Innovation / Business Development Bank of Canada


The best kind of design encapsulates and telegraphs a company’s ethos. The Business Development
Bank of Canada’s (BDC) main purpose is to help dynamic small businesses grow into their potential.
Their raison d’etre is positioning companies for success, so it was only fair that Figure3, a client of BDC,
would reciprocate in kind.

“As a small business, we sought out services from the BDC and they gave back by trusting us to design
their headquarters,” says Suzanne Wilkinson, Principal, Figure3. “BDC is about lifting small businesses
into a position for success. For me, there’s a genuineness about what they do.”

BDC examines a company’s strategy and their sales, and parses the spreadsheets to provide financing
options as required; providing an alternative to a traditional bank. Figure3 set out to give their new
Toronto office, set on the 37th floor of CIBC square, a suitably young, sharp and fresh approach with
a subtle Scandinavian look that hearkens back to BDC’s Montreal head office. The new space offers
stunning views of the CN Tower, a classic symbol of Toronto, at the front of the house, while lake views
abound at the back.

Monique Jahn, Director, Workplace, Figure3, notes BDC wanted to emulate the Montreal office at the
new CIBC Square location, while optimizing the 360-degree panorama of the city. “Because the building
is a landmark building in Toronto, it has its own unique design and presence in the city. What we’ve
developed for them is much more open and welcoming,” says Jahn, “they’re youthful and approachable.
They know what their organization wants to be and how they want their space to represent it.”

Wilkinson concurs: “BDC is modern sharp and forward-thinking. We reflected that with a graphic
black-and-white palette coupled with very deliberate lighting, creating a sense of appreciation for that
laser sharpness.”

BDC liked the authenticity of the polished concrete floor at the new Toronto location, which is a switch
from Montreal, but swapped out the exposed ceilings, opting instead for a more refined ceiling system.
Large format panels depict a cut-out of a stylized maple leaf, integrating the BDC logo in a subtle,
architectural way. BDC wanted to lean heavily on the maple, not only because it’s a Canadian staple,
but the blond wood compliments the fresh, Nordic vibe.

There’s a fluidity that feels like nothing
is off limits
, there’s space for you to do
whatever you want. Moving through the space
feels very easy and natural.”
/ William Gray

Each bank of offices was wrapped in black, with breakout space, and the views are
unobstructed from end to end. Cantilevered forms (such as the reception desk) are recurring;
they interlock and connect to each other to pull visitors and staff into different spaces.

William Gray, Figure3 Team Leader notes the front-of-house space fulfills multiple mandates.
“You have a lounge where clients can work until they meet with someone from BDC, along
with AV integration for when they host events.”

Opposite the reception, a coffee bar allows for social activity after a session in the training
room and it can be a spot to lay out a buffet, or a catered lunch. A servery in the lounge is
tucked away, with a galley kitchen and open gathering space with harvest tables and built-in
benches to create different zones and seating arrangements.

Standard offices and meeting rooms, located in the back-of-room, have flex-offices for hoteling.
“Because they are going to a reduced occupancy, there are lockers, coat storage and a bench in
the back corridors, so it’s a very all-service” says Gray. “There’s a fluidity that feels like nothing
is off limits, moving through the space feels very easy and natural.”

“The design seems very simple, but it is extremely considered in terms of why we picked the
materials, colours, the lighting. And our clients are interior designers as well, so they understood
the language and they challenged us” explains Jahn. “Other clients may not have the same level
of education in design. They respected us and looked for our support when choosing furniture
and finishes, to make sure they aligned and made sense as a holistic design. It was a nice
relationship: they respected what we had to contribute and they appreciated suggestions
outside of their standards. They were also willing to be challenged.”

Innovation / The Parker


A Scandi-style purpose-built rental reflects what millennials value, and how they want to live.

When it was announced that an urban café would reside at the ground level of The Parker, a new
purpose-built rental at Yonge and Eglinton, Figure3 knew they had a big opportunity on their hands to
create a space that appealed to a youthful demographic; one that’s so often associated with hip coffee

Traditionally retail is an independent component in a condo, accessed from the outside and often
stylistically disconnected from the design of the building it’s a part of. “When we learned that this
hospitality piece would be part of the lobby experience at The Parker, we got really excited because it
creates a really interesting dynamic.” says Dominic De Freitas, Principal, Figure3. “When it’s a
standalone retail it’s easy, but now we’re integrating it into the lobby and trying to create this seamless
experience with amenities that rival a luxury hotel.”

