continue reading to discover more of BHDP’s design process for this project and to see final images of the space.

Design Process

Every design at BHDP, be it a full fit-out of a multi-million-dollar office space or a small art program for a new start-up receives the same amount of attention through our iterative design process. Providing a systematic approach to creative ideation, our team of architects and designers work closely with each client to achieve strategic business results for our clients.

Our work with American Family Insurance’s Madison, Wis. DreamBank began with a series of thematic explorations focused on how to convey the abstract concept of happiness. Several versions of “mood boards” gave rise to three options. The selected option, below, reveals a color palette and style reminiscent of a local farmer’s market. Focused on organic materials, wood textures, and splashes of red, the mood board offered visual inspiration for BHDP to develop an interactive customer journey for DreamBank guests to discover their own “happy.”

red farmers market inspired mood board american family insurance dreambank
BHDP’s expertise in crafting intentional customer journeys for our retail clients played a heavy role in our development of a DreamBank journey. Equal parts interactive (as seen at the welcome center and meeting space) and introspective (as seen in the introduction space and community wall) the DreamBank journey helps visitors identify joy-filled moments in their own lives.

customer journey exhibit design american family insurance dreambank madison wisconsin
Mock-ups of movable fixtures play an important role in bringing our ideas to life. Infusing various farmer’s market motifs throughout the fixtures provide visitors with a distinct experience. Here, a fresh produce stand displays fresh ideas for infusing joy into one’s life.

farmers market themed exhibit american family insurance dreambank
Design concepts print materials, including sticker sheets (left) and tote bag (middle) provide a tactile component to the exhibit and further expand the farmer’s market motif.

american family insurance dreambank choose happy exhibit madison wisconsin


DreamBank’s internal team of production artists led the way in producing much of the signs, print materials and fixture graphics seen in the final exhibit. In turn, BHDP lent DreamBank our expertise in installation to make sure the design intent was faithfully executed.

choose happy dreambank installation madison wisconsin


A mock lemonade stand with custom-designed cards features “lemon-aides”—personalized recommendations for making the most out of life’s trials.

dream fearlessly dreambank madison wisconsin exhibit design

Custom cards and stamps provide a tactile dimension to the customer experience.

american family insurance dreambank custom graphic design stamp

An introductory panel (left) sets visitors’ expectations while visiting the DreamBank. Complimentary tote bags featuring the “Choose Happy” emblem provide exhibit coordinators an easy way to track the number of visitors while also encouraging guests to share their experience with friends.

choose happy american family insurance dreambank exhibit

Finally, what’s a custom exhibit without a built-in photo-op? The “Choose Happy” emblem provides a great hashtag for easy sharing on visitor’s favorite social media platform, while also giving DreamBank an opportunity to share its story with a wider audience.

dreambank choose happy handwritten logo

To discover how BHDP can help your organization design an interactive customer experience that translates into consumer engagement and better business results, visit: or contact

Three Reasons Why Modeling & Simulation is a “Must” for Today’s Facility Planning and Design

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Michael Verdier and Sam Zhang of BHDP’s industrial team explain how modeling and simulation can analyze production bottlenecks and improve design outcomes.


modeling simulation in facility planningWith all of the bottom-line benefits today’s Modeling & Simulation (M&S) technology offers, why are so many companies continuing to plan and design facilities, such as manufacturing plants, through outdated approaches? Capital spending on Greenfield or upgraded facilities is one of the most visible and scrutinized investments a business makes. It’s up to management to ensure that key financial metrics are met and the facility is both an immediate and long-term success. Adopting M&S as an integral part of facility planning and design is a “must” for any progressive manager.

What is M&S? Just as computer aided design (CAD) makes a science of machine development, M&S software tools help model, test and refine plans and designs for facilities. By incorporating known and measured data, M&S is used to create a realistic, virtual representation of an existing or planned manufacturing facility—in action. Being able to accurately replicate the operation of an entire system—such as a factory production module, a logistics park, a warehouse operation, a research laboratory—in advance of construction provides three key business benefits:

“Smart” Speed to Market
Analysis paralysis can overcome any group engaged in complex planning and design. And decisions based on emotion, “this is how we’ve always done it” thinking, local preferences, and static versus dynamic analyses are inherently limited. With no way to be sure of an optimal design, time, money and energy are wasted as stakeholders are unable to come to any agreement or finalize plans.

Data-driven M&S, on the other hand, is a direct path to optimal manufacturing facility planning and design. It brings key decision makers into alignment quickly so that the project can move ahead. Seeing is believing, and a fact-based virtual animation of the planned facility functioning as intended encourages swift, intelligent group decision making.

