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5 types of commercial interior design

5 types of commercial interior design

Commercial interior design is a specialised field that focuses on creating spaces for businesses and organisations.  

 Here, we’ll explore five of the main areas of commercial interior design: retail, hospitality, workplace, healthcare, and institutional. 

Retail interior design: Revolutionising the way we shop 

A well-designed retail space has the power to influence consumer behaviour and ultimately drive sales. But today, bricks-and-mortar retail faces tough competition from e-commerce. Shops need to work hard to stand out, creating an environment that goes beyond the traditional shopping experience to capture the attention and loyalty of customers.  

So, when it comes to retail interior design, every detail counts. From the placement of shelves and racks to the lighting scheme and overall ambience, as a retail interior designer, you’ll need to create an environment that not only showcases the brand's merchandise and message but engages and inspires customers.  

The sensory experience of seeing and touching products first-hand simply can't be replicated by online platforms. Considering how products are displayed to encourage interaction is crucial. But it isn't just the merchandise that plays a role in customer engagement.  

More and more often, retailers are focusing on nurturing a sense of community in their physical stores and showrooms. By building spaces where customers can relax, try products, socialise, and participate in events, shops are transformed into must-visit destinations. 

The LEGO Store is a great example of a shop that offers a unique retail experience. As well as capturing the brand’s unmistakeable aesthetic, the shops include interactive areas where children and adults can build and play with the products. The stores often host building events, contests, and demonstrations, encouraging creativity and community engagement.  

E-commerce might have revolutionised the way we shop, but by integrating technology into your designs, your client’s online and offline channels can work hand in hand. Interactive displays showcase extended product ranges; digital signage provides customised, graphic-rich marketing, and augmented and virtual reality deliver a truly connected customer experience.  

The Sephora concept store in Paris combines traditional and digital elements seamlessly. Interactive make-up stations with virtual try-on technology allow customers to experiment, while intelligent lighting and intuitive navigation systems create an immersive shopping journey. Sephora's concept store redefines customer interaction and elevates their experience, demonstrating how retailers are using tech to remain relevant and competitive in an increasingly digital world. 

Hospitality interior design: The art of exceptional guest experiences 

Five-star resort or cosy café – no matter the size or scope of the project, the primary aim remains the same – to facilitate an exceptional guest experience while embodying the brand’s identity and values.   

As well as crafting the perfect atmosphere (an art in itself) functionality is essential. As a hospitality interior designer, you’ll need to consider everything from managing acoustics to maintaining impeccable hygiene standards. 

Beautiful design has always been crucial in hospitality, but in the age of social media, the stakes have never been higher. Platforms like Instagram and Facebook have become virtual showcases, allowing both businesses and guests to share images of their hotel stays, dining experiences, and travel adventures.  

When it comes to promotion, guests – from ordinary customers to celebrity influencers – have remarkable power. Each photo shared is valuable exposure, as user-generated content is the modern-day equivalent to word-of-mouth marketing. 

But this means that it’s no longer enough for hospitality businesses to just offer a service. Now every experience must be social media-worthy. 

A report by hospitality design firm WATG suggests social media has increased the importance of design in the hospitality industry, with guests being more likely to share photos and reviews of ‘aesthetically pleasing’ spaces. The redesign of the Mondrian Hotel, back in 2019, is a prime example of the role social media plays in hospitality design, with its Skybar mural providing a focal point for social media interaction.  

Workplace interior design: Improving productivity and wellbeing 

As a professional in this field, you’ll create workspaces that are both functional and inspiring, driving success for businesses. You’ll tap into your understanding of human behaviour, ergonomics, and the psychology of work to design the perfect office environment for your client.  

Each office space is a microcosm of different personalities, work styles, and preferences. Your role as a workplace interior designer is to create an environment that caters to these varied needs, while ensuring cohesion and efficiency. You'll be tasked with optimising workflow, maximising the use of space, and incorporating elements that promote comfort and collaboration.  

One example that does this successfully is Innocent Drinks’ office in London. Its design fosters a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere that nurtures creativity and employee wellbeing. Featuring grass flooring, hammocks, and picnic tables, it creates a playful and laid-back environment synonymous with the brand.  

In the wake of the pandemic, businesses around the world are navigating new workplace challenges.  

