In focus: je+1
Based in Birmingham, je+1 – the sister practice of John Evans Interior Architecture & Design – is a leading design practice, specialising in the creation, design and interior architecture of exquisite environments for the retail and corporate marketplace. The practice has been in operation for four years and within this time has delivered an array of exciting projects within the retail sector, from Topps Tiles Boutique to Dwell, Bensons for Beds and beyond.
Keen to find out a little more about je+1 and discover what sets it apart from John Evans Interior Architecture & Design, Premier Retail recently caught up with Managing Director, John Evans to get an insight into the two practices. During our discussion, John highlighted some of the unique projects undertaken by je+1 and set out the factors which make je+1 so successful.
Hi John, please can you tell us a little bit about je+1 and how John Evans Interior Architecture & Design and je+1 complement each other?
“In 2013 John Evans Interior Architecture & Design launched je+1, a sub-brand dedicated to our continued retail and commercial work.
“Having worked successfully in the retail sector for over thirty years under the brand of John Evans Interior Architecture & Design, our je+1 team work closely with market leading brands to deliver influential spaces with a focus on brand strategy and customer experience. With over 500 retail stores completed, our record of increased retail performance is a driving force behind the service we provide our clients.
“Based in a restored Victorian pen factory in Birmingham’s prestigious Jewellery Quarter (with a satellite office in London), we have a multi-disciplined team of 16 people providing total design services from concept through to completion.
“Our establishing background and experience in private residential work has been a major influence in the importance we place on detail design and understanding the individual as both a private client and a consumer. As a collective, our teams at John Evans Interior Architecture & Design and je+1 are driven by a shared vision for quality, innovation and creativity.”
What are some of your most significant projects?
“One of our significant projects was our first project for our long term client, Steinhoff.
“In 2012, in conjunction with an integrated communications agency (Public), we were asked to create a new store concept for the interior of one of their ‘Bensons for Beds’ stores. The new store transformed the way in which the product was displayed to enhance the perceived value and appeal to a wider customer range.
“The main element of this was the introduction of the ‘Comfort Zone Concept’, designed to engage with customers and streamline the product testing and buying experience. The result of this was increased retail performance by approx. 40%.
“Following this we began working on a large scale roll out across the entire estate. As the years have gone on we have worked closely with the client to continually evolve the concept ensuring that it remains current, and encompasses all other new thinking and developments within the day-to-day retail operations.”
What projects have you been working on over the past 12 months?
“Over the last twelve months we have been involved in some exciting projects for our existing client groups, DFS and Steinhoff.
“With the current trend for out-of-town retailing moving onto the high street, we have worked with both clients to implement this and have developed new and successful, small-format concepts in each instance. The key to this scheme was understanding the product, brand and client ambitions. Through this understanding the store experience was designed to include increased use of technology as a method of engaging with the customers and showcasing the wider range of products and finishes which are not all on display within the small store format.
“At the opposite end of the scale, for the same clients we have been working on large scale, out of town projects developing and testing new concepts and merchandising formats. All this has been conducted alongside the standard store roll out and opening programmes, for the numerous brands which sit within each group, which has continued throughout the year.”
Have these projects differed in any way to your usual work?
“As with many of our projects today, these projects were delivered through successful collaborations with other creative agencies. We understand and appreciate the importance of forming partnerships with our design colleagues, consultants, specialists and contractors, as well as working closely with our clients and the many departments internally within their business.
“Although all parties may be approaching the project from different angles and perspectives, working together allows us to achieve complete ‘joined up thinking’ and retain a common goal from all aspects of the project.”
When working on a project, what are the biggest challenges you face? And how do you overcome them?
“One of the biggest challenges we face as a designer are conforming to restraints such as budget, as this can have an effect on every aspect of the scheme. As an everyday issue for us, we have learnt to overcome these challenges and our experience has taught us the best ways to manage and spread cost efficiently. This allows us to create a scheme that still has the impact and ‘wow factor’ which the client is looking for, whilst also ensuring they remain happy from a budget perspective.
“Lighting is something which is often affected by this. We are particularly passionate about having the right lighting to showcase the product and light the space. Often we face resistance from clients to spend on lighting but find that through informed consultation with us, they can then appreciate the benefits.
“We continually advise and encourage the client in the right direction. Using our understanding of lighting technology we are able to review and select products which tick both budget and functionality to ensure that the end result gives the client the best outcome overall – again this is all part of spreading the costs efficiently.
“From a space planning and design perspective, one of the challenges we regularly face are unusually shaped retail units. The challenge in this instance involves creating a customer journey which flows well and encompasses the product effectively by continuing to make use of every inch of retail space efficiently and still functioning as required, from a retail perspective.”
Are there any projects you’ve found too challenging?
“We always relish a challenging project, this is what drives and develops us as designers. We are never daunted by a project with challenging elements as we feel that these projects often bring out a different way of thinking, and ultimately the end result is something special, which we may not have produced on a standard project.”
That’s a great approach to work – so, what type of projects do you have on the horizon?
“We have lots of exciting projects on the horizon for our existing clients. As well as this, we have also begun work on an exciting, long term commercial project for a charitable organisation, which involves the re-location of their existing headquarters to a new site which will include residential buildings, office and meeting spaces, dining area, and exhibition and auditorium space. The project embraces contemporary design and materiality with sustainability and energy efficiency (something close to our hearts) as a driving force through the entire project.
“More recently we have been involved in developing concepts for an up-and-coming fashion brand ‘Too Hot’ clothing. We have worked with and developed the brand as it takes its first steps from its current, dedicated online only presence into physical ‘bricks and mortar’ retailing. Beginning with design concepts for a potential new retail unit, we have also created a pop-up store for a concession within Harvey Nichols (London). We are looking forward to seeing this up and running in the coming months!”
As a company, what are you most proud of?
“We are proud to have worked with our longest running client, DFS Furniture Group for over 40 years. We have supported them on their journey from three small stores in Yorkshire right up to the present day where they stand as a nationwide, market leaders with 113 stores across the UK & Ireland, and more significantly, as they took their first steps into mainland Europe, where they now have a further 7 stores across The Netherlands and Spain.
“In 2014 DFS acquired ‘Sofa Workshop’ and ‘Dwell’. We produced new store concepts for both brands and have been involved in rolling these out successfully across their existing and growing estates since.
“Having retained DFS as a client through many different management structures and a change of ownership, is something we are very proud of. Over the years we have been fortunate enough to have been involved in a varied, and wide range of design and creative work for them and have enjoyed seeing their success grow.
“The experience we have gained over the years with all of our long standing clients has been a key influence and provided us with a clear understanding of all aspects of the retail industry, from the day-to-day operations through to implementing brand developments and ambitions.
“We are close team at je+1 and John Evans Interior Architecture & Design and believe that the strength of our team and the relationships we have built are testament to our achievements.
“We are very proud of the way in which we work together with shared ideas and skills to support one and other. We believe that this foundation has made both teams stronger and together, and our achievements over the years are a reflection of this.”
John Evans Interior Architecture & Design Ltd
16E Vittoria Street
0121 233 9041 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.jeplus1.com