POH x Architects EAT: Where does branding stop and design begin?

Written by Isabella White

Architects EAT explain when and how to engage and manage the relationships between branding studios and design studios.

For operators embarking on the process of a store fit out, knowing when to engage a branding studio, and an interior/architecture studio is a critical decision. Each profession is a specialised and particular field of work, so what is the difference between them and where do their roles on a project stop and start?

First, we must understand how to define the concept of ‘branding’. A brand is an identity, a visual representation of the core beliefs and values held by a business – in fact, branding is simply fallacious if it doesn’t speak to who you are, what you do or how you work. Think about your last purchase, what about the brand caught your eye? These are visual cues and clues intentionally designed to signal a reaction of want or even better, need. Beyond this a brand is a blueprint for future business and design endeavours. It exists to inspire and generate ideas on a much larger scale but always for the same purpose.


Commonly, brands are developed in isolation of the first physical store for hospitality operators. There are many reasons this can happen – perhaps the business started as an online only experience? Perhaps the physical site hadn’t been purchased when they started the branding exercise? Even if the brand is created in isolation of the store, the store is never designed in isolation of the brand.

Photo Credit: Shannon McGrath

Once the operator is ready to begin the store fit out, an architecture/interior studio is engaged. The relationship between branding studio and design studio becomes very collaborative at this point, as the identity of the brand drives design decisions on the project. The store’s signage, merchandise and menus are typical points of hearty collaboration.

Merchandise is a great example to understand how the roles of these two parties interact in project delivery. If an operator wants to sell merchandise, the branding studio would be engaged to design the item, whereas the design studio will create the space the merchandise is displayed in. Communication here is key – is there enough space for the item? What colour and atmosphere does it contribute to the space? Does lighting need to be considered? The same can be said for menu and signage display. Gradually, the construction process moves forward, and the design studio begins to take ownership of the remainder of the project.

Photo Credit: Shannon McGrath

In a few instances, brand identities and physical stores are developed together. This is a much more collaborative approach and often results in a highly bespoke store design that represents the core values of the business and brand. Our recently completed project, Kori Ice Cream, is a good example of this. Created in collaboration with Principle Design, the store design and brand identity were formed in conjunction with one another. The result is a store that becomes a physical representation of the brand’s iconic identity.

Hospitality operators looking to embark on a fit out can either develop a brand in conjunction with a design studio, or can develop a brand beforehand. In both these instances, the brand’s identity should be reflected in the physical fit out of the store to create a strong customer experience.

Written by Isabella White, Eid Goh,  from Architects EAT  https://eatas.com.au/

and Principle Design