Designing a Creative Service Hub Fit for Detroit

May 12, 2021 | Commercial

Detroit has always been a city where creativity thrives. From visual art to music to manufacturing—artists of every medium have found inspiration and camaraderie here. With a rich legacy, an ecosystem of artists and creative businesses are building Detroit's vibrant future.

Nicole Piach, Co-Owner and Vice President of Banner Sign Co., continues to be a conduit of creative innovation—both for her family-owned company and for Detroit. Founded in 1924, Banner Sign Co. provided handcrafted illustrations to generations of local businesses. In the 1990’s, Nicole brought large format printing to the company, extending its creative capabilities to include custom printing on acoustic panels, fabrics, wall coverings, tiles and so much more. Today, these services are housed under the Digital Print Specialties (DPS) brand, with a mission to help even more Detroiters get their dreams down in ink. 

“I really loved learning about Nicole’s work,” said Taylor Wiedemann, Senior Designer at RL Concetti. “Now so many others will be able to learn about these companies too—that was one of the goals of our partnership.” 

Taylor met Nicole while she was representing RL Concetti at a Design Core Detroit event. The timing could not have been better, as Nicole was in the midst of renovating a building to serve as a public space for Detroiters to engage with the array of print and design services provided by her companies. 

“I love that we met Nicole at a creative event. It was very serendipitous,” said Rachel Nelson, Founder and Principal Designer at RL Concetti. “Nicole told us she had an awesome building in a perfect location. Her vision was to house multiple printing companies, along with a complementary business that Detroit was lacking: a luxury paint store.” 

By adding Detroit’s first Benjamin Moore to the mix, Nicole was creating a multi-service hub for artists, business owners, home improvement enthusiasts, and many more, to come and explore Detroit’s most innovative paint and printing services. 


Discover the Objectives Behind the Design

There are many objectives to consider when designing a commercial space. As strategic interior designers, RL Concetti places the business mission at the center of their three-phased design process. This ensures that objectives are defined early, and that every design solution is working to elevate one overarching goal. During the first phase of their work, RL Concetti set out to discover an interior design solution that achieved Nicole’s mission to connect Detroiters to creative services that foster a collaborative community. 

“Nicole had an empty space, a tight timeline, and a big challenge. We set out to help zero in on the end goal and how we could give her the best ROI on her space,” said Rachel. “Even when we’re working on a challenging deadline, the discovery phase is instrumental. By asking all of our questions up front we were able to co-create with Nicole as well as with our team most effectively.”

Together with Nicole, the RL Concetti designers began illustrating the objectives for the space. Their blank canvas was the entryway to the building. Here, RL Concetti was tasked with designing a space that would represent the different brands and serve their varying clientele. 

“This area would serve as a first impression when you walk in. It was really important that we conveyed a bit of each company,” said Nicole. “They pulled a lot of information out. They asked me what was important to the space, what my clients meant to me, what our values were. They took this summary and applied it to a real physical setting. It was really impressive.”


The designers began to envision each person that might walk through the door. The small business owner picking up their signs for a trade show, a family coming in to pick out paint for their home, or the design professional presenting samples to their client. 

“We were really cognizant of every user experience,” said Taylor. “We wanted the entire realm of people who came through the space to feel like it was made for them.”

By asking thoughtful and thorough questions during the discovery phase, RL Concetti was able to contextualize the desired functionality of the space. The once empty entryway was suddenly a warm welcome area, a collaboration space, a showroom experience, and even a place to host events and creative workshops. 

“Our design process doesn’t just create a beautiful environment. It finds the soul of the space,” said Rachel. “By considering everyone from the homeowner who wants a can of paint to the artist who wants to host an event, Nicole now has a space which supports community connections to her brand.”

All of this up-front work culminates into a holistic design solution that is centered on both the business and the consumer as seen in the 3D interior design rendering below. 


Branding A Built Space with Interior Design

While a commercial space is about serving the customer, it is also an opportunity to extend a company’s story.  “My ask for them was to come up with a design that was experiential in feel but that was also timeless and represented our companies,” said Nicole. “From the historical representation of Banner Sign Co. to the printed features—they really captured us.” 