Easy Scalability
Once you have your M&S model, evaluating the effects of multiple proposed changes to the current design is simple. What happens to manufacturing productivity if you change your layout or add more production or packing lines? What is the optimal quantity and location of loading docks? Randomness through the use of statistical distribution, failure modes (MTTF/MTTR) and schedule variability can also be integrated as part of an M&S facility planning effort to ensure a robust design.

The benefits of M&S also come into play once the facility is in use. For example, the impact on productivity and cost of any proposed changes in the business plan or capacity plan – such as a speed-up initiative – can be analyzed in real time before implementation. M&S can actually analyze the overall operation as a synchronized system, which is important since any planned operational or equipment changes will likely influence critical parts of the facility both upstream and downstream of the change.

Risk Avoidance
Staying the course and continuing to execute projects utilizing traditional means and methods is risky. Without the quantitative rigor and validation that M&S brings to the facility planning process, overbuilding and underbuilding are both distinct possibilities, each giving rise to its own negative consequences.

Overbuilding leads to excessive capital spending, longer schedule durations, increased depreciation costs and a higher Total Direct Cost (TDC) of the products being produced.

Underbuilding can be just as catastrophic, resulting in an inability to ship the business, as well as higher transportation and warehousing costs due to inter-planting or importing product. Underbuilding can also lead to loss of market share, and possibly necessitate an unanticipated manufacturing facility expansion with the added challenge of maintaining production during construction.

The Importance of a Design Partner that Embraces M&S
For managers and owners making significant investments in Greenfield or existing facility expansions, partnering with an A/E firm which has embraced and integrated M&S technology as a standard within their design process will ensure a best-in-class facility solution.

Michael Verdier is market leader of BHDP’s industrial team. He has over 25 years of experience in engineering and program management within the manufacturing and industrial business sectors. Sam Zhang leads the Supply Network Operations Group at BHDP, managing M&S work across BHDP’s five markets.

To learn more about how BHDP can optimize your manufacturing facility, visit

This article appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of Plant Engineering. Republished with permission.

Evolve or Die – Eric Kuhn on the Importance of Change in Retail Environments

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Eric Kuhn, design leader at BHDP, examines the importance of not only facing, but embracing, change in order to survive in today’s uber-competitive retail climate.


Evolve or die: You could say that in many respects, all of humanity subscribes to this simple statement. And while the influences that inform our evolution are constantly changing, the reality is we adapt and evolve whether we like it or not. Most often, we’ve no idea it’s happening until we look back to comprehend the monumental change. Mostly for the better but sometimes for worse.

However, if I were to reframe in a branding context, we’d find the behavior to be quite different. Because in the retail realm, for many, evolving is a choice. Though, I’d argue the contrary, as the result of failure to grow, expand, migrate or transform (to accept the reality of evolution) will have the same results. Brands can, will and do die.

We see this happen time and again. Whether it’s specific chains or entire industries, failure to be agile and nimble has been catastrophic. And it’s not for being blindsided by the impending change. They’ve faced them. The retailers see it coming. Yet, inaction occurs, typically caused by a level of naiveté and a good dose of arrogance. They are mega-brands, bigger and more powerful than the forces pushing at their businesses. And, of course, they are wrong.

Because, just as in nature, those outside influences will always win out. Many might say it’s terribly unfair that change is a necessity for sustained growth and overall future. Why can’t you simply do what you do and do it exceptionally well to be secure? Why must everything change? The easy answer is we, as a society, are always changing. Everything, from the things we like to the way we purchase, changes. And yes, I know, this is not news. That’s been the case since the beginning of commerce. Which is why it’s confounding that businesses choose to ignore that reality.

All that said, yes, there was a time when brands had the upper hand. But that is a bygone era, 20 years past. And no, it is no longer good enough that you make a great product. Who cares about the top-of-the-line video player or DVD player anymore, for example? Times change and brands are obliged to respond to the demands of an ever-shifting consumer base.

But here’s the funny thing about evolution. Sometimes what’s old is new. Take for example the idea of buying the printed word in – of all places – a store that’s relevant and newsworthy (thank you, Amazon). Because, beyond evolution, another phenomenon of nature occurs on a regular basis. We go through cycles, from global warming to vinyl records. So that adds yet another dimension to what we need to be prepared for and accommodate.