Health and safety are higher-priority than ever, and design choices must adapt to the new reality. Antimicrobial materials common in hospitals are being incorporated into office spaces, along with features that reduce physical contact, such as automatic doors and sensors. On-site open spaces like sun terraces and balconies are becoming more popular as well.

But health and safety aren’t the only concerns post-pandemic. Organisations have had to find new ways to entice their employees back into the office after a prolonged period of remote work.  

Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index Report found that 66% of businesses were considering redesigning their physical spaces to better suit hybrid working. The role of the office interior designer is more critical than ever, now tasked with creating spaces that not only inspire productivity but also facilitate reintegration, and support employee wellbeing. This could include biophilic design, improved air quality, and ergonomic furniture. 

 Interested in innovative interior designs for workspaces? 

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 Healthcare interior design: The healing power of design 

Can interior design really improve patient outcomes? The answer is yes. Medical interior design isn’t just about setting the scene, it can also become part of the healing process. In one study, redesigning a hospital’s ICU from shared to private rooms reduced the rate of bacterial infection by more than 50%, while the length of stay decreased by 10%.   

Other elements, including exposure to natural light, art, and biophilic design, have also been shown to improve health and wellness for both staff and patients, reducing the length of hospital stays, as well as levels of pain, stress, depression, and the need for medicine. In biophilic environments, post-operative recovery time decreased by 8.5% and pain medication decreased by 22%.  

So, what does this mean for you as an interior designer? It takes great creativity and deep technical know-how to design the interior of a healthcare facility. The design must consider how to make the workflows efficient, the patients comfortable, and the atmosphere positive.  

By working closely with medical professionals, and keeping up with the latest technology and trends, you’ll take an evidence-based approach to design. You’ll get to know the requirements of both patients and workers, using this to design spaces that fulfil these needs while also meeting the exacting standards of regulatory boards.  

Whether it's selecting durable materials that withstand frequent use or integrating infection control measures seamlessly into the design, your ability to combine creativity with practicality will be instrumental in delivering successful healthcare interiors. 

Educational interior design: Inclusive spaces that inspire and connect 

Institutional design focuses on creating interior spaces for organisations such as schools and colleges, government buildings, museums, and cultural centres.  

As with other types of commercial interior design, the main goal is to enhance functionality while maintaining aesthetic appeal and reflecting the institution's values and mission. 

One key aspect of institutional design is crafting spaces that facilitate learning and collaboration. Educational institutions, for example, require classrooms, libraries, and study areas that promote effective teaching and learning. As the designer, you’ll need to consider factors such as acoustics, lighting, and furniture arrangement to provide a space that’s inspiring, engaging, and conducive to calm and concentration. 

Government buildings and administrative spaces tend to need efficient layouts that stimulate productivity and communication among staff members. These spaces often need to accommodate various departments and functions while adhering to specific security and privacy requirements. The New York City Department of Sanitation's LEED Gold-certified building is an example of an institutional design that combines functionality and sustainability. The design incorporates open office spaces, collaborative areas, and environmentally friendly features like a green roof and rainwater collection system. 

Sustainability and environmental considerations are increasingly important in institutional design. You’ll be expected to incorporate eco-friendly materials, energy-efficient systems, and sustainable practices to minimise the environmental impact of these spaces.  

Museums and cultural centres need interior designs that not only showcase exhibits and artefacts but also create an immersive and memorable experience for visitors. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, is renowned for its innovative architectural and interior design, which incorporates curvilinear spaces and natural light to enhance the display of artworks. The design creates a visually stunning and engaging environment, elevating the overall museum experience. 

As an institutional interior designer, creating inclusive and accessible spaces will be one of your biggest priorities. You’ll integrate universal design principles and the latest technology to make sure that people with disabilities can navigate and use the facilities comfortably. This could be by incorporating accessible entrances, ramps, lifts, and assistive technologies. 

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in commercial interior design, our 100% online and flexible MA Interior Design course should be your next step. The Sustainable Futures module will be particularly interesting, as you’ll learn how ground-breaking new AI tools such as Planner5D and InteriorAI are shaping the future of interior design.

We’ll also welcome industry-leading experts to discuss this trending topic. This foundational knowledge will prove to be invaluable as you adopt these technologies in your future career – and in the meantime, you can take LinkedIn Learning modules to expand your practical skills while you study. Find out more on our course page:

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 Featured image credit: Gerhard Weber

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