On a recent trip to Iceland, De Freitas was inspired by the unique details of the luxury hotels of the
region. “We veered towards a Nordic-themed clean, simplistic design; very elegant.”

In the lobby, materials reflect an elevated experience with pale, silvery blond woods that recur through
all the spaces, paired with concrete and black metal accents, common elements in Scandinavian design.
Frosted reeded glass behind the desk is back lit for a diffused, icy glow, and biophilic elements in the
lobby bringing in year-round greenery.

On the 37th amenity floor, the fitness centre is equipped with branded Hammer Strength equipment
and a Greenhouse Juice centre nearby. “These are examples of how Fitzrovia likes to curate a branded
experience. It’s these thoughtful details that are unique to them,” says De Freitas.

“We veered more towards this
Nordic-themed clean, simplistic design
but still very elegant.”
/ Dominic De Freitas

One of the standout features in the design is the double-height ceilings in common spaces such as the
fitness centre. “This was something I saw repeatedly in Iceland; the footprint of the spaces were small
but they had volume, says De Freitas. “When you walk into a tall volume the space just feels so much
better, which is why the yoga and party rooms are uniquely stacked.”

In the Sky Lounge, a two-storey wood panel emphasizes the verticality of the space and a custom blown
glass light fixture fills the volume from above drawing the eye up. The lower level is a sophisticated
lounge. “It reminds me of hotel VIP gold member lounges where they dedicate certain floors for their
members use only,” observes De Freitas. At the top of the staircase is a private entertainment kitchen
offering access to the outdoor terrace, and infinity pool set with cabanas. “In the summertime, you can
have drinks with friends and use the cabanas and pool, it feels private and exclusive.”

Accessed from the Sky Lounge, the games room adds an element of lighthearted design. It’s outfitted
with arcade games, a billiard table, and unique neon wall art depicting old school Pac-Man characters
created by Thursh Holmes. “We had fun with the retro game experience, explains Megan Hayward,
Senior Team Leader, Figure3. “We integrated custom neon art pieces and wall coverings resembling old
comic strips. We were being a little cheeky here.” More fun was had in the two-lane bowling alley area
where replica bowling balls are clustered in the ceiling, while a wall of funky bowling shoes are painted a
gradient scale as wall art.

Every square inch of the suites are maximized by design, to ensure an efficient and thoughtful suite
layout for comfortable living. The kitchens are equipped with a built in wine fridge, a rarity. “It’s
interesting, it was important to the developer that the suites had all the standard appliances that you’d
find in any suburban home,” says De Freitas. “So nothing was compromised in terms of size or scale.”
The countertops and backsplashes are quartz, with waterfall edges on the island and the cabinetry is
a sophisticated two-tone with wood on the bottom and an accent colour on the top.

Storage is another unexpected bonus. Hayward describes, “Customized storage solutions to help
organize the tenant was an important and intentional part of the suite design. We included an entry
mudroom organizer and extra-wide closets fully outfitted in the bedrooms, things you wouldn’t see in a
regular condo or rental.”

“I would say from a suite perspective that’s pretty innovative since it’s not common for this market,
having all these extra custom storage items that come built into the unit,” adds De Freitas. “It’s pretty
unique, and helps make The Parker a standout project.”

Innovation / Manulife


Manulife’s renovation of their piano-shaped office in Waterloo was more than a building overhaul.
It was an opportunity to entirely reshape how they work.

In 2018, Manulife had made the decision to consolidate their teams in Kitchener-Waterloo into their existing
330,000-square-foot building on King Street. This project afforded Manulife an opportunity to completely
transform their offices into an environment more conducive to collaboration and innovation. As such, when
the COVID-19 pandemic set in and companies around the world became more concerned by how they were
going to encourage employees to return to the office, Manulife found themselves way ahead in the race to
attract and retain the best talent.