But the single constant is change. Those brands that understand this will have a better chance at sticking around a while longer than those that don’t. Here are some brilliant examples:

This brand is not just reinventing how you build a competitive product in a very challenged industry but also how you sell it. The model of selling direct-to-consumer in shopping malls for the auto industry is the closest thing to a revolution as you’ll get.

Saks Fifth Avenue
Their push into the Canadian market is one of the smartest moves a brand could make in a truly depressed category. And while I’m confident the department store is not going to disappear from the face of retail, it is struggling. So an approach, such as this, to reinvigorate not just Saks but also Hudson’s Bay, is incredibly clever.

sorel pop up shop by bhdp changes in retail designSince being acquired by Columbia Sportswear in 2000, the brand has been completely transformed. What was once a hardcore utility footwear brand has now morphed into a highly desirable fashion mark. That shift began in 2009 and the brand has steadily built a devoted customer base that devours the heritage inspired/style-forward assortment. And this shift really manifests itself in the physical stores created by BHDP last year. That in itself is a key example of evolution. Pushing the brand to move beyond the Internet and shop-in-shop into a freestanding, highly branded experience demonstrates Columbia’s understanding of its shopper’s expectations. Those fashionistas are not idly waiting in the wings, they expect brands to come to them when they what them and where they want them, in a variety of formats and scale. And in delivering that expectation, the investment has paid off in spades.

Brothers Marketplace
changes in retail design brothers marketplace medfield maWhile relatively unknown, this brand truly demonstrates the savviness key to retailers’ survival. Brothers is a newly minted brand and store experience developed by Roche Bros. Based in Boston, this medium-sized supermarket chain recognized that the competitive climate was changing, and in order to grow as they felt they should, they would need to not only enhance their existing portfolio of stores but also penetrate untapped and under-serviced markets. And the solution wasn’t necessarily to plug another larger-format store into these target areas. It would take a different format and, in their/our point-of-view, an entirely new brand. That sort of strategy takes a great deal of discovery and data collection. But it also takes courage and a leap of faith. But it paid off. Despite it being a smaller retailer, it is one of the purest examples of brand evolution. It has fueled the parent company and been a catalyst to expand reach and, most importantly, grow revenue.

Agility is an absolute in any solution developed. How can the space, concept or overarching brand behave in a manner that resonates in a meaningful way with customers (and actually stand for something), while still being adaptive to the forces of nature all around them? Every day, this is the challenge I pose to myself, my team and our clients. The solutions are, of course, different for each engagement, but the driving and guiding principles are consistent. Idle hands are truly the work of the devil in this business; arrogance is a close second. Get comfortable with change and the concept of evolution, embrace it. Because while you were reading this, the world kept spinning … and that’s a good thing.

Eric Kuhn is the Design Leader for BHDP where where he provides leadership and inspiration while guiding the design team and clients through the inception, development and manifestation of highly innovative solutions for strategically driven projects and brand experiences around the globe.

Catch Eric at the upcoming International Retail Design Conference (IRDC, Sept 13-15 in Montreal) where he will co-present with Aimee Morgida, director of operations, Roche Bros./Brothers Marketplace, Brand Evolution: How to Avoid Extinction through Expansion, Migration and Transformation.” The session will examine how retailers should respond to the various challenges rooted in adaptive and shifting markets. For more information on his session, this year’s conference agenda or registration rates, please visit

To learn more about how BHDP can help your retail brand evolve to its next level, visit

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Acing through ACE Mentor Program with Loren Brockway

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ace mentor program columbus ohio bhdp

It’s a Tuesday evening at the end of March in Columbus, Ohio. The weather, unusually warm for this time of year, hints at the impending spring, and Loren Brockway, senior architect at BHDP Architecture is finishing up a days’ work.  He shuts down the computer, caps the pens and cleans the coffee mug; not quite a quarter past five o’clock, Loren heads for the door.

Most nights, Loren would leave BHDP’s modern office on Marconi Ave. and head home to a modest colonial in Columbus’ east suburb of Pickerington.

But tonight, Loren heads south, to an urban high school still within city limits, where he finds a crowd of 100 gathered in a large gymnasium. Tables are set up, dressed in white tablecloths and adorned with a homemade centerpiece—simple yet significant enough to signal the event as an occasion.

And an occasion it is. Tonight, high school students will present their final projects from a semester-long study of architecture, construction and engineering with the Columbus Chapter of ACE Mentor Program.

