I began this side project last fall to expose myself to the little heard of discipline called Environments Design. It was also a helpful project to get myself reacquainted with AutoCAD, 3DSMax, SketchUp (started using the software in its earliest stages) and Form-Z (yeah I know!) but ended up working most of the time in Illustrator.

Since placing it on the backburner, I figured I might as well upload it and see if any others wanted to work off it or offer feedback. The fact that Microsoft is looking into opening retail space also made this little project a little more timely and relevant. And with the Mobile World Congress coming up tomorrow in Barcelona, it looks as though mobile internet growth is hitting its stride and with it comes HTC (who has always focused on smartphones) and their partners, Microsoft and Google.

HTC is an amazing company with the right history. I covered my love affair with the company in a previous post so I won't bother repeating anything here. HTC totally has the right strategy. Develop an awesome product, and it'll sell itself. Right? Well, not really. Apple's brilliance is that they've managed to convince everyone that there are no need for choices. One phone, one operating system, one carrier. People bought into it because of the strength of their brand and to be honest, they put out a great product.

HTC needs to get the word out there that there are GREAT alternatives. And like it did with hardware development, they are riding on their partner's coattails. Anyone notice the AT&T commercials featuring HTC phones? See here and here, I love how it's about an architect in the second commercial.

The Project
So the premise back in the Fall was that HTC wants to build a retail store in Manhattan. Except the building would be scheduled to be completed in the Spring, missing the crucial holiday season. So what do you do? Use pop-up showrooms sprinkled around Manhattan to start getting the word out. The shipping container idea has been done to death... and so has the idea of using them to construct buildings. But for this project it would totally make sense. By building a shell of a building (finished ground floor, frame structure above it with slots for isotainers) it'll cut down on costs and construction time. HTC would integrate the isotainers into the building, which would be generating buzz during the holidays and the entire length of the construction.

Isotainer Pop-up Showrooms
The scheme is taken directly from HTC's existing branding. Dark colors, green lighting, faceted / diamond shaped wall panels. I imagine one side of the wall showcasing the various phones, focusing on 'smart mobility, smart CHOICES'. Definitely need to show the consumer that HTC is all about choices. Carriers, operating systems (WinMo and Android, both which are way more open than Apple's closed ecosystem, can't believe they are trying to claim that jailbreaking constitutes copyright infringement), keyboard, touch screen, dual input, HTC offers CHOICES!

The other side of the container could feature the same wall panels and additional phones, but I thought it would be great to have two large flat panels showcasing the two operating systems in action.

Isotainer Radius
Since the isotainer itself can only attract so much attention, to extend its reach radius, you could have cutouts sprinkled around in adjacent neighborhoods with the green HTC arrows on the ground leading you to the closest isotainer. Or have billboards or banners hanging from lampposts showcasing the brand. One idea was to construct a map of the various neighborhoods of Manhattan with HTC phones resized for each neighborhood. Residents of NYC get to choose what neighborhood fits them, shouldn't they have the same choice for their mobile needs? Lame I know, but you get the idea. Another idea was to construct a silhoutte of a person with various screenshots from the phone. The iPhone has their apps, so does WinMo and Android. And the kicker is you don't have to jailbreak just to install the apps of your choice.

To be honest, I like how Apple has curated their app store, it really cuts away the crap. The problem I have is that Apple doesn't give the user an easy way to install apps that hasn't been given Apple's blessing. HTC should consider doing some curating as well. The WinMo platform already has waaaay too many app stores / directories. HTC should just build a small site highlighting various useful apps drawn from existing app stores / directories.

The Retail Store
I imagine the ground floor to be a cafe fitted with furnishings that reflect the HTC's diamond faceted backing which I feel has been their best physical manifestation of the brand. There are some examples in this Metropolis article, my favorite of the group is the Penta Chair, but its overshadowed by some of the examples to follow. The Ghost sofa and easy chair by Eero Koivisto is a favorite. This faceted Real Good chair would be a good tie-in to the isotainers since I imagine the surfacing to be the same (but in a dark grey or black color). Libeskind's Diamond Chair, Rainer Mutsch's Fragments, Dodo Arslan's Sphaus Low Res sofa and armchair, this mountain range sofa system, origami chairs, the Talus table, and the Trinna lamp by Tina Leung would all fit very well with the faceted diamond theme.

The coffee served? How about Seattle's Best Coffee? Offer New Yorkers a Seattle alternative to Starbucks. Why Seattle? Because HTC's U.S. headquarters are located there. Each seat or coffee table would be fitted with a phone allowing customers to enjoy their beverage while browsing the web on an HTC phone, or just simply checking out the hardware / software.

The upper 'unfinished' floors would consist of the various isotainers used previously in the pop-up showroom campaign. To highlight the 'carrier' choice offered to consumers, it'd be great if each isotainer could be leased to a carrier. So AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon would each have an isotainer branded with their respective colorways, one wall would feature HTC phones carried by that operator, and the other wall would be open to whatever phones from other manufacturers they carry. HTC shouldn't be afraid to allow customers to browse the competition and it'll probably make the carriers more likely to accept the HTC retail showroom concept.

Anyway, that's pretty much it. If HTC would ever consider this, there's a great spot in Union Square on the northwest corner. Totally excited for MWC. I like WinMo's (or will it just be 'Windows' by week end?) integration to the rest of my desktop experience. The upcoming My Phone (ugh, should've kept the SkyBox name) will enhance that, with Google Sync offering an alternative. Yes, alternatives! And with Live Mesh taking care of file access away from the desktop... it's all a beautiful thing!

Hopefully I'll have to do less 'selling and explaining' when the next person asks me to take a look at my Touch Diamond.

Update: Check out the Klein Bottle House which employs a faceted design language. Just to get a feel for what it may be like to inhabit something like the isotainer. Though the isotainer will be much smaller and darker. Love the house.

Also the Cloud by the Bouroullec brothers would work well as space dividers within the cafe.

Update 2: Looks like HTC does have some sort of retail space. In Malaysia. Found this photo gallery via WMExperts, guess corporate isn't very into the faceted design language after all.

Update 3: HTC's pavilion at CeBIT. I was way off regarding their environments design.