Brigada, the frontrunner of spatial experiences in Croatia
Brigada was founded in 2010, as a response to a growing need for bridging the communication between customers and business spaces.
The project is a joint venture between Founder and the Creative Director Damjan Geber, and the Bruketa&Žinić agency. Before 2010, Damjan worked with the agency as an external associate on various projects related to the spatial experience and store concepts.
At that time, established brands realised the importance of communication with their customers through physical space. Still, no agency on the market would offer that service.
Brigada filled that niche as the first interdisciplinary agency for interior design and the creation of spatial experiences for business clients in Croatia.
We asked Brigada how they marketed their services at the beginning as a new market player?
‘At the time, it wasn’t clear what we were about or for whom our services were made.
Therefore, we had no choice but to educate the market ourselves. That includes years of writing professional articles, conferences, and public lectures. On our website, we still regularly share content about current projects, practical experience, and knowledge.
The situation on the market today is significantly different. Customers understand that their sales or office space shouldn’t only be beautiful, but also consistently convey the right message about the brand.
Clients contact us with requests for cooperation, which makes our sales process much simpler than in the beginning’.
The first project that sparked the public interest was A Room that Glows in the Dark for Adris Group, one of the most successful companies in Croatia and neighbouring countries.
The project was inspired by the Adris Group’s awarded annual report, Good Ideas Glow in the Dark, designed by Bruketa&Žinić.
Brigada took the idea and made an achromatic white pavilion that would gradually go completely dark. The only parts that could be seen were the annual reports placed around the room. The pavilion was set up at the Weekend Media Festival, the largest media industry festival in Croatia and CEE and gained a lot of media publicity.
In 2017, Croatia Insurance (Croatian: Croatia Osiguranje) celebrated 133 years of business, and Brigada positioned the exhibition Croatia je Hrvatska in the Grič Tunnel in Zagreb. The concept was simple, to make a historical timeline to attract the general public.
The result was a rich multimedia exhibition covering the main and four side tunnels featuring historical artefacts. The concept actively encouraged the audience to contribute to the exhibition by sharing their photographs and embedding themselves into history.
Besides exhibition spaces, Brigada focuses on building effective office and retail spaces. The same year they made the Croatia Insurance exhibition, they tackled the retail part of the Croatia Osiguranje rebranding.
Brigada is popular with digital agencies, too. The team made office designs for Kofein Agency, Nanobit and Infinum, just to name a few.
When in Croatia, you might find yourself in spaces they created. For instance, Tele2 telecommunication retail space, Roto Dinamic to buy a few drinks or Neostar showroom, if you are looking for a preloved car.
While their design process for all projects sounds super-simple: strategy – design – delivery, it’s fair to say there’s a lot more behind those three words.
We asked them what a prospect can expect if they decide to engage Brigada. Do they teach them to use a new space or is it the other way around?
The prep phase is key, and in our case, extensive. We analyse the company’s current operations, competition, brand and communication, hold full-day workshops with the client and spend time in the field and monitor the end-user in his natural environment.
The client is actively involved in this phase because they have an in-depth understanding of the brand and internal processes that we cannot acquire in 2 or 3 months of working on the project.
Our role is to recognise and define insight in the sea of information and data that each client has, a more profound reason that explains why things are the way they are and to identify patterns that may not be obvious at first.
If the preparation analysis is done correctly, and the insight is validated, the brand story and design will begin to unravel organically. We never educate clients about space use because that would mean we designed the space for ourselves and not for them. A successful space unobtrusively responds to the needs of the people who live in it and can be used intuitively.
The future of the experience design
In the last couple of years, spatial design moved towards experience design, and all senses were included in the mix. But, 2020 happened, and currently, we are discouraged to stay in space more than we need. Touching items is reduced; we can’t smell a thing.
We were interested in finding out how the new circumstances will change Brigada’s approach to the design of physical spaces, especially brick and mortar stores?
‘Nobody can predict the long-term impact on the design of physical sales spaces. 2020 brought a serious blow to physical stores, and retailers are largely shifting their focus to online sales, but at the same time, some are already realising that online channels cannot completely replace the live shopping experience and direct customer contact with the product as well as sales staff.
For instance, at the end of last year, MAC introduced a new sales concept that combines digital and offline sales.
The concept allows customers to try and buy products in a safe environment, MAC Innovation Lab. Customers can virtually try products or make-up looks designed for them in the store by professional makeup artists.
There will certainly be fewer physical outlets in the future, but those that survive will have to provide customers with a little more than they can get online in two clicks: a personalised shopping experience, unique design and a striking spatial experience through the use of sounds, smells, colours and patterns’.
The new circumstances didn’t have a negative impact on their work, just the contrary. Brigada’s team goes full speed ahead, working on several big projects.
‘Fortunately, the pandemic did not harm our business, so we entered 2021 working full steam ahead. In the last two months, we have designed, realised and opened 36 locations for our telco client, completed an office space covering 1.600 m2, and developed a new sales concept and interior design for the leading national bakery chain’.
Related: A special recognition of the Croatian Designers Association for the humanitarian campaign The Vukovar Gymnasium.