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An interactive fair experience that gets people talking


How do we get visitors talking about Flanders' finest industries?

Toerisme Vlaanderen and AIR approached Achilles Design to help them create a unique fair experience abroad, that would help in getting professional interest in Flanders' industries. We took on the challenge of developing the experience concept, technical development, production and installation in less than 6 weeks.
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Concepts that tell unique stories and get visitors talking about the different assets that Flanders' industries have to offer. We started by exploring many different creative ideas, each of which illustrated interesting features of the Flemish industries and heritage.  

Enjoying a custom, high-tech beer that is brewed with an ingredient that has its roots in each industry? An aroma-therapy room with scents from Flanders? Or why don't we make a fictional, artful encyclopedia that explains Flanders in a completely idiosyncratic way, a "Codex Flandrianus"?

The idea
We eventually settled on an idea that took talking about industries quite literally. Using quotes from Flanders' most influential industry and opinion leaders, we started creating a concept of visualing their sound. We would capture the visitors attention with sculptures and sculpture giveaways that symbolized the quote. To put the cherry on the cake, we would enable them to visualize their own sound on the spot too. With these three ideas combined we would create visitor engagement and serve as a uniqe conversation starter.
The sound sculpture
A first product that supported the experience, was a sculpture that translated the soundwave of a pre-recorded quote into a 3D-printed sculpture, produced by using a mix of coding and CAD-work. These were then translated into eye-catching big sculptures and smaller, artful desktop sculptures for giveaways.
The kinetic wall
A second product that supported the experience, was a kinetic sculpture that would take the visitors' quote. It takes your vocal input and translates that into an artful motion on a large panel. Over a few weeks, we developed the sculptures way of operating as well as its technical implementation from hardware to software.
The third product that supported the experience was a small give away that visitors could take with them as a souvenir. It's a miniature version of the sound sculpture. This small sculpture is placed on a laser-printed plate, on which one of the quotes has been engraved.
The result
Over the period of a few weeks, we took the challenge, translated and delivered all the elements that created a unique experience to be used on the foreign campaign of Toerisme Vlaanderen. The convention booth featured our kinetic sculpture and 3D-printed sculptures for each represented industry. Special guests received a giveaway version of relevant opinion after fair attendence.

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Setting up an innovation portfolio for Kambukka


How do we keep re-inventing the products we are known for?

How do we keep pushing the boundaries in this ever growing market of reusable drinkware and foodware? That is the challenge that was given to us by Kambukka, a forward-thinking company known for high-quality drinking bottles.
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Creating a innovation framework to continuously produce and manage a bulk of ideas
We didn't want to deliver a one-off batch of ideas, but decided to build and deliver an innovation framework that enabled the client to continuously output new directions for tomorrow. It should be possible to quickly assess trends, devise new market segments and product categories, and translate them into fully defined product concepts. Our framework should also come pre-filled with exciting concepts of our own, to kickstart the process.
Framework design
We started out with establishing the different strategic options that can be considered when it comes to corporate innovation. The new brand needed the right tools to strenghten their current position and product portfolio. Therefore we emphasized the discovery and valuation of new products and product features for their current categories. We identified and explored two opportunity areas: the functions the brand could offer the consumer and the different usage motivations they could adress.
Impactful ideation
Bringing together product functions and user motivations created clear problem spaces, that enabled our team to perform an ideation to pre-fill our framework work with exciting product and product features. The method allowed for non-obvious, differentiating new ideas to support lifestyles and rituals, new ways of serving, organizing the storage or even the preparation of drinks.
Product definition & decision making
Our method easily produced hundreds of valuable ideas. We supported our client in decision making by creating a trade-off system that valued and scored each individual idea. New product definitions could be made by intelligently combining high-performing features. These product and service candidates were then conceptualized and assessed for their ability to excite the user, compete in the market and economic potential.
During this two-week process, we provided the client with a framework that already produced +100 fresh ideas. To this date, several of these products and features are being rolled out into product development. The framework now enables the client to produce, log and manage their ideas on several levels, with minimal effort.
Found the need to refresh your innovation portfolio and interested in setting up a similiar program? Get in touch with the experts!


The efficiency of a Belgian retail system in the French retail world


Implement signature checkout process to French legislation

At Colruyt in Belgium, the cashier takes your shopping items directly from your shopping cart, scans them, and loads them into another cart. This saves time and space within the Colruyt system and results in better customer intimacy. Even though the process is very much appreciated by Colruyt’s Belgian customers, this checkout method didn't fully comply with French norms and laws. Rather than just acquiring standard checkout counters and effectively copying the checkout system of other retail chains, Colruyt decided to develop a new checkout counter system that better suited their unique personality.
Belgian supermarket chain Colruyt does everything in its own way. Even the checkout process is unique.