“Our workplace transformation was well-timed with the pandemic, which forced companies to make
significant changes, much like the ones we’d already mapped out for our new office,” observes Michael
Miceli, Manulife’s AVP and Managing Director, Corporate Real Estate. “At the outset, we focused on making
our employee experience more positive and productive by upgrading our mechanical systems; introducing
more fresh air, touchless door operations, traffic calming and a turning circle that eases employee drop-offs.”

“We’re seeing workplace design more and more influenced by hospitality and even retail design. Those who
work in retail and hospitality think of space as a ‘service’ to their customers. We’re now seeing these same
principles being applied to an employee’s connection to the workplace,” says Figure3 Principal Eric Yorath.
“It’s not just amenities but services that will attract employees back to an office. And this is the direction
Manulife is heading.”

Our workplace transformation was well-timed
with the pandemic
, which forced companies
to make significant changes, much like the ones
we’d already mapped out for our new office.”
/ Michael Miceli. AVP and Managing Director, Corporate Real Estate, Canada at Manulife Financial

Figure3 developed a master plan to shift Manulife from an assigned workstation culture to an activity-based
model, an entirely different way of working. This thoughtfully executed environment reinforces
to each team member the vital part they play in contributing to the whole by providing a kinetic,
user-centric experience where they get to choose how and where to do their best work.

The space also encourages movement with convenient, practical destination points throughout
(which build natural opportunities to stop and engage with co-workers), and a balance of social and quiet
spaces to promote emotional well-being.

“The intent was to link Manulife’s mission and values with a new approach to “service” that was
personal and would resonate with the individuals that would be occupying it,” says Jennifer Tinson, Creative
Director, Workplace, Figure3. “The layout along with the ‘look and feel’ needed to represent Manulife visually
and experientially while remaining consistent across all Manulife facilities. We developed standards to allow
the flexibility necessary to accommodate the range of buildings, settings and conditions that exist in the
Manulife portfolio, integrating dynamic, brand-aligned features and elements that could be modified

The lobby offers a powerful first impression, setting the tone for a positive visitor and employee experience
that continues at touch points along natural paths of travel across these large floors. Familiar brand icons
and colour references are purposefully articulated throughout the space, with carefully placed walls of
greenery offering a nod to the outside environment from the expansive window views.

Amenities are a huge draw for employees, but work flexibility will be just as important in a world transformed
by COVID-19. When they return to the office, Manulife teams will be able to work in a hybrid arrangement –
partially from home and partially in the office – and can choose the space to suit the activities required for
that particular work day. “Other employers are trying to get their buildings up to the same type of standard,
and we have already built it,” notes Mark Thompson, Manulife Corporate Real Estate Director.
“We are already there.”

Space functions are clear and travel paths intuitive, dividing the floors into manageable and navigable
neighbourhoods that balance active dynamic zones in which to work, collaborate and socialize, and quiet
places to focus and re-energize. Senior management are located in and amongst staff with meeting spaces
and alcoves in proximity to allow for more visibility of fellow staff.

The conference centre offers a lounge for client or internal functions, and three 24-person meeting rooms
with retractable ceiling partitions can accommodate theatre-style seating for up to 200. The generous caf
is an office hub with direct access to an outdoor terrace that’s a setting for dining, socializing, and a wide
range of staff activities. The wellness centre includes locker and shower facilities, multipurpose rooms,
reflection rooms and a refreshment lounge adjacent to an arrival point, with plenty of bike storage.

“It’s been an amazing undertaking where the architect, the designers, the business representatives and
our team all played critical roles in its success, striking a balance between interests,” observes Miceli. “And in
the end, we moved mountains together. Figure3 provided the connection between all aspects of the
transformation that we wanted to achieve, as well as the necessary ingredients to prepare our
3,400 employees in Kitchener-Waterloo for our new way of working.”

A study in how design and change management can effectively work together, Manulife’s new workplace
is bold, lively, and engaging, and has been met with enthusiasm from staff. This transformative shift in the
work experience will serve to establish the Manulife standard for their facilities around the world.

Innovation / Ontario Power Generation


It’s something many employees face every day: grey acoustic panels dividing cubicles, drab carpeting, and
uninspiring views. Figure3 was tasked to flip the switch on the downtown Toronto offices of Ontario Power
Generation (OPG) at 700 University Avenue.

