How to fathom the Customer’s Journey

People / Places / October 13, 2010

Christine Astorino of fathom (that’s right – lower case), a research, design and strategy firm out of Pittsburgh, seeks to connect customers with design results.

Her team of ten architects, anthropologists, designers and marketers digs deep with qualitative research to understand a user’s experience with a particular building.

She’s trained as a landscape architect, but she thinks like a market analyst.

“It’s all about connecting people to their environment,” she said.  “But it’s also about products, brands and the customer journey.”

A case in point is the new Consol Energy Center, home of the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League (NHL).  Christine and her firm spent three years researching the mindset of Penguin fans and the community at large to determine the best of all possible worlds for both groups. 

“We talked to fans, youth hockey players, retired players and staff,” she said.  “We looked at other arenas and visited the NHL offices.  We asked people about their ideal arena – its taste, smell and color.”

The result was an understanding of what resonated most in the fan experience. “It starts with how they’re able to access tickets, then what happens at the ‘will call’ window, and the senses evoked on approach to the arena,” she said.  “It moves through the turnstile, then to the seats and what happens during a period break.  And when the game is over, it’s what happens on the ramp down.”

The arena, designed by Populous architects of Kansas City, Mo., opened last week to a sold-out crowd.  Inside, colors and fabrics were inspired by what Christine called a “purity palette” for countertops, carpets and seats – with blues, beiges, gold, gray, and accents of black.  “We brought out the Penguin colors without being overpowering,” she said.  “It doesn’t hit you over the head with Penguin logos, but hints at the Penguin brand.”

And when the Penguin score inside, the community outside is well aware.  “The building starts to radiate red, from lights in the spine of the structure,” she said.

For more on fathom, go to

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Michael Welton

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