Designing to Eliminate the Traditional “Line”: Teller Pods Vs. Counters

As branch transactions continue to decline, the thoughts of branch transformation continue to be important to the strategic growth objectives of financial institutions and their need to consider the redesign or reconfiguration of their current facilities.  Essential steps in making this branch evolution include integrating new technology, and introducing new processes that can perform the same traditional financial transactions in smaller physical spaces, with increased efficiency and less staff.

One approach that many of our current clients are inquiring about, and investigating, is the movement away from traditional teller lines or teller counters and toward the teller pod concept.  The teller pod, and this alternative style of transaction delivery, was originally introduced and made popular as an up-and-coming trend by Washington Mutual (WaMu) several years ago.  This new approach to branch design replaces the traditional teller counter with “pods” where customers or members stand side-by-side with the tellers, rather than opposite them, behind a counter.  The pod concept gives the  lobby an open and spacious feel and removes the barriers between customers/members and tellers, which many feel is a more personal approach.

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Enhancing Brand Identity in the Fast Casual Dining Market

In today’s busy world, dining options are constantly evolving.  While companies like McDonald’s and Burger King have controlled the fast food market in the past, a new hybrid has emerged on the scene in recent years called fast casual food.  According to The Washington Post, “The market for fast casual food, which is almost but not quite fast food, has grown by 550 percent since 1999, more than ten times the growth seen in the fast food industry over the same period.”  Fast casual dining aims to capture patrons who are looking for dining at similar price points as fast food but with better quality ingredients, more interesting options and unique, inviting spaces. makes the claim that “To keep up with fast-casual players, more quick-service restaurants are updating the look and feel of their interior and exterior design.”

Within the past year, K4 has been fortunate to partner with the up-and-coming local fast casual dining company Tom + Chee, that you may have seen on ABC’s Shark Tank.  We were hired to develop layouts for every new franchise location and have worked with them to provide the best space possible for more efficiently producing the variety of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup that they are famous for.  With the number of dining options on the market it is essential that Tom + Chee have the quickest systems available with interesting branding throughout their stores and seating options suitable to the clientele and flow of traffic.

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Vacation Leads to Personal Development and Increased Creativity in Life and Work

Spring is in the air! As the warm weather rolls in and the days get longer, it’s the perfect time to take a break, breathe some fresh air and get out of town!  What better way to boost creativity, gain a new perspective and increase work productivity than travelling. Successful writers, artists and even physicists have had some of their best discoveries and successes while away from home or living abroad. Travel allows your mind to relax and be open to new experiences and ideas. As the famous writer J.R.R. Tolkien said, “Not all who wander are lost.”

Travel Boosts Creativity.

Curiosity of a new environment can awaken your senses and make you acutely aware of your surroundings.  Whether it’s a remote countryside in Scotland or a trendy London restaurant; exposure to culture, movement, color, and texture provide you with new experiences that can be interpreted and transferred into your daily life or your next design project.

London, England     Isle of the Skye, Scotland     Montreal, Canada

London, England                                      Isle of the Skye, Scotland                                   Montreal, Canada
Author’s Own Photos

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Teamwork: An Essential Feature of an Exceptional Building Program

Since the process by which buildings are designed and built entails the efforts of many interested parties, a very important feature of an exceptional building program is good teamwork.  As the design team point person, there are many ways the project architect can contribute to the achievement of successful teamwork.

As is true with any endeavor, the business of achieving high quality teamwork is enhanced by effective communication – the topic of my blog posted 12/8/14.

At the inception of a project, all members of the design team must be informed of and understand the Client’s budget, time frame and design parameters for the project.  In accord with that information, agreements must be entered into with the Client and consulting engineers which concisely describe the scope of design services by and compensation for each member of the design team.

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Interactive Teller Machines

As teller transactions continue to be on the decline each year, financial institutions are exploring new and better ways to define the overall branch experience. Branch transformation seems to be an everyday part of our vocabulary as designers for financial institutions, since banks and credit unions seem to be in constant evolution with their facility design.  Branch networks are challenged to provide more efficient operations and staffing, while continuing to provide enhanced services to differentiate themselves in their marketplace and reinforce their brand.

One approach that seems to be gaining momentum is the introduction of Interactive Teller Machines or ITMs.  These devices are capturing the attention of the financial industry because of the potential to reduce both personnel and operating costs, while offering greater security features and reducing the risk of fraud and the threat of robbery.  Financial institutions staff the ITM’s with live tellers, serving several branches and drive through facilities from a central location or call center by means of real time video.