The renowned utility company had worked out of their existing office since the 1970’s with 550 employees
scattered across five floors over approximately 200,000 square feet of office space. But such a major change
meant shining a light not just on the company’s hierarchic office system and dated furnishings, but their bright
vision of the future.

Much as OPG is transforming its business, they wanted to reduce their own real estate footprint down to 2.5
floors, and one of the major changes was to eliminate their 246 private offices.

Principal at Figure3, Suzanne Wilkinson observes: “Reinvigorating the excitement and passion for what
OPG does is truly important here. With its sights set on being a catalyst for economy-wide decarbonization
and a climate change leader, OPG knew they needed to attract the talent to deliver their business goals.”

“OPG was going through culture shifts affecting every part of their business while also pursuing the
development of new clean energy technologies, new entrepreneurial business lines, and a stronger focus
on equity, diversity and inclusion,” notes Michelle Berry, VP, Workplace at Figure3. As a government agency,
every penny OPG spends is scrutinized so there virtually hadn’t been any changes to their office for close
to 25 years. “It was like being in a time warp, the executives were in over-sized private offices covering
all perimeter windows and the interior spaces were compressed with little to no space allocated for
collaboration or gathering spaces. The disparity was too great between what leadership had versus what
the employees had.”

“OPG was going through culture shifts affecting
every part of their business
from the way their
plants were processing and generating power,
to a huge change around leadership.”
/ Michelle Berry

Figure3 walked OPG through their proprietary research approach and visioning exercises with employees
from across the spectrum to produce an extensive Strategy Report. “We uncovered the many nuances that
made the groups unique but also discovered the common threads that bind the organization,” Berry notes.

The building has a unique, curved profile overlooking Queen’s Park that Figure3 capitalized on. To promote
movement and connection among staff, Figure3 created ‘The Boardwalk’, an energetic open environment
along the window offering a choice of stimulating work settings with access to natural light. “The natural
light radiating from the curve of the building wasn’t reaching the inner work spaces which drove us to
prioritize the location of the common and shared spaces,” says Wilkinson.

To further emphasize OPG’s unique culture, a feature wall of hardhats displays the logos of construction
group partnerships and the reception desk is made of steel tubes to mimic the nuclear calandria cooling
tube. “We basically wouldn’t have anything if we didn’t have energy, so OPG wanted to pay attention to
the purpose of the organization with a direct connection to the power plants across Ontario. We wanted to
make sure we put their purpose, people, and the array of energy on display,” says Berry.

“Previously OPG had less than 10 meeting rooms so people became very territorial,” says Berry. “We
removed the private offices but gave them a huge complement of meeting rooms, both open and
closed, with more choice and variation.” The organization didn’t want staff to park themselves in the same
spot every day, instead circulating employees to different “neighbourhoods” that include grouped key
meeting spaces, support spaces and primary workspaces to spark interaction and collaboration. In this
planning model, the head of nuclear energy might bump into someone in solar development for a burst of
spontaneous collaboration.

Connie Hergert, VP Corporate Real Estate at OPG explains the CEO was committed to eliminating private
offices, but many executives felt they had worked hard to get to a level where they could secure their own
office, making it difficult to give that up. “The majority who have made the transition are huge proponents of
this model,” says Hergert. “The executives now realize they didn’t actually spend a lot of time in their offices.
The new variety of huddle rooms provide a quiet, private space but there are more conversations happening
now being more accessible.”

That’s also led to higher trust levels as employees have greater access to their managers and colleagues.
Many problems and challenges are addressed by a quick huddle or hallway chat rather than scheduling
a formal meeting. “We’ve also reduced our costs by more than half and eliminated the churn caused by
traditional office moves,” notes Hergert.

One of the inspirations for the design was Moriyama House in Tokyo, the brainchild of Ryue Nishizawa,
where each room is a building in itself and the spaces between the buildings are equally vital. Wilkinson
explains Figure3 applied the principles to the OPG floorplan, where neighbourhood meeting spaces
without walls are often adjacent to closed meeting rooms. “It allows people to have choice and variety where
they position themselves and utilize all the circulation space in the functional areas. The boardwalk houses
a variety of interactive spaces with moveable furniture all along the perimeter.” Figure3 worked to ensure
the communal lunch room had access to natural light, and introduced biophilic elements throughout, plus
wellness rooms and quiet zones for heads-down focus.

