Metropolitan Invests In A Sleek New Retail Design

As a trusted market leader in the South African financial services industry, Metropolitan boasts over 120 years of industry expertise with an ever-expanding network of branches across the nation.



In keeping with their people-centric philosophy to help individuals and businesses shape better futures through wise financial choices, Metropolitan recently identified a need to refresh and improve the layout and functionality of their local branches. The aim was to align their company values into a modern and revolutionary new retail space which would include Metropolitan’s Client Service Offices (CSOs) and Financial Advisors Offices (FAOs) across all branches.

As trendsetters in the areas of retail and office design, AB Design stepped up to the challenge to devise a comprehensive design toolkit. They proved the ideal match to conceptualizing Metropolitan’s new brand image and convert this into an innovative new retail design.

A comprehensive business analysis

A thorough audit was called for which included extensive site visits and a complete analysis of several Metropolitan branches nationwide. The design team used this to assess the existing layout and needs of those who frequented the branches. An in-depth report was compiled to further understand market trends and the competition, as well as the unique client and staff requirements that would impact the overall design, feel and flow of each branch.

No stone was left unturned as AB Design, under the helm of creative director Aidan Bennetts, prepared a thorough toolkit to highlight each aspect of the design process. Aidan explains: “The insights gained during these site visits, interviews and research form the backbone of my design process.”

Every inch of space needed to be accounted for – from the carefully considered materials chosen for floors and ceilings, to the lighting and furniture, as well as the consistency of signage including logos, colours, fonts and brand images to best communicate the tone of the company.

An aspirational corporate image

Spearheading the design conceptualization process, the AB Design team were meticulous in their approach to achieve an aspirational and inviting space where meaningful client engagement could take place. Aidan explains, “Metropolitan’s brand images should be aspirational, optimistic and clean. Each image captures a moment in the life of a Metropolitan customer. It showcases how the brand can better their lives and how they can aspire to live a more fulfilled life.”

As part of the purpose-led branding, well-designed artwork would need to successfully market and celebrate the company’s product offerings, displayed in eye-catching backlit stretch frame graphics along with digital screens for optimal appeal.

The Visual Language includes branding with multi-generational photographs to inspire hope and connect with potential clients.

In an effort to remain ahead of the curve and appeal to a local 21st Century clientele, Metropolitan’s new retail design would need to engage individuals on multi-levels. Aidan describes the vision for the new design: “Each store needs to exude warmth and serve as segway to the Metropolitan brand. It needs to attract customers with its looks and its vital resources and staff compliment should be talked about in the communities, driving new and old customers to visit the store.”

The toolkit therefore features functional new floorplans designed to cater for the unique needs of all branches – including a detailed approach for small, medium and large branches. Each floorplan, for both the CSO and FAO, was carefully revised to create better flow and privacy for clients and consultants alike.

Intricate design details were provided as these apply to each branch, including specifications for meeting rooms, managers’ offices, a kitchenette and bathroom, server room and reception area. Each of these spaces have been optimally redesigned, taking into account the concerns of staff, and suggesting practical improvements to enhance the functionality and appearance of each zone.

Colourful and life-like 3D renders were also included in the toolkit to offer a full perspective of how the overall design will look and feel upon completion.

Every facet has been scrutinized and planned accordingly, including technological and aesthetic elements that would need to merge into a new operational business environment. The toolkit therefore cleverly includes a design plan for electrical input, emergency points and the incorporation of a much-needed Covid-19 prevention strategy.

A 3D render of a meeting room, complete with the new finishes and furniture choices.

Contemporary choices for a 21st Century business environment

Designers selected updated finishes and furnishings to emphasize a sleek and sophisticated ambience. New, comfortable and cost-effective chairs are paired with contemporary desks and tables. Rectangular tables are used in the meeting rooms to be compact and efficient, while modern round tables are suggested for the pause areas to promote interactivity and dialogue.

To create a sense of warmth and congruency throughout the design, harmonizing tones and materials were also recommended. For example, the doors would feature the same finish as the desks. This small design feature adds warmth and balance to the space. The ironmongery, like all the other working elements in the space, would also be in a matt black finish to enhance the clean, minimalist, and modern look.

No element is overlooked, and each material is selected on the basis that it could boost the customer experience in-store.

From faux wood flooring to bold signature Metropolitan wallpaper – a beautiful blend of materials is suggested for a refreshing design approach. This enhances a sense of functionality and a streamlined aesthetic as clients and staff are encouraged to maximize the various zones within each branch.

A sleek palette of blue and white was chosen to enhance the overall design while maintaining a contemporary, professional look. As such, the design team opted for a simple combination of signature off-white tones for the walls with the lower portions in dark blue. AB Design also provided the client with five additional wall application options to ensure that the right choice was made.

“The walls provide a simple backdrop so that the product display stretch graphics are highly visible. Feature walls are to be wallpapered in Metropolitan signature wallpapers, to strengthen the brand identity.”

One of five wall application options featuring unique Metropolitan-inspired designs.

An emphasis on balance, warmth and innovation

Innovative digital features are further incorporated into the design. “The idea is to attract new customers and, more importantly, educate and assist existing customers. If we can do so, we are enabling them to access better services, leading to a more profitable experience for all,” adds Aidan.

“This digitisation must be met with the attentive touch of Metropolitan staff. Technology without human guidance and maintenance can be cold and wasteful in terms of expenditure.”

In the end, AB Design has succeeded in compiling a comprehensive and practical toolkit as an invaluable design guide for the benefit and future growth of Metropolitan. As this organization steps into a new era of corporate development in South Africa, may they also reap the rewards of fully optimized and innovative retail spaces.