This year at the world’s leading retail trade fair, affiliated companies Ansorg, Vitra and Vizona present The Village, an immersive plaza-like retail environment.

The EuroShop 2017 stand was developed in collaboration with Joanna Laajisto, Helsinki-based interior architect, designer, and former professional snowboarder. We speak to Laajisto about her role in developing and designing the retail concepts in The Village.

You’ve worked for a broad spectrum of clients, designing for restaurants, showrooms and workplaces. How does your approach to design change for retail as opposed to these other spaces?
With all design, I think you need to have an understanding of human experience: how people will act and feel in a certain space. But in retail design, you need to be especially mindful of that. We usually start building the retail concept around the customer experience.

Also, in retail there is a tremendous request for individuality. Every brand wants to stand out on the shopping street and have a unique look! It is a challenge, but also a great opportunity for creativity.

What was your role in The Village stand?
My studio and I created the 1000-sq-m stand to showcase the strengths of Ansorg, Vitra and Vizona as expert partners in creating retail environments with shopfitting and lighting. We created the overall concept, the interior design, and developed the customer journeys and profiles.

Joanna Laajisto. Photo by Mikko Ryhänen

So what is the idea behind your concept for the stand?
The Village is a California-inspired outdoor retail world with five concept stores for fictitious brands, with a central plaza for people to lounge. The Californian inspiration is more a description of the sunny service attitude and the relaxed atmosphere that we wanted to create in The Village – the space itself could be anywhere in the world.

The five stores – a fashion store, a cosmetics shop, a consumer electronics store, a car showroom and a grocery store – all represent different market segments of retail. We really enjoyed creating these fictitious brands for the fair. It was like creating your dream clients, brands that you would love to design store concepts for.

How much does your work, in general and for The Village, respond to the future of retail in an increasingly digital world?
When designing for retail, we often use methods of service design like co-design sessions and interviews to understand the needs of the end users. So rather than trying to predict the future, we try to solve the problems customers have and address their wishes.

If a digital solution responds to a certain need, we will definitely use it. But I do not believe in using technology as a gimmick in retail design. It really needs to work. That said, there are some clever digital retail solutions in The Village!

The Village encompasses five retail worlds shopfitted by Vizona with a new Vitra retail product at its centre and lighting by Ansorg. Visit The Village in Hall 12 / A35 at EuroShop 2017.