“Our employees love our new space and say they feel more connected to the company and each other,”
enthuses Hergert. “They tell us it makes them feel like we are a “modern company” now: our branding,
values and purpose are reflected in the space.”

“One of my favourite comments from a long-standing employee was that she made a new work friend in
the first week in our new space. Both of them had worked at OPG for over 30 years, but they had never met
because they were stuck in their cubicles. That’s how much the workplace has brought people together,”
says Hergert.

Innovation / Grand Central Mimico


The layout of Vandyk Properties’ Grand Central Mimico presentation centre at 54 Newcastle in Etobicoke can
be likened to strolling one of the area’s thoroughfares, popping into San Remo bakery for a sfoglio canolli
or picking up a case of Sunnyside IPA from Great Lakes microbrewery. “We used learnings from retail
behaviours in designing this space, it feels like a street of shops,” says Mardi Najafi, VP, Retail Strategy and Design
for Figure3. “The central hall is laid out like a Main Street, and to the left and right are vignettes simulating
a shop-in-shop experience with multiple touchpoints.”

Opposing conventional thinking, the sales staff offices were moved to the back of the centre behind
a demising wall, to bring the retail experience to the forefront. “Developer John Vandyk wanted
something grander, more spectacular, without defining what it was going to be,” explains Suzanne
Wilkinson, Principal, Figure3. “We wanted to approach this presentation centre as a true retail
environment, and for that reason we decided our residential and retail teams should join forces.”

There is a polished, industrial vibe to the design of the presentation centre, where dark metal is used to
form box-like structures to frame the vignettes. The frames contrast the pale, polished concrete flooring
with bits of aggregate showing through. “You want the presentation centre to emulate the design quality
of the project. When we saw that open warehouse space, we sought to recreate the lobby design by keeping
the industrial ceiling which was already there and embellishing it with more detail,” Wilkinson notes.

Grand Central Mimico

“We used learnings from retail
in designing this space,
it feels like a street of shops.”
/ Mardi Najafi

The first third of the Grand Central Mimico presentation centre serves to educate visitors about the
neighbourhood. Dubbed the “decompression zone,” it calms visitors and helps to prepare them for what
lies ahead, encouraging them to focus and be more open to browsing.

The journey continues just past the angled site plan model which gently funnels visitors to the right to
pass through various touchpoints which help the sales experience. Behind the model sits a large interactive
touch screen inset in a slab of Nero Marquino marble in a leather-like finish. Figure3 Team Leader Nicole
Hoppe notes: “The material palette is based on the lobby design of The Buckingham, the first condo at Grand
Central Mimico. It was something that added a level of sophistication to the overall industrial elements.
Natural material helps soften the metal throughout the space.”

The main focal point of the sales floor is a generous bar where customers can be served coffee or bubbly
to celebrate a purchase. “If you can get a client to feel safe and welcome, you are more likely to make
a sale. In the old days the closing rooms were behind doors, like a bank. All of that has now changed.
People want to see the action and the energy, it excites them,” according to Wilkinson.

The design allows choice and seating variation for customers based on their comfort level,” expands Najafi.
”This is a full-service guided experience. Customers are always accompanied by the sales staff, therefore
we created these various touchpoints. They can choose to continue the conversation at the bar, in the two
sit-down lounges or a communal table.” Hoppe adds: “It’s not just a place for selling. There are a lot of
investors, brokers and salespeople who don’t necessarily work for Vandyk Properties but need to sit with a laptop,
have a coffee and get work done. It’s comfortable for those people too, as well as buyers. It’s an
active space.”

The lounges are outfitted with comfy low sofas and coffee tables, with inset fireplaces, which replicates
what will be seen in The Buckingham lobby. “The entire experience represents what the amenity spaces at
the condo are going to feel like,” observes Najafi.