A brand new workflow for clients and cashier

The challenge was to combine Colruyt's cart-to-cart system with a more traditional conveyor belt system. This hybrid checkout had to ensure that the employee would never have to lift heavy items (which is a legal requirement in France). Unlike most checkout counters in Europe, this system has the cashier standing up and make sure they are at the same level as the customer, therefore seeming more approachable and friendly. This also ensures that they are highly mobile allowing for quick personnel handovers. This method leads to enhanced work efficiency.

Verification of concepts in real life

Evidently, ensuring ergonomic comfort for the cashier personnel was absolutely crucial in this project. The best way to create and verify different concepts was using true-size prototypes. Very basic models made of simple materials (wood, cardboard, etc) were used for role playing games, to optimise the workflow. They provided immediate feedback to the design team, on different configurations or variations of the concept.
Process efficiency

Efficiency as a design driver

Process efficiency is the number one KPI at Colruyt. Naturally, this is also reflected in the construction of the checkout counters. A smart breakup into individual modules allows for fast assembly and repairs. The split-up also allowed Colruyt to use many parts left and right reducing the overall part count, cutting down on inventory and transport through nesting parts together.
The result
The result is a unique, friendly, and highly efficient checkout system, which has effectively become a differentiating attribute for Colruyt in France versus its peers. The fact that both cashier and customer are standing next to each other cuts the natural distance between the two and creates more customer intimacy.


Enhancing the readability of pre-packaged meat products in the fresh food department


Making meat products easier to find, identify and choose

Adjusting the space, packaging and arrangements of products in order to support quicker and easier identification and choice among the different qualities, types, cuts and preparations of meat products in the fresh food department. OKay hired Achilles Design for a project that aimed at stimulating the overall performance of their fresh-cut, pre-packaged meat products section of their fresh food department. With other influential trends are also affecting volume, such as new lifestyles and growing climate awareness, the overall goal was to retain a fair market share. Our role was to research, develop and validate solutions for the hypothesis that the current way the products were presented, lacked intuitiveness and was detrimental to the attractiveness of the products. For us, that meant that we had to analyze the design of the space, the packaging, and the customer journey.

Analyzing how we make choices in meat products

With the constraint of limiting scope to the space of using only fresh food department adjustments, we first analyzed the in-store customer journey that leads to the purchase of pre-packaged meat. We therefore had to find out how a consumer is becoming aware of the product range, and then finding out which search attributes and quality cues are used to come closer to a product selection.
Together with the OKay-team, we researched, interviewed, and observed consumers about their process and preferences and observed how employees structured the spaces. Using different methods and prototypes to capture information, we learned what struggles, associations, and perceptions were influencing customer choice and behavior. We generated hypotheses about how the space, range structure and packaging could be optimized to help consumers make choices.

Validating scenarios

From the hypotheses, we generated a range of solutions, ranging from more transformational to incremental. This was done in co-creation with the relevant stakeholders such as the retailers’ buyers, packaging designers, marketeers, infrastructure designers and store managers. Individual items, such as the labels on the packaging or the angle to present a packaging to provide visibility, were combined into total concepts. These were translated into multiple interactive Virtual Reality prototypes of the entire space and components, which we used to immerse and research consumers opinion and behavior.
The concept offers solutions on the level of packaging, section, and section structure.

Spatial service system

The adapted packaging includes a new materialization and label design that facilitates easier and faster identification of meat cut and meat type. For the new packaging concepts, sustainability criteria were also used to generate and select product candidates. The sections got updated with new lighting, new visual cues, quieter colors to promote a premium feel and better visibility on the cuts by optimizing facing and view angles. The validated solution was then summarized and translated into a service blueprint.
The result
The method and output of this service design proved to be a valuable guide to support choices during implementation. By applying the proposed solutions, OKay projects that the revenues and market share in pre-packaged meat are secured and remain competitive in the changing market.


Manage your bicycle fleet

Kipando believes that cycling is one of the key mobility solutions in a changing world of movement. Target is to increase the availability of bicycles through an electronic bike lock integrated with an online service that let bikers locate, and rent a bike. By focusing on the B2B market, the system had to incorporate several points of views from the various stakeholders.
Being a start-up, Kipando needed a partner with a proven track record in designing smart products as well as bicycles. They therefore joined forces with Achilles to develop their service solution. We had to combine strategic service design with state-of-the-art product design, engineering and digital design. We were responsible for the development and total project management.
Customer journey

Mapping out all aspects of the solution from the user’s point of view

We explored different product-service-systems and examined how they affect the use case scenario. Alterations in these product-service-system have a major impact on the user experience, the complexity of the device, the reliability and flexibility of the system and even the overall business model. For example, a GPS antenna in the lock could be great for locating the bike, but it would also consume a lot of battery power, require regular recharging, etc.
Mechanical design

Small, smaller, smallest

A major challenge in this project was to create a bike lock that can withstand brute force, and is still compact, lightweight and allow the bike to be safely locked. We came up with a patented mechanical solution that combines all requirements in a simple and reliable design and that can be easily attached on all standard bikes.

