When Heidi Cron was design manager of Dunkin’ Donuts International store design and construction for Dunkin’ Brands, thoughtful implementation of brand standards plus localization was the name of the game. Although consumers around the world tend to already have a specific idea of what a Dunkin’ Donuts should look like, it was her job to keep cultural distinctions in mind when designing the stores.
This approach to her work can be seen in stores built in the Netherlands, which Cron helped design. “One thing that’s very prevalent and known about decorative Dutch culture is delft tile,” she says when describing a recently opened store in Amsterdam. “You see it everywhere—in tourist shops, as well as installations that are hundreds of years old. We were trying to figure out how to best incorporate it in a way that tourists would be excited by, but also in a way that locals wouldn’t think was cheesy and trying too hard as a foreign branch coming into the market.”
Cron and her team developed a decal that followed the iconic design of a delft tile, but replaced the typical content with coffee cups and coffee plant leaves. “It was a cool way of giving a nod to Dutch culture without hitting people over the head with it,” she says.
Cron’s work rolling out her team’s updated international prototype in The Netherlands, Chile, and Germany marked her final projects for Dunkin’ Brands. After five successful years, she has moved on to a new role as director of architecture and interior design at Adrenaline, where she leads a multidisciplinary studio focused on experience design in the service retail sector.
Service retail is about connecting and supporting communities, so Cron’s approach to brand localization is just one of many things that caught Adrenaline’s attention. The agency is already growing a team brimming with talent, and Cron’s expertise will help multiple service retailer brands reimagine their environments and actualize network transformation.
For Cron’s part, she was attracted to the breadth of client output at Adrenaline, including Sovereign’s six hundred-store conversion over only two months, defining a New York prototype for E*TRADE on 3rd and 42nd Street, rebranding work for Origin Bank, and an advertising campaign work for the Atlanta Hawks as their agency of record.
“People like Heidi are joining Adrenaline to be part of a team that is creating innovative environments that are changing the face of service retail,” says Chris Howe, senior vice president of the retail experience design team. Howe cites projects such as America First’s Innovation Center, located at a high-end retail mall in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The space bears little resemblance to any preconceived notions of a banking environment, instead designed as a hub to engage customers in a conversation about the future of financial services. As a local community beacon, the innovation center provides opportunities for genuine connections with the community through events such as Gaming with Gordon. For two hours, fans got to play video games with Gordon Hayward, who at the time played for the Utah Jazz. Such a diverse slate of projects drew Cron to Adrenaline.
“I loved working at Dunkin’ Brands,” Cron says, having just started her third work day at Adrenaline. “I was able to provide design leadership, travel the world, and engage with an extremely talented set of foreign architects and designers. But there are further skills that I want to develop. I dreamed of branching out beyond just one brand, and exploring other project types besides retail food service.”
Cron is one of seventy employees at the company’s Portsmouth, New Hampshire office, where the focus is primarily on retail experience design, partnering with a team based in Atlanta that focuses more on branding and communications. Uniquely, those seventy people comprise both the design and the execution teams for Adrenaline’s various projects. “You just never see that,” Cron says. “Usually, there’s a brand and a branding firm, an architecture firm, and a contractor that executes the work. It’s all done in different offices, which creates silos.”
Because all of design is in one place, Cron is now in charge of leading a team—an opportunity she relishes. “I know I can do the design stuff,” she says. “It’s in my DNA. I’m excited to work toward helping other people grow in their positions. It’s just a team of amazing people. As I get to know everyone, I continue to be impressed by this talented team that Chris and his colleagues have put together. I’m twenty years into my career, and I want to use everything I’ve learned to help create a positive work environment. I want everyone to love coming into work every day. To paraphrase a well-known quote, ‘If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.’ I really believe that.”