The event starts promptly at 6 p.m. A buzz of energy fills the room as students, dressed in their Sunday best, squirm with anticipation. Not so much a competition but an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of and appreciation for the built environment, the students mentally prepare to pitch their projects to mentors, families, teachers, and community leaders. This year, the project involved designing a new multi-use building in downtown Columbus. Each building housed apartments or condos on the upper levels and an office space for a select charitable organization on the ground floor.

For Loren, this moment is one of great pride. As co-lead mentor for this group of inner-city high school juniors and seniors with ACE, he has spent every Tuesday morning of the past three months preparing these students for this exact moment.

Both juniors and seniors participate, each week bringing them new lessons in the field of architecture, construction and engineering. Guest speakers—oftentimes professionals practicing their craft at local firms—make frequent appearances, offering the students true-to-life scenarios that complement the theory they learn with studio time.

“I know the impact that mentorship and teaching can have on students; both of my parents were in education and my wife is a teacher as well. I’ve seen first-hand how teaching can change lives.” says Loren, who first participated with ACE when working and living in Cleveland, Ohio.

When he moved to Columbus in 2009, Loren sought to stay connected with ACE, a national network of groups dedicated to encouraging “high school students to pursue careers in architecture, engineering and construction through mentoring.”  After a rough start, the Columbus program began showing promise when it shifted classes to school time hours and hosted students from a local vocational high school. Teacher and parental involvement increased, and the program now boasts a 30-student class size.

It was at this time that Loren joined BHDP, a firm intrinsically supportive of social responsibility. Following the lead of Giancarlo Del Vita and David Lippencott, both at BHDP and who helped spearhead the Columbus chapter, Loren joined to continue what he had started in Cleveland.

“Growing up, I didn’t know what an architect was…I always loved building things, but really had no understanding of the A/E/C industry until I went to college. I can only wish that something like ACE existed while I was growing up.”

ACE truly does bolster student engagement in the industry. In addition to receiving the training offered by the ACE Mentor Program, students who decide to continue their education in a related field are eligible to apply for scholarships of at least $1000. Past ACE Mentor participants have gone on to co-op for local firms and obtain degrees across the nation, fulfilling the programs mission to inspire students to pursue careers in design and construction.

Tonya Gilbert, two-year ACE Mentor Program participant and 2016 scholarship recipient, says: “As a student in the ACE mentor program for the past two years, my view of architecture, engineering and construction has changed…I’ve seen how being in this career field, I can improve myself and benefit the community. Being in this program inspired me to continue in this course of study.”

To discover more about the ACE Mentor Program and how you can get involved, visit

2016 Makers Mark(et)

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BHDP makers market creative firm cincinnatiAt BHDP, the desire to create extends long past the five o’clock bell. We go home to doodle and design; compose and capture. It’s these hobbies, interests and small businesses that prove our collective passion to think creatively and be bold.

As part of our February campaign for ArtsWave and all things art-related in the Cincinnati tri-state region, we asked employees to share the creative pursuits that keep them interested and inspired. Some of the crafted goods and services are available for purchase and hire; others are simply projects of passion. Whatever the case, we are proud to share how we invest in the arts with our time, talent and treasure!

Odds + Ends by William Dodge, Client Leader
William is a multi-faceted maker and enjoys experimenting with metal, wood, and even 3D printing. His eclectic assortment of goods is on display in his online portfolio.

Custom Furniture by Nicole Geis, Intern Architect
Prompted by a studio course she took while studying at the University of Kentucky, Nicole tinkers with projects like this bench: a contoured model that creates a fluid form out of static planar members. She is always experimenting with different ideas as she crafts pieces by request.

Wedding Invitations by Grania Frueh, Graphic Designer
Grania offers unique, custom-designed wedding invitations focused on each client’s personal vision, wedding colors and inspiration. Well-versed in the nuances of fonts, paper and printing, she provides individual attention to each and every project. Visit Grania’s website to view additional samples and to book her services.

Crochet by JoAnn Kennedy, Administrative Assistant
JoAnn first learned to crochet while visiting with a widow at the young age of five. Since then, she has made several items from yarns, including a baby cowboy outfit, complete with boots and hat.

Pottery by Megan Kiddon, Interior Designer
Megan, along with her husband, makes wheel-thrown pottery at Queen City Clay in Oakley, Cincinnati. Her hubby makes beer steins, and Megan crafts serving-ware. Their work is available for purchase at local art shows.

Paintings by Quentin Koopman, Intern Architect
Inspired by the movement and sounds of a musician’s performance, Quentin’s explorations with paint have won him places in New York City’s prestigious HVG Art Show. Also an avid sketcher and drawer, Quentin’s work has appeared by way of Muralworks on the southern facade of the historic Barlow Motors Building in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati.

