Interview with designer allen international (ai), regarding views on design, and for the award-winning design National Bank of Greece's I-Bank Digital Gateway.

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Interview with allen international at Friday 20th of April 2012: DI: What is the main principle, idea and inspiration behind your design?
ai : The concept’s primary goal is to attract and acquire new i-bank customers. To educate and train in the use of electronic banking channels: Internet Banking, Mobile Banking, Phone Banking, Auto Payment Systems. Therefore in line with this goal the overall inspiration that shaped the final design was the creation of a digital gateway, metaphorically and architecturally.

DI: What has been your main focus in designing this work? Especially what did you want to achieve?
ai : To create a customer experience that would challenge local customers perceptions of the National Bank Of Greece. An environment that would utilise the latest digital communication technologies to engage the consumer. We were focussed on developing a space that would utilise a contrast of technology and natural materials to demonstrate the brands commitment to ecology and break from the purely hi-tech aesthetic that customers may expect from such a concept. Finally, to create an environment that will feel as different to traditional banking spaces as possible.

DI: What are your future plans for this award winning design?
ai : NBG have built a further 2 i-bank branches in different locations across Greece and our hope is to work with them to expand the concept to further locations and formats in the future.

DI: How long did it take you to design this particular concept?
ai : Approximately 12 months.

DI: Why did you design this particular concept? Was this design commissioned or did you decide to pursuit an inspiration?
ai : Our company allen international specialise in retail design and particular financial retail design. We have been fortunate to work with NBG on several projects in the past including their branch network. We were approached by the bank to develop this new format based upon our previous successful working partnership with them.

DI: Is your design being produced or used by another company, or do you plan to sell or lease the production rights or do you intent to produce your work yourself?
ai : The concept is solely for the use of the National Bank Of Greece.

DI: What made you design this particular type of work?
ai : Our strong experience in retail store design and brand identity development led us to begin working with financial institutions over 15 years ago. We utilise strong retail principles to design total customer experiences for banking clients.

DI: Where there any other designs and/or designers that helped the influence the design of your work?
ai : The simplicity of the Apple store was an influence on the concept generally in terms on the degree of innovation we wanted to pursue for this project. It was also an influence as it captures the the overall ambience we wanted to create, a space that feels more like a community space than hard sell store.

DI: Who is the target customer for his design?
ai : We designed a concept that we believe will appeal to both a young and old customer segments of different backgrounds but essentially to those whom would not generally consider using traditional NBG branches. Early signs since the space has been opened indicate the concept has this cross demographic appeal we targeted.

DI: What sets this design apart from other similar or resembling concepts?
ai : It's concept, aesthetics and operation.

DI: How did you come up with the name for this design? What does it mean?
ai : The i-bank name was already registered and in use by NBG. We developed names for the various zones in the space via careful strategic development of their uses and the atmosphere we wanted to create within each. These zone names included the i-amphitheatre, i-lounge, ambassadors bar and entrance portal.

DI: Which design tools did you use when you were working on this project?
ai : During it's conceptual development: traditional Sketching, Vectorworks modelling software, Cinema 4D visualisation software, Adobe illustrator and photoshop for graphic development, Adobe after effects for the production of the on screen digital communications and C-nario for the broadcast of the digital contents across the screens. Audacity software for the mixing of the unique audio soundtrack we compiled to broadcast across the space.

DI: What is the most unique aspect of your design?
ai : We believe the culmination of aesthetics, architectural features and technology for the delivery of banking services makes it a unique design and experience.

DI: Who did you collaborate with for this design? Did you work with people with technical / specialized skills?
ai : Our internal team of designers as credited on the project details. Client side the Alternative Channel Division at NBG and their internal architects, technical division and marketing team. The talented external suppliers and construction companies whom all worked together made the concept a reality: -Technology provider & content management: Panou company, Web: , local representative for the C-nario software. -Vertical Garden: supplier VitaVerde, -Interior fit out main contractor -AcrylicArt, D. Markakos company,

DI: What is the role of technology in this particular design?
ai : It is the key to guiding, showcasing and delivering the services the customer will obtain from the brand. It immerses, engages and leads the user through the space. A fundamental part of the concept without which their could be no design!

DI: Is your design influenced by data or analytical research in any way? What kind of research did you conduct for making this design?
ai : Research undertaken by the National Bank Of Greece formed the basis of the design strategy we developed and final design delivered.

DI: What are some of the challenges you faced during the design/realization of your concept?
ai : Realising such a unique design that had never been piloted before provided a huge challenge particularly in the time scale of the project.

DI: How did you decide to submit your design to an international design competition?
ai : By researching the awards available in the market that had the high caliber of design entries submitted we wanted to be associated with.

DI: What did you learn or how did you improve yourself during the designing of this work?
ai : That a design vision demands a fair degree of stubbornness, particularly in the present economic climate!

DI: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
ai : No, just to thank you for the opportunity to enter the competition and showcase the work and talent our company has within! This has been a true team project and a great partnership between client and designers.