Environments Studio III — Branded Environments

Mihika Bansal
13 min readOct 9, 2020

Your client, Yelp, has decided to pursue the pop-up shop model that will be located in urban centers for short periods of time (3–4 weeks) and then moved to other cities around the country. How can you design this environment to translate Yelp’s brand into a physical space?

Key Insights About Yelp

  1. Yelp uniquely started off based completely on business reviews. While it has expanded its services, the reviews are still the company’s main draw and the other services work to enhance the app’s experience.
  2. Yelp establishes trust in the service through verifying reputable active reviewers, actively monitoring the reviews on their platform, and creating an active Yelp community.
  3. Yelp creates a system that is mutually beneficial to both the business and its users though increasing business visibility and making it easy for consumers to find businesses near them.

Since Yelp has established itself as a digital service based on word of mouth and connection, how can we use this physical space to bring back the inherent physicality of the connection between business & consumer?


Concept #1 — Where Can I Walk

This pop-up shop would emphasize the businesses near the location of the pop-up, Market Square, specifically restaurants 0.5 miles in every direction from the square, a place the user would be willing to walk to. It would be physicalizing the already existing search mechanism, using an abstracted map and reviews on a screen, somewhat like Yelp stations. Then the user could go to that restaurant, by walking there, where a reservation will have already been made for them through the station.

Concept #2-Dining with Local Businesses

Local businesses rotate through the space, where the business owners are serving food samples and the customers can hear their story. The space is catered to telling the story of that small business. They can interact with the owners, learn from them and create a much deeper connection with those businesses. This could also be an experience completely dedicated to black-owned restaurants in the area, that cycle through the space. The importance of reviews for those businesses will also be highlighted. The user will then be given a map of where the actual restaurant is located, and they can go there for an actual meal.

Concept #3-Trust a Stranger

Place is dedicated to user just finding a new restaurant. They input some parameters of what type of food they want, the price range, closeness to the location, etc. They are randomly given a restaurant with the top review attached to it. If they go to this place, they will be given some sort of a discount on their food. They can also connect with that user through the Yelp app, and they can bond over the shared experience. This is also a great way for people to find a restaurant they might not have been to before, as Yelp can check what places you have commonly clicked on on the app.

Deciding Between Concepts

After presenting the two concepts to the class, I realized that the second concept had quite a few logistical issues as well as some public image issues for Yelp. No matter how the concept would manifest there would always be the underlying issue that Yelp is just using these businesses and their stories for their own profit. It’s a marketing scheme that could leave a bad taste in many people’s mouth.

So I decided to choose the 3rd concept, and I want the theme to be around making the Yelp process/system available and visible to the viewers within the space.

Flushing Out the 3rd Concept

I want to keep the end takeaway of basing your decision on the review of one person the same, it’s playing into a game, it’s pushing users to do something new.

However, I want the experience to be more than that, I want there to be some more openness between Yelp and its users that is established through this space.

Physical Space Initial Sketches


Central Space Goals

  • Connecting Yelp to their users
  • Exposing users to new businesses around them
  • Connecting users to other users
  • Encouraging users to become part of the reviewing process

The concept now centers around the “game” aspect of it, this idea of getting rid of the noise and getting one review that you just should trust.

The “Game”

In order for the space to be more engaging and entertaining, the manner in which the reviews reach the users will be through a Rube Goldberg like machine.

What User will be asked for Restaurant Parameters

  • Price point
  • Neighborhood Location
  • Food Restrictions

Thinking of Logistics

When the user inputs that many parameters into the system, there are many different combinations by which a given review can be given.The physical logistics of separating those reviews in a physical space is significantly more complicated than doing so in a digital manner. For that reason, I want the station itself to print out the review as the user watches their “review” come down to them. So it’s all behind the scenes and the appeal remains the same.

With the constraint though, I need to think about the form in which my physical review can take and can print quickly.

Physical Review Shape Brainstorms

  • Stars
  • Yelp Themed — Take-out meal boxes

Giving Reviews

Since the experience tended to be a bit heavier on the receiving end for the user, I wanted to incorporate the idea of the user giving back to the space, and also encouraging them to become an active reviewer.

As they leave, they have the opportunity to review their favorite restaurant in Pittsburgh that a future visitor to the space will receive.

Concept Catch Phrase Brainstorm

  • Get, Give, & Go
  • Discover with Yelp
  • Trust a Stranger
  • Meet & Eat

Physical Experience Storyboard

User Connection Through App Wireframes

After the experience ends, the actual review that the user receives in the pop up shop will have a QR code on it that will take the user into the Yelp app and into this digital experience.

Initial Exploration of Physical Forms

Physical Prototype Expansion

Through my initial experimentation of form, I really liked the shape that the Yelp logo gives on the floor of the space, its rounded and dynamic. Making the physical experience based off of the logo shape is a good nod to the brand and a good way to keep the space integrated together.

Parti Diagrams

Physical Space Drawing

Updated Experience Storyboards

Deep Local Critique Updates

Post the critique we were given with Deep Local, I began to really think about the elements that I had in place and what was necessary and what wasn’t. Currently the space feels very enclosed, which is not the feeling I want, so I am getting rid of the outer walls and opening up the space through that process. Additionally I want to change the flow within the space itself, as well as make all the yelp logo smaller sides become stations.

Additionally to simplify the already quite complicated space, I am making the mechanism by which the takeout boxes reach the user a spiral around the center, so that it is something that everyone can see, even those not in the experience.

