Landini Associates

Landini Associates

Surry Hills, AU


From Asia to Americas, “Blindfold Test” Improves Store Design, Battles Bland in Retail

By ccsullivan
May 4, '21 7:24 PM EST
T2 Shoreditch, designed by Landini Associates. Photo by Andrew Meredith
T2 Shoreditch, designed by Landini Associates. Photo by Andrew Meredith

If you were transported, blindfolded, to the inside of a store, when you opened your eyes would you have any idea where you were? 

Would you know instantly whose store it is?

That’s a litmus test created by global retail designer Landini Associates that has convinced dozens of major chains and boutiques, from Asia to the Americas, to reinvent their store appearances for greater customer recognition, affinity, and sales success.

Known for creating one-of-a-kind stores and buzzworthy retail experiences that maximize sales and profitability, Landini Associates devised its celebrated “Blindfold Test™” over two decades ago to encourage braver, more impactful store redesigns, says Jenni Whitaker, the firm’s general manager. “Since then it’s become a lingua franca of retailers, breaking down language barriers everywhere we work, from Asia’s fast-moving retail scene to store rollouts in South America,” she explains.

What’s Landini’s Blindfold Test?

“The concept is simple,” says Whitaker, who has worked in retail design for three decades. “If you were blindfold and released in a retail environment could you tell where you were? If not, we’d conclude the design was a failure.” Whitaker points to stores that pass the Blindfold Test™ every time: Victoria's Secret, Uniqlo, and Landini Associates’ work for Loblaws and the T2 tea shops, for example.

“Thoughtful and skilled retail design makes the difference from providing a consumer experience that is average to one that is truly memorable and outstanding,” says Whitaker. “The interior design and shopping environment must add exceptional value to the brand, yet too many retailers have stripped out the personality and thus the bond with loyal customers. Their loss.”

The firm’s creative director, Mark Landini, adds, “Our Blindfold Test is a measure of whether your store design has a differentiated visual personality or simply merges into the herd of ‘banal, lazy mediocrity.’”

McDonald’s and the Blindfold Test™

Most brands don’t successfully differentiate, so they lack an identity or personality, says Whitaker. “That is to say, most brands are bland.” As an example, Whitaker points to quick-service restaurant (QSR) interiors, which tend to be “overlit, overdesigned and full of uncomfortable furniture made from cheap materials.” With the goal of making McDonald’s cool again, Landini Associates created “Project Ray”: the complete reinvention of the world’s largest QSR chain, including master-planning, architecture and interior design, brand positioning, new graphics, packaging and cool uniforms, along with global design standards and guidelines.

The flagship store model for McDonald’s, and iterations of Landini Associates’ multi-award winning concept, have since rolled out across the world. As Whitaker points out, the flagships pass the Blindfold Test — open your eyes, and you know you’re not in a KFC or Taco Bell.

Other projects by Landini Associates inspired by the Blindfold Test include Jurlique, a leading skincare brand that the firm completely reinvented and redesigned as part of a global rollout launched 15 years ago, and more recently the Asian expansion of Burt’s Bees. Punching a sharp uppercut into the generic universe of “boring black, white and gold cosmetic halls,” both Jurlique and Burt’s Bees have won design awards and acclaim as they have driven bottom-line growth for the retailers.

Landini Associates also took the Blindfold Test to the fashion world, reinventing the Glassons chain with store collections displayed in elegant wooden “wardrobe” units rather than on walls and the sea of clutter and racks found on boutique floors.

“Shopping for clothes is so much more fun if you can see the product well,” says Whitaker. “Not only does this design — now in 60-plus locations — make shopping more enjoyable, it actually allows for 50% more stock on the floor, too.”

Retailers, design media and critics have noticed these brands and others who have committed to more innovative and instantly recognizable stores. As the magazine Broadsheet exclaimed, “Landini Associates challenge everything you know about retail.”

About Landini Associates’

The Blindfold Test* is a measure of whether your store design has a “differentiated visual personality” or simply merges into the herd of “banal, lazy mediocrity.”
     Want to know how your store fares? Here’s how it works:
     If you were blindfolded and dropped into a store without seeing the name above the door, would you immediately know where you were once that blindfold came off – that’s the test.
     Most brand’s blindly follow a “Me too” approach, lacking an identity or personality of their own. That is to say, most brands are bland.
     Those that are brave enough to pass it have “reinvent the normal” of their vernacular and so often become leaders of it.
     At the very least you’ll recognize them.