Functional prototypes to validate performance

Prototyping is generally very essential in product design, but it was particularly in this project. Early in the design process, raw prototypes gain insights e.g. on how easy a specific shape would be applicable on different bike frames. Further detailing of the design results in more advanced prototypes that allow verification of functionality and extra performance requirements such as water tightness, durability, etc.
The result
The solution is a bicycle lock that can be accessed either with a smart- phone app using BLE or phoneless with a keypad.. Need a bike? simply order your bike with your mobile phone, and with your mobile in your pocket you can access your bike with a simple push on the button!


Designing a 24/7 store concept


A store that fits the life of busy people, 24/7

Creating a retail concept, targeted at young people who live in or commute through city centers, that supports unplanned shopping missions and facilitates having tasty and balanced meals for the next 24 hours. In 2015, Colruyt Group approached us to develop an idea that was launched by a visionary employee. After helping with tuning the briefing, the challenge was to create a concept that would strengthen the position of the retailer in city centers, to attract new audience and provide an answer to changing shopper motivations, habits and preferences, such as seeking 24/7 instant fulfilment.
We designed all the components and touchpoints of a modern retail concept: the offering, the space and its services in and beyond the physical location. Other than that, we also did the foundations of the product assortment and the means to quickly find instant fulfilment in that assortment by designing a visual identity, a concept for interior and functional furniture and an app concept.

Getting the briefing right

We helped in developing the initial idea by exploring and generating the mission and vision of the retail concept, analyzing and defining its target audience and stakeholders, and finally translating it into challenges that had to be solved.

Designing an identity

Developing a strong identity is a cornerstone in delivering new commercial concepts, as it should immediately reflect what value the consumer can expect. To facilitate conceptualization of services, products, architecture and interiors, we first created an identity that matched the lifestyle of the audience. After interviewing and analyzing how the target audience chooses to spend their time to shop and to dine, we envisioned experiences in storyboards that explained the newly designed journeys. From these service scenarios, we designed all the components and touchpoints of a modern retail concept: the offering, the space and its services in and beyond the physical location. We designed the foundations of the product assortment and the means to quickly find instant fulfilment in that assortment by designing a visual identity, a concept for the interior and furniture and an app concept.

Familiarizing stakeholders with the concept

Prior to discussing the concept, we needed to enable stakeholders to quickly empathize with the target audience. With short presentation slots in mind, a short movie depicting the lives of the target audience was created. The journeys and different concepts were illustrated in detail to make sure the experience was communicated well. To make sure the visceral elements such as light & color recipes were simulated realistically, we built a miniature physical model with working lighting and service details.

A store that adapts it’s experience to the time of day

The retail concept is a small convenience store that blurs the lines between retail and gastronomy, and will be located near busy places, such as railway stations or city centers. It will be open 24/7. We chose to build an identity around ‘appearance recipes’: adapting the total experience to the time of day by changing the lighting, color, store interior & lay-out and assortment and really convey the atmosphere of mornings, lunches, dinner and nighttime consumption.
Visitors of the store who are looking for a quick solution can significantly reduce the hassle of choice and their time in-store by picking from a central “moments-counter”: a piece of furniture that has an assortment for each moment during the day. The counter will be re-oriented during the day, so that a relevant offer is always in the closest proximity of the checkout. Reorienting the counter will also change the appearance of the store: the total experience is altered by a change in lighting, messages displayed on the screens, such as weather forecast that day or local evening events to attend, etc..
The assortment is organized around these times with emphasis on facilitating choice and reducing time in preparation without compromising quality. To be able to pull this off, common items are supplemented with a private label. For each moment, there are ready to heat/eat items as well as inspirational menus with curated self-serve ingredient counters. To be able to match the lifestyle of the target audience, digital services and an app integrate into the experience by providing features that support the journeys: messaging about products, reserving breakfast pick-ups, notifying about new menu’s that match food preferences of couples and groups, offering traffic and commuting insights, etc.
The result
The result is an integral convenience store concept that matches with the busy lives of its target audiences, integrates the digital realm and offers relief for those who have trouble in holding on to routine in shopping, deciding what to eat today or tomorrow, or need something in a moment’s notice.