SketchUp Model + Initial Renders

One of the first things I changed was the flow of the space. I was using one of the yelp logo sections as not a station, but as an introductory wall. However, I realized that it would just make more sense to use all of the sections that were not the larger yelp section as stations. . I also changed the point of entry into the space, making it so that a person has to walk across the entire outside of the space, entering on one side of the large tank of reviews and exiting out the other side. I also changed the floor space to be a circle with a little section cut off where the larger tank sticks out of the walking space.

Additionally, I decided to incorporate a spiral into the space in place of the Ruth Goldberg machine. In order to make the space functional, the spiral is located at the center of the space and distributes out to the stations which are all located equally distanced from the center.

Here is the first pass of renderings I made once constructing the sketch up model.

Start point of space
In context

Upon completing these renderings, there were quite a few questions I had about materiality. The space was far too reflective, there were too many glass surfaces and it felt unwelcoming. I also realized the movement within the space was quite unclear, so I need to make it more clear which parts of the space are meant to be walked through and which are not.

I also wanted to change the entry point according to the layout of Schenley Plaza, making sure the entry point coincided with the sidewalk. Additionally, I needed to reduce and adjust the shadows within the space to show the actual time of day.

Reconsidering Messaging + Materiality

Each of the station’s outside walls provided an opportunity to provide some sort of messaging within the space. It also provides the user with some privacy within the stations.

Individual Poster Messaging:

Station 1:

  • Welcome to Meet & Eat!

Station 2:

  • Hear from your community about their favorite restaurants in Pittsburgh

Station 3:

  • Connect & bond with your Yelp community members
  • Connect with your local Yelp community members

Station 4:

  • Your reviews make us who we are today, thank you for visiting!

Large Station “Leave a Review” Messaging

  • Get involved! Leave a review of your favorite restaurant for someone to receive!
  • Leave a review for someone else to receive!

Working Through Visual Identity

Logo Design

Logo Design Exploration
Card Design

Poster Design

Takeout Review Design

Review design (outside on left & inside on right)

Updated User Journey/Parti Diagram

The user enters on the right of the review tank, then proceeds to whichever station the attendant determines to be available. Each user will walk through the whole outside of the space, allowing them to see all of the space messaging as well.

Construction of the Physical Model

The model/new form of my model was one that I had made in my initial exploration phase.

We constructed our physical models at the scale of 1/2 inch = 1 foot, so this whole model was scaled up, as well as the external walls removed.

I began by constructing the individual stations, to understand the overall dimensions and how to deal with materiality. I determined that the top and bottoms will be constructed using acrylic, the walls with plastic, red paper, and bristol paper, and wood blocks to represent the area in which the mechanisms of the space will occur. The larger tank will be made in the same manner, filled with foam core blocks representative of the small takeout boxes.

I additionally spray painted both the white acrylic and the plywood in the classic Yelp red color to continue that theme through the space.

Final Physical Model

Final Takeout Box

Final Renderings In Context

Here is an overview of what the space looks like in its context, Schenley Plaza. It is comprised of 4 individual stations, in which the review delivery system occurs. The back larger tank contains tiny takeout boxes that will be distributed to each of the individual stations through the spiral mechanism that can be seen in the center.

Final Space Messaging

Each of the outward facing walls of the station allows for space messaging. Here are the 4 posters that line the outside walls. The visitors will see the posters in this order. They also work to demonstrate the purpose of the experience in a concise manner and create a conversational tone between Yelp and the experience users.

Final Experience Walkthrough

At the entrance, each person will be greeted by an attendant who is monitoring the space. The attendant will indicate which station is empty and when they can enter.

Then the user will walk through the space until they get to their station. Once they enter the station they will see a screen with the main interaction to the left.

Through this screen interaction, the visitor will have the opportunity determine their customized review through minimal parameters

• price point

• neighborhood

  • food restrictions.

Then the user will be prompted to turn and watch their takeout box come down the spiral to them. The box itself does not contain the review, to avoid any sort of physical separation process of the reviews. Within the station itself, there is a printing mechanism that drops the review into the box before it reaches the visitor.

Part 3: Integration with the Yelp App

For the 3rd part of this project, I am going to completely integrate this experience with the Yelp app, as well as flush out the in space screen interactions within each station.

Current Yelp App Analysis

To begin this process, I analyzed the current Yelp app, understanding the places in which the social interactions between user could be emphasized/fit in. In the process I noticed there was an interesting issue within the app, the section called “More.” The elements between “Me” and “More” could be easily changed and elements shifted to create a complete social section, something that Yelp could definitely highlight the app can do.

Apart from thinking of what changes could be made to the app, I also created wireframes of all the interactions within the app that come from the experience.

QR code Scanning Interaction + Onboarding

Within Experience Wireframes

Leaving a Review Interaction

For this one, I need to think about what to do if the person is not a current Yelp user. Since they are in the space itself, they likely will not want to go through the onboarding process at that moment, but it could be important for later?

In Station Screen Interaction

Reworking the QR Code Interaction

People will scan the QR code instantly, and the card will likely not be something that they save. So, the interaction should be saved within the “Me” profile in the Yelp app, as something they should come back to once they have visited the restaurant.

Refining the Map Interaction

When determining where the restaurant that the user is recommended is located, the user has some agency. The 2 parts of the interaction are that the user can move around the map and that they can increase the expected radius in which they will find the restaurant. The interaction when through some layers of refining, but the end basic interaction is shown below.

Final Interactions

Within Station

Customized Review Interaction

Leave a Review Interaction

Mihika Bansal

Hello! I am a designer starting out my career as a design consultant. These articles are just a way for my brain to get out my thoughts. Hope you can relate!