The result is a curated experience where potential buyers pass through a sequence of stations that educate
them about the project. By the end, they have learned about the developer, comparing a trio of palettes
that allows finishes to be seen in a holistic way, understanding the floorplans, the amenities and smart
home system offerings. “The high-touch design is very deliberate. Experts are sharing all aspects of this
project so the client has a really solid understanding by the end of the journey of what they’re buying
into,” notes Wilkinson.

Typically a presentation centre might have a shelf life of a few months as the units sell. The innovation of
the Grand Central Mimico presentation centre lies in how the adaptable space will evolve over time. Made
from interchangeable elements, it’s easy to incorporate new signage, new models, the triptych of finishes
and floor plans on the interactive digital screens as the condo moves to phases two and three.

“This presentation centre invites you in, and you intuitively know where to go next. That hospitality notion
is critical, you feel like you could stay a while,” says Wilkinson. “The Grand Central Mimico presentation
centre reminds me of going to the Interior Design Show on opening night, that sense of high design and the
excitement of seeing the latest and best the industry has to offer.”

Innovation / Division Twelve Chicago Showroom


Chicago is an architecture and design mecca; there’s a head-snapping design moment on practically
every corner so grabbing attention isn’t an easy ask. That was the challenge for Division Twelve, a new
office furniture brand moving into a small 170-square-foot space in the Merchandise Mart building,
located just across from Chicago’s iconic Millennial Park. The bendy, lightweight and stackable metal
furniture in an array of Pop Art colours represents a new facet of office furniture, and it was important
to convey the “irreverent joy” at the heart of the line.

Knowing that the target group was designers, this was a chance for Division Twelve to set themselves
apart and create an Instagrammable moment, according to Mardi Najafi, VP, Retail Strategy and Design at
Figure3. “Having a strong sense of place, a unique location, environment and culture that’s easily
readable as distinct and ownable is how you create that moment — but also how you draw people
back,” he explains.

The first steps were literally about first steps: a facade that would catch the eye of designers walking
down the corridor of theMART, and how to pull them in. The previous tenant of the space had relied on
a standard company logo over the door, but Najafi had to persuade the landlord to let the signage
extend into the hallway to hint at the immersive experience within.

“For us furniture is the pinnacle of
what we do, we want to treat it like art.”
/ Meghan Sherwin

“The shopping journey starts from the outside; we wanted that compelling rubber-neck effect,”
said Najafi. “I had been in theMART and no other tenant had extended their brand and signage beyond
the lease-line. It’s a multi-storey story building that consolidates architectural and interior design
vendors and trades under a single roof, therefore there is a ton of competition.”

To achieve that goal, a vinyl decal envelopes the exterior and gives the compact space a bigger visual
presence. The signage is often tipped on its side, running vertically for a funhouse touch that plays with
expectations. “One of brilliant things about Mardi’s design was to have a funnel effect into the store.
It brings a communal, embracing feel to the brand,” according to Meghan Sherwin, VP Marketing at
Keilhauer (Division 12’s parent company). “Designers aren’t trying to peek at furniture through a window,
the vignettes work really hard for us and naturally draw them in.”

The entrance decal depicts an upside-down mountain, and exploded versions of a Division Twelve stool
spinning through space, hovering from the ceiling and sprouting up through the floor, while a chair is
halved like a magic trick. “When I saw this playfulness in the brand’s tone of voice and colour story, I just
had to bring it to life. Because of limited space we artfully cut some of the furniture in half and applied it
to the exterior niches,” explains Najafi.

Purposely severing a chair is arresting but it also puts craftsmanship on display, tempting designers to
examine the perfectly bent metal tubes, modernist design, joints, details and even its welding. “For us
furniture is the pinnacle of what we do, we want to treat it like art or jewelry, like it’s incredibly special.
But these innovative vignettes showcase the craftsmanship in a different way, breaking the standard
convention of furniture presentation,” according to Sherwin. Designers will sit on a chair or stool in a
showroom, but they won’t flip it over to examine the construction, workmanship and materials. “This
is amazingly simple furniture, but well-constructed. The manufacturing is outstanding,” Najafi explains.
“When you turn it over and touch it, you can see it’s built to last a lifetime.”