Delivering a smooth grocery pick-up service


Support and optimize the on-site customer journey

Creating and organizing the spatial elements, being architecture, interaction modules and signalisation to ensure a smooth and branded service delivery for grocery pick-ups. In 2015, Colruyt Group asked us to redefine the grocery pick-up service “Collect & Go”. Doing groceries is often looked at as a nuisance, requiring significant efforts and time. Offering an e-commerce solution can offer relief, on the condition that an excellent service and experience of receiving the goods is provided. Together with their internal design team, we were tasked to design the on-site spatial elements and the user flow to position the service as a fast, dedicated, cost-and-client-friendly service provider.

Analyzing, designing and service scenarios

By analyzing different pick-up types, interviewing consumers and employees, and performing service safaris of both the current and competitive services, we laid out a framework that enabled strategic input and evaluation of design decisions for the customer journey and experience. This was used to initiate a collaborative process of designing new scenarios, tapping into the knowledge of a multidisciplinary team of marketeers, strategists and designers. Newly developed scenarios were used to list and describe the processes and touchpoints that had to be designed or redesigned. Using the criteria, such as total service delivery time, a broad array of solutions were developed: interaction modules, architectural solutions and signalisation concepts.
Moving through iterations and prototypes Gradually adding more detail and integrating partial solutions, we matured the service concept by testing and modifying service flows, architectural designs, interaction modules, interaction concepts and wayfinding. What started with cardboard & paper prototypes and ended with a fully functional prototype.

Spatial service system

The value of its solution is not only how well each individual component is designed. The real value is sum of all its parts, how well they integrate into each other. Reducing the time you spend on picking up your groceries, will depend on the time it takes to understand the architecture, which will be supported by wayfinding solutions or how car-friendly the site is. It will also depend on the time spent on interaction modules, such as the scanning or checkout-module, where the shape of the hardware and or comprehendability of the screens is important. It will even depend on how well you can maneuver your cart through each passage.
The result
The result is a grocery pick-up service point, that is easy to understand and faster in use. It puts more emphasis on supporting and informing the user during the entire journey, from entering the site, to exiting with your groceries.


Design & build of candle chapels


Lighting candles

The Marian pilgrimage site of Scherpenheuvel has existed for over 400 years and remains the most popular pilgrimage town in the Benelux. Many pilgrims light a candle for the Virgin Mary during their visit. This age-old popular devotion is flourishing once more despite the erosion in support the Catholic Church is currently facing. Visitors light a candle in remembrance, to ask a question, or to reflect on something. There is a human story behind every lit candle. The votive candle chapels symbolize the union with Mary. People are not alone in their joy, their worries or their grief.  

Religious symbolism

Scherpenheuvel and the pilgrimage site in particular are permeated with "Marian symbolism". It is, as it were, a total work of art that emblematically shapes the symbolic vision of the Blessed Virgin. Urbanism, architecture, painting and sculpture each contribute to the project in their own way.

To design contemporary solutions for a historical site

The pilgrimage site of Scherpenheuvel asked us to design new candle chapels to replace the old ones. A restoration of the old chapels was not an option since they had no historical value and, moreover, they were not part of a new overall vision for the revaluation of the Pilgrimage site. Our unique challenge was to re-interpret intimate historical design objectives and to revive them in a contemporary solution. Both the functional design of the chapel and the emotional experience of burning candles were central to this challenge.
Empathy is always central to Achilles' work. Empathy is the central key for every design thinker. In this case this means a far-reaching empathy with the pilgrims and the experience of "candle burning". And this by keeping in mind the functional requirements of maintenance and operation of the chapels.

Both their form and function are fully designed to provide 'a soothing encounter with Mary'

The construction is clearly divided between areas used by pilgrims and areas used for maintenance and service. There is a strict division between both main functions (front end and back end), meaning that quick maintenance does not interfere with the intimate and unmediated experience of burning a candle. The chapel also has clear instructions for its use built into its design. Special day candles were developed for the chapel. Thanks to the Marian crown at the top, they are perfect for burning outside. The cardboard lids serve as intention cards and enable people to share their stories with Mary.

Marian symbolism and integration

The pattern of the rear wall depicts a rosebush, the symbol of Mary, much like the arctic starflower and the private garden surrounding the Basilica. Thanks to the perforated rear wall, among others, the chapel fits in seamlessly with the private garden. The outer structure, made from weathering steel, refers to the ubiquitous ferrous sandstone on the site.
The result
The result is two beautiful and functional candle chapels that form a contemporary interpretation of an age-old Marian symbolism. Or just a beautiful place where hundreds of pilgrims experience an intense moment of reflection every day. An old ritual in a new jacket. Both their form and function are fully designed to provide 'a soothing encounter with Mary'.