Custom Books by Rachael Kroth, Intern Architect
Covered in wood and filled with drawing or printmaking paper, these books are pieces of art all by themselves. Available for purchase on an individual basis by local friends and family.

Photography by Eric Kuhn, Design Leader
In addition to his day job, Eric enjoys photography, specializing in architectural and texture pieces. Some of his work can be viewed at his Flickr page.

Jewelry by Alex Lohmann, Graphic Design Co-Op
Alex loves exploring the different uses for wire and beads as she creates beautiful jewelry to wear and share. Currently a hobby, she enjoys gifting her special creations.

Etched Water Glasses by Brenda Lycans, Billing Coordinator
Brenda is a certified Hado instructor and studied under Dr. Masaru Emoto to create etched glassware out of water crystals. Visit Brenda’s website to learn more about the water crystals, her process and how to purchase.

Wedding and Portrait Photography by Sarah Parisi Dowlin, Marketing Communications Coordinator
For nearly ten years, Sarah has offered portrait and wedding photography for clients nationwide through her business Parisi Images. Her style can be described as “clean, crisp, and colorful” and clients love her for the thoughtful, authentic, and reverent images she creates. Learn more on her website.

Hand-Lettering by Amanda Philpot, Marketing Coordinator
Amanda creates hand-lettered graphics, using calligraphy to make beautiful pieces of art. Working for a variety of clients, she provides custom wedding invitations, logos, stationary and frame-able artwork for your home. Amanda also re-purposes old windows (collected by her grandparents) into useful pieces for the home. Her favorite way to give old windows new life? Making jewelry holders to organize necklaces, bracelets and earrings. Amanda’s creations are available for friends, family and on a request basis

Photography by Mark Rebholz, Intern Architect.
As a hobby, Mark enjoys capturing images of his environment; throughout his travels, he has captured breathtaking images of the city, countryside, and everything in-between. Additionally, Mark enjoys custom wood-working, crafting items large and small for the home and office. To see Mark’s photography portfolio, visit his Facebook photo gallery; to view and purchase his wood crafts, visit his Etsy shop.

Musical Recordings by John Willis, Senior Architect
A long-time guitarist, John has recently begun to learn about digital recording and composition. He writes and records his own original music; take a listen at his SoundCloud link.

Building a Plant Stand from the Ground Up: A Project by Raine McMullen

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Raine, a third year interior design student at The Ohio State University and a BHDP co-op in our Columbus office, describes the process for a recent school project that culminated in the making of a uniquely fashioned plant stand. In the interview below, Raine provides an outline of her vision, the challenges she encountered and the ultimate success of creating a piece that speaks to user and material interaction.


We understand this project was a school assignment. Can you outline any specific requirements of the design and sources of inspiration?
One of my classes this past semester was Intermediate Interior Design; for the final project, we were asked to design and construct a table using the conceptual motivation of intimacy. Part of the goal was to explore the relationship between concept and materials, and the technological decisions we elect during the making phase. It was also important to study the materials connected with one another as well as ways in which they are affected by joinery.

How did you arrive at the direction you ultimately took?
My plan was to build a table that would incorporate plants into the home. Because I lack a green thumb to keep plants alive, I wanted to make something that would help people like me enjoy the process of growing plants and herbs. I also wanted to facilitate an experience that brings awareness to all five senses: touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste. I thought this could be achieved through a lab-like experience, where the user works with the plants and herbs to concoct the right formula for growing.

That sounds really interesting! Can you explain what you mean by “lab-like” experience?
Sure! I saw this idea as a way for someone to integrate a type of “science experiment” within their living space by providing a tool through which they could test different soils, waters, seeds, etc. all in one piece of equipment (i.e. the table). Functionally speaking, when someone waters the plants on top, the water runs down through plastic tubes into the herbs below. This water flow is controlled by bronze valves, so you have the option to water some herbs more or less than others. There can be soil in one and rocks in another. This enables the user to experiment with different levels of water and what works best with each herb.

This sounds like a challenging concept. Did you encounter and difficulties when trying to bring your vision to life?
The challenges that went into this table were tenfold. Prior to this project, I had experience refurbishing furniture and upholstery, working with many types of tools and even building homes with Habit for Humanity; I really thought that building the table would come more naturally. As it turned out, I ran into several problems, mostly due to my desire to design outside my realm of knowledge. For example, the angles proved to be particularly challenging. I refused to have a plain old box with shelves positioned at perfectly right angles; I wanted something that grew from the ground up, much like plants do. However, non-perfect angles are not friendly for the table saw and my lack of knowledge of how to fashion different angles presented a roadblock. Several jigs and many pieces of scrap wood went into figuring out the exact angles on each side that would properly meet with the corners at the base of the table.

