An interview with Yulia Zavarayeva
An interview with Yulia Zavarayeva, Head of the Branding and Wayfinding Department at Blank Architects, - about the department's new projects and tasks
- Tell about the tasks of the new department. Why is there a need to develop such a practice in the bureau?
Many developers, when ordering the architectural project, probably know at what stage they will need solutions for facades and interiors, but they do not always have an idea of when it would be worth starting work on the wayfinding and branding. Meanwhile, this is especially important for large-scale commercial projects to implement solutions in wayfinding and branding already at the architecture development stage. So the architects understand what they need to build on in design and style, especially when it is necessary to implement the visual elements of the brand in the design of space. The best is when branding, wayfinding, facades, landscaping and interiors are creating at the same time. Therefore, for Blank Architects, the creation of a new department is a logical step in developing its own expertise in working on projects in complex.
- Where do developers usually find a branding service and why should the approaches to branding and wayfinding be combined?
Wayfinding as part of the internal environment of an object occurs during the development of an architecture project. Sometimes customers request it from individual companies or freelancers, but there are still a few of them in Russia, and worldwide companies are barely presented in the local market. The creation of the object's brand can be ordered in a multidisciplinary branding agency, but the development of wayfinding should still be handled by other specialists. Therefore, the idea of providing a comprehensive service for the development of the brand of the object and wayfinding within the architectural bureau is a unique service with a synergistic approach that will create uniformity in the perception of the project by the end user at all layers. Thus, we offer not just exterior or interior design, but the development of the whole project. This is supported, among other things, by a deep analysis and understanding of the competitive environment, segmentation and the portrait of the target audience and its needs, so that we can offer really high-quality and well-thought-out solutions.
- Tell us about your experience before joining Blank Architects. What projects have you worked on?
I’ve started my career with a job in a real estate development company, where I was involved in marketing and analytics for the developer's retail projects. Thanks to this work, I gained experience in implementing turnkey projects, from initial market research, competitors and target audience in the development of the concept to the opening and supporting marketing during the shopping center’s operation. Then I was working in marketing consulting in retail, and in 2011, together with former colleagues, we founded our own consulting company, where I held the position of director of customer relations until April 2021.
Before joining Blank Architects, I was participating in the development of projects of various scales and geography: from small shopping centers in regions to large-scale residential, retail and office complexes in Moscow and St. Petersburg. My portfolio includes the development of branding and wayfinding projects for the shopping centers "Riviera" (Lipetsk), "Hollywood" and "Avenue" (St. Petersburg), "Alania Mall" (Vladikavkaz), "Obnimi" (Obninsk), Columbus (Moscow), "MoreMall" (Sochi), K2 Business Park (Moscow). I worked on a number of projects together with architects from Blank Architects as part of a large team.
In addition to projects in retail, residential and office real estate, I also participated in the creation of wayfinding for the Amedia film studio in Moscow – a complex site with a large number of shooting pavilions and technical premises, a huge number of visitor segments and flows. Also, one of my most favorite and at the same time difficult was the wayfinding project for the Yubileyny sports complex in St. Petersburg. This was a real challenge: simultaneously with our work, the complex’ interiors were under rebranding and renovation, and it was important to integrate harmoniously and in a timely manner into all processes. Moreover, the approaches to wayfinding of sports facilities differ significantly from the principles of wayfinding in shopping centers. The analytical and strategic part of the project took much more time than for the other commercial projects: we had to take into account the purpose of visiting and routes of various segments of guests, the adaptability of the site for different events, the presence of complex technical zones with limited access, the flows of VIP, the distribution of visitors directly in the stands, etc. In fact, it was several large and complex projects in one.
- What projects have you worked on together with Blank Architects and what are your immediate plans?
Before joining the bureau, I worked on the wayfinding of the shopping centers "Grozny Mall" in Grozny, the shopping center "Chkalov" and the shopping center "Zarya" in Moscow together with the Blank Architects team. Also among our common projects was a large-scale wayfinding update for the Afimall City shopping center in Moscow. Now our department is working on a wayfinding project for a shopping center and a two-level underground parking as part of the Discovery Park in Moscow, developing a branding and wayfinding project for a new shopping and entertainment center in St. Petersburg, creating a wayfinding project for the Forum shopping center in Ulan-Ude. In the near future, we will launch a wayfinding project for the shopping center in Murino in the Leningrad region and a wayfinding project for a business park in Moscow.
- What are the key areas for development in the bureau you see today?
First of all, I would like to continue our projects in retail real estate due to the accumulated expertise and a large background of our team. At the same time, shopping facilities are one of the most difficult areas for wayfinding and branding. You work with several target groups at once - B2B and B2C, and wayfinding in this case should help to commercialize the project, through a well-thought-out distribution of flows to increase the turnover of operators and rental income of the owner, and for visitors, at the same time, - just be clear and convenient.
In addition, there has been a growing demand for branding and wayfinding projects from housing developers in recent years. Not only in Moscow, but also in the regions, the approach to the design of the environment of residential projects has changed – these are no longer detached high-rise buildings, but entire micro-cities with complex infrastructure, where the need for competent wayfinding is quite acute. At the same time, housing remains the most wanted asset, so, of course, we are interested in participating in the development of residential real estate.
But we are also ready to develop complex objects and spaces – such as business parks, warehouses, sports and leisure infrastructure, healthcare facilities and general education institutions. Our experience can be useful for any public spaces that involve visual communication with visitors. Our team has formed a sufficient number of cases in all the markets and we are ready to apply our expertise.