The aim of this paper is to examine the relationship between the architecture of retail stores and the communication of brand identity.
The researchers adopted a qualitative approach using case studies of the design process and architecture of four new food superstores in the UK between 1998 and 2005. The case studies draw on interviews, photographs, observations, and archival materials.
The case studies demonstrate that high‐profile architects have been involved in the design of supermarket buildings. The reuse of buildings has also become a significant element of visual identity at a local level. “Stealth” design, by contrast, reduces visual identity. In each case the relationship between retailer, architect, local authority, media and public opinion influenced the design process and the visual identity of the building.
The research implications are that architecture is not well understood in the retail industry as a medium for communicating a consistent brand identity. For designers and architects, building as brand for superstores presents opportunities to create a distinctive brand style. Urban regeneration will continue to offer opportunities for new, iconic buildings. The building, its location and history can provide points of differentiation and contribute to brand awareness and reputation.
The originality of this research lies in its interdisciplinary approach, which uses both design and management literature and methodology to examine architecture's role in visual identity. It focuses on the previously unresearched architecture of food retailers.
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