Through strategic interior design, the RL Concetti team created a functional commercial space that had a natural flow and grace of an artistic experience. Luscious florals printed over steel and brick become even more inviting with vintage mid-century chairs, sofas, and fringed hanging lamps. Wallcoverings of Detroit’s historic cityscape come alive against vibrant custom chairs and bold color blocks.

“We wanted to create an inspiring gallery-like setting where our client could showcase all of their capabilities,” said Rachel. “This is a space where people can engage with printed wallpaper, acoustic panels, and other offerings that get their creative wheels turning. The objective is to inspire the clientele to utilize the full range of creative possibilities that are only possible with DPS.”

The design incorporated custom-printed materials from Digital Print Specialties, as well as the company’s color palette. “One of the big inspirations we took from was the logo,” said Taylor. “We extrapolated on the colors by identifying graphics and patterns that not only represented the brands but helped to define the functional areas.”

The design strategy also aimed to be a starting point for a well-designed in-store experience “We wanted to form a holistic approach to how clients would experience the entire building and brands,” said Rachel. “We coordinated our efforts with the rest of the space so the customer experience would feel cohesive—from the greeting area to the back door. We took sightlines into account and used color blocking from the logo as a visual guide to the other areas of the space.”


“What’s beautiful about working with RL Concetti is that you get to see their talent and process in full. That’s truly the reason you hire professionals,” said Nicole. “In the design process, it was clear we were on the exact same page. We all had the same vision and could finish each other’s sentences.” 


Talented Team Collaboration

While the 3D rendering provides the client a clear view into the design, it also provides a roadmap for a strategic build out. “While we were putting the pieces together for the floor plan and 3D rendering, we were also putting our execution list together,” said Rachel. “We were able to see what would need the biggest lead time, and started selecting local talent who could make it all happen.”

A major goal of Nicole’s space was to serve the design professionals and artists of Detroit. RL Concetti brought this into the build out by calling on their rolodex of phenomenal local partners to help bring their multi-faceted design to fruition. 

“We are the common thread between all of the different trades,” said Taylor. “As design strategists, we oversee the making of the end goal and advocate for our clients throughout the build. We want to make sure every contractor understands the design intent and how their piece of the puzzle fits.”

During the build out, RL Concetti’s first call was to Jason Moreen and his team who created the large-scale elements, including custom floor-to-wall dividers, built-in benches, and multi-use collaboration tables. Line Studio Detroit handcrafted a terrazzo table top to adorn the bench, and Julian Del Campo contributed his signature Waft chairs to complete the collaborative space. 

RL Concetti hand-sourced local vintage furniture, which was reupholstered by Harper Upholstery Workroom. Nicole’s trusted electrician helped illuminate each section of the build out, including the vintage bookshelf complete with Nicole’s literature on historical signage.

“RL Concetti is the designer of the space, but we also assemble the team of local Detroiters to make it all happen,” said Rachel. “It’s in our mission to use local artists, lift talented people up, and give credit where credit is due.”

“They couldn’t have picked a better team—it was so seamless. Each piece does it’s job beautifully. Everything stands alone but also works so well with everything around it, said Nicole. “Everytime someone new comes into the space they say ‘WOW’, which is so gratifying. “I'm really looking forward to inviting everyone to come in and see.”

From the functionality of the gallery of design services and multi-use areas to the custom-made furniture—each piece and each unique area plays a part in the overall goal: to make a collaborative creative space made for and by Detroiters. 

“Seeing all these people, capabilities, hard work, and collaboration—we really have a special city. This project made me fall in love with Detroit even more,” said Rachel. “To work for this historic business that’s serving Detroit’s residents, businesses, and creatives—it’s a little love story for me.”

See The Color Bloc Building in person!

Visit Nicole and the Digital Print Specialties team in the heart of Detroit’s Milwaukee Junction. The new design space is open for you to enjoy. 6538 Russell St, Detroit, MI

Ready to discover the soul of your commercial space?

Our passion is helping companies reimagine their built spaces. We can help you create interiors that help reach business goals, inspire customers, and bring your brand to life.


Need more inspiration?

Checkout RL Concetti’s portfolio of commercial interior design projects, including Detroit’s Cass Collective, The Film Lab, Dangerously Delicious Pies, and so much more