“When I saw this playfulness in the brand’s
tone of voice and colour story
, I just had
to bring it to life.”
/ Mardi Najafi

“The entire showroom is designed to constantly evolve and refresh. The furniture in the niches can be
changed as well as the quirky imagery of a rusty mountain range printed on a vinyl mural inside the
space,” explains Najafi. “Nature always gets it right,” surmises Sherwin. “The colour combo of scenic
photography, part of Cosette’s branding, can be iconic and inspiring. Designers look all over the world
for visuals that can spark some creativity. I hope they pick Division Twelve furniture but I also hope the
colours speak to them. I love the friction and juxtaposition: nature with our man-made steel furniture
is just really visually interesting.”

Another standout design element inside is the bold colour blocking (especially inside niches) that ties
in to the palette of the furniture. “Colour sparks emotion,” says Sherwin. “We started with strong,
unexpected colour blocking that complements or contrasts and hope that it sparks creativity with
designers. Colour is a compelling part of the brand.” A teal wall is simply embellished with a mission
statement in raised lettering, creating an art gallery effect.

Crucially, versatility was built in, with space for re-skinning the sidewalls and graphics that can be easily
changed up based on marketing. The Division Twelve messaging can constantly evolve to reflect new
messaging and product. “That’s a really big element in retail, it needs to be able to be refreshed,”
Najafi says.

Next up, elements of Figure3’s design will be on display in Division Twelve’s New York and Toronto
showrooms. The future of office furniture in a post pandemic world is a little harder to foresee.
Candy-hued, stackable lightweight furniture that can be hastily rearranged to accommodate a
shifting, transitory workforce may just be the shot of happiness that employers are clamouring for.

Innovation / Flight Centre


Occupying almost five floors of a 7-storey brick-and-beam heritage building, Flight Centre’s Toronto head office
is anything but boring. Complete with an open-concept floor plan featuring an array of private meeting rooms
and innovative custom graphics, the space fully embodies the brand’s desire for creating a space that connects
the team together and tells a story of world travel.

As you enter the office on the seventh floor, you’re welcomed by Flight Centre’s green-canopied pub cafe
known as the Flight Deck and park-like lounge and lunch area that forms the Central Hub. A bold industrial-style
interconnecting staircase is situated at the heart, connecting each of the floors and team members together.
The overall layout is designed with colour-coordinated neighbourhoods that blend and complement each other
through the office journey. The showstopper in the space is undoubtedly the innovative graphics created by the
Figure3 team. To flawlessly realize Flight Centre’s philosophy, “To open up the world for those who want to see”,
murals of street-view photography, world maps, and experiential graphics are on display throughout.

“We wanted the experience of walking through the office akin to a journey around the globe; an alluring
interpretation of the exotic colours, textures, cultures, adventure, wonders and mysteries we all share through
world travel,” says Steve Tsai of Figure3.

Aerial photography was creatively composed to create contemporary and unique graphic art applications,
featuring landmarks and destinations from prominent locations around the world, that would take form in
full-height wall coverings, supersized canvas art and cushion covers.

“Seeing the world from above is
fascinating, The striking aerial imagery
provides a unique way to experience
the places we travel to.”

“Seeing the world from above is fascinating,” says Suzanne Wilkinson, Principal at Figure3. “The striking aerial
imagery provides a unique way to experience the places we travel to.”

When it came down to realizing the concept, photos from selected landmarks first had to match the various
colour zones throughout the office, and were tested over the course of several months. Various photographers
were sought out during the process for globe-spanning coverage. After the initial selection, a patterning test
assessed whether each photograph chosen had the potential to make an impactful and artful graphic prior
to final art creation.

While each of the aerial images are manipulated and patternized in a similar way, they all exude a different look
and feel. The Chrysler Building in New York City yields an Art Deco feel while the Pudong District in Shanghai
embodies a kaleidoscopic allure. The appearance of graphics from a macro level seem abstract. However, when
the viewer stops to digest the art, the experience is completely different.

“Once viewers are drawn in to each colourful and curiosity-provoking piece, they soon discover that the
intricate patterns are in fact made up of aerial views of landmark destinations,” says Tsai.

Other landmarks chosen for this project included the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Trafalgar Square in London, the CN
Tower and Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Garden of Stones in Hong Kong,
Hotel Kia Ora in Rangiro, Canada Place in Vancouver, Eixample District in Barcelona and Singapore Opera
House in Singapore.