A second challenge was finding valves through which water would pass to the herbs below. I scoured several hardware stores in search of valves that would not only function properly but would coordinate with the aesthetic intentions of my design. I never was able to find the perfect valve so I ultimately resorted to making them myself. Using small, antique brass tubes I had acquired while working at a furniture store (it’s amazing what stores will throw away!) and a tap and die kit, I made valves that connected with matching nozzles. The result was perfectly appointed valves that worked great, both aesthetically and functionally, with my table design.

There were plenty of other issues that presented themselves through the fabrication phase…nails stuck in the wood, spray paint mishaps, ill-fitting test tubes, glass breakage, cuts, scrapes…all of it! Mostly, I learned that duct tape makes a great temporary Band-Aid and to not overestimate my building capabilities.


In spite of all those challenges, were you pleased with the final result?
Oh my, yes! I’m super proud of how the table turned out and absolutely love how it defines interactivity—not only with the materials (the glass threaded through the wood shelves; plants moving around glass as they grow; and wood intersecting each other at odd angles), but also human interactivity with furniture. Moreover, this design helped me I was able to achieve my goal of engaging a user’s five senses: touching the plants and tubes as they move them around to accommodate growth; site as they watch the growth of the plants and herbs; sound as the user listens to the water trickle down the tubes into the plants; and, best of all, taste as the herbs are harvested and prepared for eating.

What would your advice be for a designer trying a similar project?
I would definitely recommend that anyone trying a similar project spend lots of time researching. The extra time I spent discovering how different irrigation systems work really informed my own design and helped it be successful. I would also strongly encourage any designer to challenge themselves and design outside their knowledge. I was scared to do so, at first, but once I had the tools and people resources available to help me realize my vision, I realized that anything is possible.

Thank you for sharing your process and inspiration with us, Raine! It’s certainly a fantastic project that offers a great study on interactivity with space and objects.

About BHDP

BHDP, an award-winning international architectural firm with offices in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio and Raleigh, North Carolina, provides architecture, planning, interior design, project management and  strategic consulting services in five core markets: Workplace, Retail, Higher Education, Science and Integrated Industrial Design.

This post introduces BHDP’s new blog through which we provide voice and perspective from different employees on a variety of topics that influence and inspire our creative work.

To learn more about BHDP or to explore how we can create an inspiring space for your organization, visit or call 513.271.1634.

Trends and Tensions in the Workplace Executive Roundtable Summary

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Workplace Executive Roundtable at University of Cincinnati by BHDPOn Sept. 17, 2015, BHDP facilitated an Executive Roundtable titled “Trends and Tensions in the Workplace.”

Leaders from across the corporate real estate industry met at Tangeman University Center in the heart of University of Cincinnati’s Clifton campus in Cincinnati, Ohio. Through ideation, data analysis and story-telling, the group unpacked workplace trends and tensions that impact business performance. By sharing perspectives across different businesses, the group collectively arrived at actionable solutions for immediate implementation in their respective organizations.

This document provides a summary from the day’s discussions, outlined in three parts corresponding with the event’s agenda:

Part 1: Roundtable I: General and Workplace Trends
Part 2: Roundtable II: Focus Topics
Part 3: Group Exercise: Sixty Minute Solution

About the Facilitators

T. Patrick Donnelly, AIA, LEED AP, MCR.h

Patrick is a client leader and shareholder at BHDP. A prolific author and speaker, Patrick is a 2015 recipient of the CoreNet Luminary Award and multi-time winner of the CoreNet Top Faculty honor. He can be reached at

Dominic Iacobucci, AIA, LEED AP
Dominic is a client leader and shareholder at BHDP with over 15 years of experience. A citizen leader and adjunct professor at University of Cincinnati, he engages with students to discover what’s next in the world of work. You may reach Dominic at

Brady Mick, RA, MCR.w
Brady is a client leader and senior design strategist at BHDP where he provides design expertise creating work environments that align company culture with physical space. He is a multi-time recipient of CoreNet’s Top Faculty award. Brady can be reached at

Interested in joining BHDP and a group of real estate professionals to discuss trends and tensions the workplace? Email to be notified of upcoming events.