The last decade has shown a dramatic rise in competition for developers providing offices in major cities. In NYC in particular, places like WeWork, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and other new entrants to the market were providing alternatives for companies looking to rent office space. As a result, Rockefeller Center was facing challenges as many of their leases started expiring. Tishman Speyer, the global real estate and development company that manages Rockefeller Center, began examining ways to keep current tenants happy as well as make the building an attractive location for new tenants. To this end, Combo was invited to help think about how available spaces within the building could be used in new and different ways.
Combo began with a focus on serving an underrepresented customer profile: the young professional working odd hours within a massive building, whose interests and needs go beyond what’s thought of as the traditional workday. What emerged was The Vend, a small vending experience. Designed as an intervention to improve the experience of current tenants, it revamped available space within the building into a place people could come during off-hours throughout and beyond the workday to get anything from fresh food to holiday gifts to last-minute dress socks.
The design team landed on a deep blue for the primary color to push back against the bright white of startup culture and instead gesture toward a simple yet contemporary austerity. The Vend’s brand identity took the shape of a gentlemanly provider of everyday necessities and interesting accessories. Asset development drew from different use cases to create sets like a sporty collection, a romantic collection and so forth. Aesthetic references included collages and 1970s foreign cinema, and were designed to be a kind of subconscious representation of the types of experiences people could have at Rockefeller Center.
Consulting on the spatial design, Combo’s designers referenced art deco curves and the greater Rockefeller Center architecture by pulling in copper band details for The Vend’s custom colored terrazzo. The brand world came to life as an optical space—a dark room with bright white highlights and glowing boxes filled with curio. There was a dedicated staff of “Vendors” for a self-serve yet high-touch experience in line with Rockefeller Center’s white glove services. Combo also helped with parameters around product curation for the vending machines, which offered freshly prepared day-of meals, assorted gifts, fun treats and even an engagement ring fit for a spontaneous Top of The Rock proposal.