Storytelling and travel go hand-in-hand, which is why the graphic concept works perfectly in this office. To the
viewer, be it the employee or a visitor to the space, the different graphics can evoke memories of travel or
inspire the person in the work they’re doing. It was all about creating an emotional experience for Flight Centre.

Innovation / Penguin Random House


What was once a tiny shoe repair shop is now Penguin Random House’s playful, adaptable and very
Instagrammable store for book superfans alike. Located in the lobby of 320 Front Street in Toronto, the 158
square-foot space proves that size really doesn’t matter. Mardi Najafi, Director of retail design at Figure3, and
his team were tasked to help create a branded environment that could be used by the editors and authors of
the publishing giant.

“Penguin Random House didn’t want a conventional retail store as they were already distributing to Chapters
and other book stores across Canada,” says Najafi. Robert Wheaton, now the chief strategy and operations
officer at the publishing house, put together an in-house task force to help pin-point the goals for the small
format space.

The objective was to create a space that would become an extension of the brand and a way to develop a
direct relationship with the consumers of the publishing house. Sales was also part of the goal but wasn’t
given the highest priority at the time due to its location. “We knew, from a real estate stand point, that we were
limited to only people coming into the building,” explains Najafi. “It was not a prime location; it was not
exposed on the high street, there was low expectation.”

Which is why a simple gift shop just wouldn’t do. The design of the space had to be compelling enough for
their intended target group to come out of their way to visit the store and yet still somehow operate in an
incredibly compact fashion. The design team looked to micro apartments in cities like Paris, New York and
Tokyo to gather inspiration for smart ways on utilising a small footprint – particularly ideas for smart storage.
“It has proven to be a great marketing and brand extension vehicle; and industry visitors from around the
world will ask about the store,” says Robert Wheaton.

“It has proven to be a great marketing
and brand extension vehicle; and industry
visitors from around the world will ask
about the store”

“The clutter of books in a small space would come across as additional visual noise, therefore it was important
to find innovative solutions and to not obstruct the marketing messages,” explains Najafi. During their
bi-weekly touchpoints, the Penguin Random House team each had branded notebooks that featured classic
Penguin book spines on the cover. “Robert gave me one and that was my eureka moment,” says Najafi.
“What would excite a book lover more than large-scale books?”

Oversized, pantry-style pull out storage designed to look like book spines were added to the concept, along
with hideaway spots for the POS and pull-out tables and stools to be used for social events. Najafi and the
team also proposed tech elements which included an after-hours kiosk with facial recognition technology to
help collect data, and an interactive video wall to be placed at the back of the store. The high-level estimates
came in above budget. Therefore, the team went through a value-engineering process aiming to get closer
to the initial project budget. The first step was to eliminate the technology touchpoints. The cost of upkeep
for the hardware updates and creating content would not fit within the budget.

Even without the fancy tech bits, the store is still evolving thanks to interchangeable elements like the magnetic
book spines that can easily be changed for marketing initiatives. The space has successfully been used
for planned events, casual drop-by signing and offers everything from Penguin Random House merchandise
and signed books to special edition copies of some of the most popular classics. “We hosted a full ‘takeover’
for the launch of Lilly Singh’s book, How To Be A Bawse: A Guide To Conquering Life, which the author
shared on her Instagram Stories,” says Wheaton, who is beyond delighted with the result of the space.

The shop has not only created a destination for their book lovers, but is now leveraging social media to draw
and send out signals for book signings. As a publishing house, social media or marketing wasn’t top priority
for Penguin Random House because it happened through their books. The hype generated by the shop reminded
the Penguin Random House team of the power of social media and how they could leverage the amazing
network of book super fans as a great marketing platform.

The attention Penguin Shop received was overwhelmingly positive. From viral on social media to an award
nomination from Interior Design Magazine, and winning the ARIDO Award for Project of the Year; top honours
in the interior design industry.

“Let’s not forget, this was 2015,” says Najafi. “It was such a fresh approach, it was considered a pioneering
project before small format and pop-up shops even became a mainstream trend. It’s amazing to see how
well-received this shop still is today.”