In September, fourth-year students in the Bachelor of Interior Design began working on a studio project  with Prof. Zaiba Mian which is a collaboration with a well-known strategy  and design firm Shikatani Lacroix (SLD). The project brief was developed over the summer months.   

The firm focuses specifically on retail design, and has extensive experience in the banking industry. They asked the students to reimagine what the banking experience could be.  

The Interior Design students were challenged to design a permanent, freestanding student incubator branch which will be located at Humber’s North or Lakeshore campus. It should serve as a place for everyday banking, student loan support, financial literacy education and new business start-up planning. 

The students are tackling a real problem in the industry. After the appearance of automated banking machines, banks noticed that they were losing customers because of a lack of allegiance to the brand. Beverly Wells

“You still have to bring people into the bank so it’s about connecting with them emotionally and providing advice, which resonates with what people are going through now. They’ve never needed more advice than they do now,” said Beverly Wells, SLD’s VP of Branded Environments. 

Focus on mentorship, storytelling 

The challenge is part of a Humber-only competition, with SLD providing the brief, prize money, mentors and judges. 

Bachelor of Interior Design student Ashley Pilkington was inspired to design the NXT Bank Incubator branch with “upward trajectory” in mind. 

“It aims to follow and support students on their journey upwards towards success in both life and their careers. The Incubator is a centre focused on growing student businesses with spaces for meetings, workshops and seminars.” she said 

“It becomes a place for students to learn, grow, network and gather.” 

SLD employees served as mentors throughout the design process, including Beverly Wells and Humber alumna Amanda Olfati, who is the Manager of Design Production at the company. 

“It’s nice to see the industry through fresh eyes and to hear what the younger generation are thinking and what’s guiding them on their journey in design. As a mentor it’s important to help them along that process and develop their skills,” said Olfati. 

She graduated from Humber in 2007 and went on to work with one of her instructors, who hired her immediately after graduation. She eventually found her way to SLD, where she uses many of the skills she learned more than a decade ago. 

“The program was very hands on and we learned a lot of skills that helped me, especially early on. We had a lot of assistance with AutoCAD and using the programs we need, along with that theory and background on the history of design,” she said. Amanda Olfati

Ashley Pilkington had the opportunity to lean on her mentors, including Olfati, for the most challenging part of the assignment: balancing her personal creative ideas with the brand’s existing image.  

“NXT has a very strong brand image and style that must be present and prominent in our designs,” she said. 

Once they finalized their designs, the students were asked to present them in a storytelling format. 

“We don’t just talk about factual parts of the design. We try to tell a story,” said Wells. 

Pilkington’s “upward trajectory” theme translates through elements that draw the eye upwards, inspired by rising charts and success. The rest of the space follows the idea of upward movement. 

“This creates an inspiring and uplifting feeling for students, which I tried to apply to my presentation package. The element of storytelling is an effective way of visually communicating your ideas, where viewers can get an immediate understanding of your design and the approach,” she said. Ashley Pilkington

In previous years, students from the program had the opportunity to enter larger, international competitions with judges from other countries. 

The appearance of COVID-19 created another opportunity that has the potential to lead to careers in the community. 

Location matters. The judges are design and banking professionals from the Toronto region, so between the judges and mentors,  students have been working online with local professionals who understand the market. The result is a closer connection with professionals who they may meet or network with in the future. 

Three finalists will be chosen and awarded cash prizes: $2,000 for first place, $1500 for second and  $1,000 for third place. 

The winner will be announced the week of Nov 9th.