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Building Industry Overdue for Disruptive Innovation

I recently finished reading The Innovators by Walter Isaacson, who also authored the  Steve Jobs biography. Both books are amazing reads of the “who’s who” among digital pioneers who are behind the technology driving everything we now take for granted. The digital age exploded with the invention of the microchip- and Moore’s Law, which predicted that the complexity-factor in micro components, read ‘capacity’, would double at a factor of 2 per year, while the costs would halve. This has proven itself out and led to us all carrying around complex micro-computers in our pockets everyday.

“…a key lesson for innovation: Understand which industries are symbiotic so that you    can capitalize on how they will spur each other on. If someone could provide a pithy and accurate rule for predicting the trend lines, it would help entrepreneurs and venture       capitalists to apply this lesson.

- The Innovators, p. 183

So what does all this have to do with the Building Industry? Unfortunately, not much. While new products are being developed with newer, lighter, stronger and more energy efficient materials, and there have been leaps in the technology and software to design and model new buildings, there have been exactly zero disruptive changes to  the way buildings actually get built.

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Pantone Color of the Year 2015…Reactions from an Interior Design Perspective.

Whether you look forward to the announcement of Pantone’s Color of the Year or not, there is always a mixed reaction amongst design professionals:  good, bad, or indifferent.  From the perspective of an Interior Designer I would have to say that my reaction is indifferent…please allow me to explain.

Pantone Reveals Color of the Year for 2015: PANTONE 18-1438 Marsala

This hearty, yet stylish tone is universally appealing and translates easily to fashion, beauty, industrial design, home furnishings and interiors. Leatrice Eiseman Executive Director, Pantone Color Institute®

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“This hearty, yet stylish tone is universally appealing and translates easily to fashion, beauty, industrial design, home furnishings and interiors.” -Leatrice Eiseman Executive Director, Pantone Color Institute®

As a professional Interior Designer, I am teased quite a bit by my colleagues (aka Architects) who affectionately refer to me as a “color picker.”   I always grin and correct them with “That’s color picker extraordinaire to you!”  Let’s just say (for the sake of my colleagues), one of my many tasks as an Interior Designer is to pick colors.  According to Pantone, they have our profession in mind when choosing the “Color of the Year,” so I thought I should weigh in on the subject.

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Biking, Architecture, and the Economic Benefits of Wasson Way.

As a mode of transportation and recreation, biking has grown exponentially in popularity over the past decade, according to a recent CNN report. Slow to initially embrace this trend, Cincinnati has begun to implement more trails, bike lanes and even bike sharing, all with successful results.

One of these potential trails which offers the possibility of connecting numerous eastern Cincinnati corridor neighborhoods is the Wasson Way.  The proposed route of six and a half miles would stretch from Xavier University to the existing Little Miami trail near Mariemont. It would re-purpose an existing right of way which is not longer used by the Norfolk Southern Railroad company and remove their railroad tracks to be replaced by a paved, lit and well marked trail. If completed, the trail would connect Evanston, Norwood, Hyde Park, Oakley, Mt Lookout, Fairfax, and Mariemont.

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What Is Interior Design?

My role at K4 is an Interior Designer.  So when someone asks me what I do for a living and I tell them I am an Interior Designer their first reaction is “Oh cool, you have a fun job,” followed by “Can you come and do my house?”  This common misconception led me to write this blog post describing Interior Design and breaking down the differences between an Interior Designer and an Interior Decorator.  There are some pretty major distinctions, as described below.

Interior Designer vs. Interior Decorator

Projects undertaken by an Interior Designer vary widely as the profession is multi-faceted and not always clearly defined.  Terms such as decorator and designer are often used interchangeably. However, there is a distinction between the terms that relates to the scope of work performed, the level of education attained, and often, professional accreditation as an Interior Designer.  Another big difference is that Interior Designers typically work more on commercial projects where Decorators focus more on residential projects.

What is Interior Design?

Interior Design is creative discipline which requires developing and implementing practical solutions that are applied within a space to complete a built interior environment. These solutions are functional, aesthetically pleasing, and enhance the quality of life and culture of the occupants.  It is the process of shaping the experience of the interior space, through the manipulation of spatial volume as well as surface treatment.  It draws on aspects of environmental psychology, architecture, and product design in addition to traditional decoration.

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Achieving Effective Communication in the Role of the Architect

Effective communication is a necessary component of any high quality service.  Achieving effective communication begins with transmitting clear, concise information and following-up to see that it has been received, understood and, if necessary, responded to.


The design and construction of a building project entails addressing numerous issues over a time frame lasting anywhere from several weeks to several years.  In addition, many matters involve the input of several interested parties viewing the matters from different perspectives.   Consequently, the process will frequently entail prolonged give-and-take communications by more than two participants as opposed to a single transmission of information which is replied to with unqualified agreement.  Below are a few things I’ve learned over several decades while playing the architect’s role in this process.

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