Design + Print + Fixture + Install + Rush
days from idea to
projects rolled into one
Integrated Solution in a Hurry
Birkenstock partnered with us to create a visual program to commemorate the achievement of an important internal milestone. The challenge: we only had three weeks to develop, test, and deliver the project soup to nuts. The drop dead date was a high profile open house at their new corporate office, which was currently under construction, with hundreds of confirmed attendees!
Although the plan was to present each element separately, it was important that they were cohesive and on brand. Most importantly, we wanted to take the opportunity to create a sense of wow.
Project #1 – Authorized Retailer Fixture
Recipients were independent retail partners – a critical sales channel for Birkenstock. It had to be something they could display proudly in their stores as a sign of partnership and authenticity.
We considered printed acrylic, cork from yoga blocks, but it just didn’t feel quite right. However, one concept we were most drawn to was a belt fixture, shown below. Not all locations had it, it was a newer look compared to their other point of purchase displays, and it had mixed materials.
The custom gift would have the longest design and production timeline, so we started there.
A quick sketch and feature callout to conceptualize the look, prioritize must-haves vs. nice to haves, and ensure alignment between executive, marketing, and manufacturing teams.
It was a good start, but it was still missing that sense of wow.
A physical prototype would take weeks that we didn’t have to produce, so we created a few 3D renderings instead. We loved the idea of making the base out of cork, but seeing it all together didn’t carry the punch we were looking for. It was cork, but the colors were off. Also, it didn’t even resemble a shoe or sole, much less an authentic Birkenstock.
Instead, we tried another outsole produced by Birkenstock – made out of black foam. Sheets were easily attainable and on hand, already finished with the patented Birkenstock bone pattern and branding. Better yet, if it worked we would have our surprise element and save on material costs!
We tested a sheet of foam outsole on our laser cutter and it didn’t catch on fire! Better yet, our idea worked!
Viewed from the front, it wasn’t obvious that the base was an actual shoe outsole. When picked up and turned over to reveal the Birkenstock branded bottom, it was clear this was an authentic piece. Yes, it’s sitting on our beloved ping pong table.
With this part of the project nailed down, we were ready to move on to the office lobby…
Project #2 – Lobby history wall
Birkenstock’s previous office had a history timeline permanently mounted to the wall. While it had beautiful photography and great information, it felt dated. With the great cubby style design the architects built, we felt a more modern and dynamic solution was in order.
By blending our large format photographic printing and wood manufacturing capabilities, we had the perfect solution in mind.
Above: inspiration sent from the client. Clean edges and frameless graphics were a must. Ability to update with graphics was not.
Right: the lobby area waiting to be adorned by our creation.
Photographic Print + MDF boxes
Traditional digital print lacked the clarity, depth of color, and feel we were going for. The prints were both for older images, as well as description text. Wide format photographic c-prints to the rescue!
An easel back would also take away from the look, so we built MDF boxes with varying depths to test stability. Some of the larger prints were 22 inches high and we wanted a uniform depth. Description boxes were painted and color matched to the white point of the graphic image, and painted flat black for the graphic boxes for added contrast.
Ready for install
The lobby graphics would we displayed alongside other items from Birkenstock’s archives. The modular solution was a great way to communicate both information and the richness of the company’s history.
Project #3 – Mission Statement
While the front lobby was an important element of setting the tone for visitors, it was just as important to provide similar messaging for their employees.
This scope was straight forward – cun vinyl letters for their mission statement in two areas of the back office – but we had to make sure the wall was correctly prepared to accept the graphic, and at the right size and height.
Survey + Mockup + Install
The first of two locations for the mission statement.
We surveyed the wall when the space was still under construction, and printed a paper mock up on a roll print.
Then we coordinated with the general contractor to get the paint spec for compatibility on our print, and again for our installation to ensure the paint had enough time to offgas.
Project #4 – Large Format Art Reproduction
A special mural had been painted at Birkenstock’s store in Venice, CA, by local artist Andy Davis. There were also smaller framed pieces of the same work from the old office.
The goal was to fill a 20 foot wide wall space with the mural. How we did it was up to us.
Canvas print + custom frame
The final size was 14′ x 5′. To keep weight low, we went with a canvas print. It had the right texture, color saturation, and feel to match the office and artwork.
To ensure the final product was acceptable, we assembled the wood frame and stretched the canvas on site before mounting to the wall.
Project #1 – Authorized Retailer Fixture
In all its glory, the final product
The final packout was finished with an natural colored, unprinted corrugated insert to secure the fixture in shipping, and also provide a flat surface for a signed letter from the CEO. The outer carton was also unprinted corrugated, sealed closed with a Birkenstock sticker, just like their shoes. Every detail was addressed to ensure Birkenstock’s commitment to sustainable practices and the environment – right down to how much packaging was used within the carton (3 sheets of a special packaging paper).
Final Design: white oak wood panel with laser deboss and black flood print, metal uprights and baseplate with cold rolled steel and clear powder coat finish, laser cut Birkenstock foam outsole.
Grand opening was
coming up in 2 weeks
The design took cues from their two company-owned retail stores – modular floating cubes lined with cork – and provided a backdrop where they could proudly display their centuries-long heritage (which goes back to 1774, in case you were wondering). They weren’t sure what they wanted, but they did know that the grand opening was coming up in 2 weeks, so whatever it was, it better look great, and get there fast.
A Layered Module-based System
After seeing the artwork, but not the actual space, as that too was rushing to completion in two weeks, we felt that some sort of modular / layered solution was in order. Five years earlier in their prior office, we had created a similar history wall, with a literal timeline mounted permanently to the wall, and wanted to draw on that design but take it to the next level. Early thoughts were a graphic on a wire easel, which would do the job, but not quite in the way we wanted it. Plus, we thought we could do better. Marrying our experience with print and fixtures, we created an MDF box and mounted a photographic print to it. Not only did this give a great look, we also did descriptions boxes in a contrasting color and in smaller sizes to make it all look like it was designed to be there.
A True Symbiotic Relationship
At the same time, our fixture team was working through options for some sort of leave behind that the independently owned stores would proudly display as valued partners of the Birkenstock brand. We started on reverse printing on acrylic, but that quickly was tossed to the cutting room floor for feeling outdated, and looking too much like a kitschy “salesman of the year” type of award. We also talked about integrating the company’s signature materials into the piece: be in cork, their outsole pattern, a die struck pendant, or similar. Then we sketched out a mixed materials fixture – one containing white oak, laser debossing, cold rolled steel, and an actual foam outsole from their shoes, and we knew we were on to something. After a few rounds of prototypes to ensure the fixture would represent the same high quality characteristics as the Birkenstock brand, and surprisingly not lighting the foam outsoles on fire with the laser cutter, we had our finished product.
Back to the employee work area and kitchen, we decided to keep it simple and produced a cut vinyl of their mission statement. We surveyed the area, now closer to final completion, coordinated with the contractor on the type of paint used, and when it would be done so that the off gassing did not peel the vinyl off the wall, and installed the vinyl the weekend before the grand opening.
Birkenstock found value on our ability to support their marketing team across a variety of projects and services, and on price and on budget. In the end, we partnered with them through it all, and now operate as an extension of their team – a true symbiotic relationship.