Redefining Immersive Experiences with Lumsden

In the hospitality, retail, and cultural attractions sectors, crafting a memorable experience is paramount. Callum Lumsden, the founding partner of Lumsden, unveils the intricate art of seamlessly integrating design with the whole visitor journey. Discover how these sectors are redefining immersive experiences to forge lasting connections with visitors and fans.

Callum Lumsden, Founding Partner of Lumsden

How can design for hospitality and retail spaces connect to a world of real-life experiences so ‘fans’ feel they are part of something authentic?

Crucially, design for hospitality and retail spaces and in this case, within the cultural and visitor attraction sectors, need to be an extension of the whole experience. Bearing in mind that the fans and the subculture of ‘fandom’1, would have completed their journey around the attraction and its success will be endorsed and remembered by what they find to buy in the shop, consume in the cafés and the ambience of those spaces. Their  experience will always be enhanced by the design being as seamless an experience as the stories which have been told in the main attraction. Incorporating props or objects from the museum collection itself is always a winning formula if the curators and security team at the institution are happy to comply. However, if that is not an option, props can be replicated and introduced into the space to enable a spectacular addition to the visitor’s experience. 

The experience of the fan’s visit will always be enhanced if there are more than just numerous ranges set out on tables and shelves in the shop or displays in the cafes. Demonstrations, personalisation of products, events, are all part of the process which gets customers to really engage with the brand which they are so passionate about.

Abbey Road Studios

You talk about ‘fandom’ what does this mean for retail and hospitality?

Fans want experiences. They want to encounter, to touch, to connect to their heroes and heroines, fictitious or real, in the most authentic way possible.  It’s a phenomenon which has been around for years, centuries really if we count religious pilgrims. We like to think of this sector as being about places which connect people’s passions. Think about it. How often have we met, or indeed are, someone who is so passionate about their obsession with a film franchise, a soccer team, a whisky or even music icons – the hugely successful ABBA Voyage springs to mind – that they will do anything they can to experience that passion anywhere it is on offer? 

Abbey Road Studios

Can you give me some examples of those experiences that get it right?

The obvious example is Walt Disney’s visionary development of his first theme park back in 1955 when he opened Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Not only was it pioneering, but it was also fun. It was authentic. It was immersive. And it led the way to some of the most extraordinary and fascinating locations on the planet. Think Orlando or Hollywood and the ever-expanding theme parks such as Universal, Warner Bros. and Legoland.

But also consider the actual locations which fans love to visit, such as Real Madrid or Liverpool Football Club where the fans are going because they are literally on sacred territory. A great example of this is Warner Bros. who made a genius choice with their Harry Potter franchise by using Leavesden, just outside of London, where all seven films were made and produced to develop their experiential visitor attraction. “The Making of Harry Potter” attraction has been an enormous success since opening its doors 10 years ago and continues to expand its appeal with ever changing experiences for their audience.

What are the key considerations for retail and hospitality success for fan locations?

We have six ‘go to’ challenges which we work with our clients to apply to every project.

  1. Get the product right – Every product in the shop must relate to the stories of the brand which will connect with the fans
  2. Connect the whole experience to the retail offer – Demonstrations, personalisation of products, events, are all part of the process which gets fans to really engage with the brand which they are so passionate about.
  3. Ambassadors, not a sales team – The ideal scenario of great product in a great space which has all the attributes of the brand will not work successfully unless the retail team are trained and fully immersed in the DNA and stories of the brand.
  4. Add a touch of magic to your props – Incorporating props or objects from the museum collection itself is always a winning formula if the curators and security team at the institution are happy to comply.
  5. Customer flow; don’t break the spell – No matter how stunning the interior of the store is, the functionality of the space will be judged harshly by customers if it causes issues. The main bug-bear in most stores is when the customer comes to pay for their purchase.
  6. Digital – taking the physical to the next level – For instance a totally immersive fan experience with everything from projection to animatronics (robotic animation) and theming that seamlessly connects the fans with their favourite stories, such as Tokyo Disneyland – The Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast attraction.

Portico Shop at the National Gallery

Can you give examples of your work that has proved successful in this area?

The recently opened Portico Shop at the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, the design of which aims to connect people directly with the art and architecture that surrounds them, and our award-winning work for the shop at the Burrell Collection.

Burrell Collection

The Burrell Collection was named Art Fund Museum of the Year 2023, are just two examples where we have designed a space that is true to the whole experience.

Burrell Collection

The Art of Banksy where we have designed the retail,  front of house and, in collaboration with Arantxa Garcia of Exhibeo VM, much of the merchandise, opened end of September.  Our challenge has been to design something that would stand out in one of the world’s most famous shopping streets. Its Regent Street location is the first time

The Art of Banksy

The Art of Banksy touring exhibition has had retail play such a central role and everything we have designed has been directly inspired by the works of Banksy, with a soupçon of anarchy and a real respect for the artist.  By developing the retail interior and merchandise ranges in tandem, we were able to seamlessly extend the experience and connect fans with the art they have come to see in unexpected and engaging ways.

The Art of Banksy

Finally,  the newly opened Warner Bros. Studio Tour Tokyo – The Making of Harry Potter, where we have designed and master-planned in collaboration with Warner Bros. graphic artists Mina Lima and makers Cod Steaks a truly immersive and, at 13,000sq ft, the largest Harry Potter shop in the world, along with four hospitality spaces totalling 2619 sq.m, all of which are unapologetically inspired by the iconic film series.

Warner Bros. Studio Tour Tokyo – The Making of Harry Potter

These retail and hospitality experiences are not just an afterthought, they are a seamless extension of the whole experience, amplifying everything the fans love about this wizardry world.

Warner Bros. Studio Tour Tokyo – The Making of Harry Potter

Warner Bros. standalone retail offer, Platform 9¾  at London’s Kings Cross rail station, also designed by Lumsden, has been casting this spell for over ten years.

Warner Bros. Studio Tour Tokyo – The Making of Harry Potter

1 fan a person who has a strong interest in or admiration for a particular person or thing: football fans | I’m a fan of this author.

fan·dom| ˈfandom | noun the state or condition of being a fan of someone or something: my 17 years of sports fandom | an extensive questionnaire determined levels of Harry Potter fandom on a scale of one to five the fans of a particular person, team, fictional series, etc. regarded collectively as a community or subculture: the Breaking Bad fandom | of course, every fandom has its extreme members.


About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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