Everything Affinity does is through the lens of their members. Affinity has a bond with their membership and commitment to being there for them that is foundational to the organization’s culture. In developing a new branch experience, we wanted to find a way to create an environment that recognized and supported this.
Affinity is the largest credit union in New Jersey, and they were seeking to transform their member experience through new digital solutions, a universal teller platform, and enhanced assisted service.
Our concept was quite simple. We wanted to develop a gathering space for members and staff. The challenge is we of course need to have a functioning bank branch with a teller line—although there was a migration plan for eventually swapping-out teller stations for digital solutions—private offices, and staff work areas. We developed an idea of a single thread that began outside the branch, in the front, with a garden and sitting space for members. This thread continued inside to a high-counter, then onto a comfortable lounge with a range of low seating options, then to a “counter-service” for questions and digital education, and on to the teller line. This single thread was metaphorically connecting the members and staff—through their activities—and defining new spaces within the branch. For example, besides the garden in the front, the high-counter was a place for elderly members in the neighborhood to meet for their morning coffee. The lounge was a place for members to relax, and the counter service was a flexible new space for interactions and engagements that fell outside the traditional banking typologies. It was a new informal counter space where Affinity could teach members how to use digital tools, it was a place to have an informal conversation over a cup of coffee, it was a place to simply sit down and talk.
The sinuous form of the counter, or thread, helped to pull all the spaces together while at the same defining different zones. The architecture of thread consisted of soft curves with bends, recesses, and protrusions. The thread is the central organizing element of the new space and creates a range of different types of spaces with varying levels of privacy and intimacy.
The thread concept is also a tool for laying out new branches. There is a basic kit-of-parts which is then added-to for varying size branches. The thread has a unique shape in each new location, with minimal compromise to the cost-efficiency of the modular system as only the bends in-between the modular segments are unique. The design system allows the Affinity facilities team to easily assess new real estate options using the equivalent of a set of ColorformTM elements to quickly layout out a new branch and determine what program fits.
The new branch concept was greatly received by members and Affinity staff. They continue to roll-out the design and experience concept with minor adjustments from our prototype location. To date, Affinity has implemented the design in more than 10 locations throughout New Jersey. They also have made extensive use of the new branches for advertising.