Design Guides | “Values” Engineering By RHDC - April 15, 2020 RHDC Studio is as much a branding agency as it is design & architecture studio, therefore becoming fluent in your brand values and how they are relayed to your target customers will influence all the design decisions we make up front – ESPECIALLY when it comes to budget. When discussing budget, value engineering is a term that’s thrown around frequently in our industry. The practice is defined as “using economical products and engineering practices to improve efficiency and decrease operating costs,” and although it takes place during nearly every project, value engineering can get a bad rap because it often gets conflated with “just make it cheaper.” From our perspective, however, it’s a yet another way that “knowing thyself” can make any given decision during the design/build process that much simpler. This is why we prefer to call this practice VALUES engineering – it’s all about understanding which investments will best communicate the values of your brand to your target customer. When put into practice, values engineering usually starts with allocating more spend in the areas that are important to customers. If you’re a super high end luxury retailer, being able to tell your customers that the marble counter they’re resting their elbows on was procured from a legendary quarry in Italy or that the pendant light illuminating that counter is worth more than the GDP of a small nation could be vital to the narrative of your brand. For many businesses, however, overly pricey finishes and materials add little to their brand’s story and can be replaced by more economical products that still maintain the overall “vibe” of the environment. Values engineering also places a significant focus on “selective durability.” While not every element in a commercial space needs to be built like a tank, it’s crucial to “beef up” certain aspects like counters, lounge furnishings and display shelving which will receive exponentially more “use and abuse” than their residential counterparts. It may make sense to spec a light fixture from IKEA if it happens to fit your overall aesthetic, but be prepared to make numerous return trips for increasingly expensive replacements if you decide to outfit your entire environment with oddly named floating shelves and lounge chairs. Along those same lines, the desired lifespan of your environmental design should also be taken into consideration during the values engineering process. When we first started RHDC, an average of five to 10 years was a standard shelf life for most concepts, after which time a brand would refresh or reinvent their space. Today, though things are moving at a much faster pace, most brands can still expect to see a return on their design investment within one to three years. That said, if you’re an innovative brand with Customers who are early adopters, budgeting for constant refreshes may be essential to your business. Ironically, for pop-up shops that might be traveling to test out their concept in different markets, though the “time on site” might be limited the fixtures and furnishings may need to be extra durable to withstand the wear and tear that occurs in transit, assembly, breakdown and reactivation. Just as we’ve done from day one, we continue to evangelize to Clients that they should envision the finished product of our design process as a reflection of their business, with reasonable upfront costs representing an investment in creating their desired customer experience. After all, good design is the equivalent of a good first impression—it’s a silent, powerful brand ambassador that acts as an extension of your sales and marketing efforts. Know your values, tell a good story and you have the best chance of setting yourself up for success.