DreamBank, Madison, Wis.

The new American Family Insurance store encourages people to contemplate their futures
Posted March 18, 2013

Woody Allen used to joke: “There are worse things than death. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance agent?”

In its first-ever flagship “store,” American Family Insurance (Madison, Wis.) is trying to reverse that notion. The concept, called DreamBank, portrays the insurance experience not as a boring discussion of earned premiums, deductibles, residual benefits and renewal options, but rather as an interactive opportunity to imagine your future and realize your dream.

It’s based on the company’s current marketing campaign, called “Protect your Dream,” proclaiming that insurance is not a policy you’re buying but a life’s plan that you’re managing.

“You can buy insurance there,” says George Waite of Chute Gerdeman (Columbus, Ohio), program manager on the project, “but this flagship is more about enhancing the brand and explaining the role that various forms of insurance planning can play.”

The space is in a 19th Century building on a square in the center of Madison, across the street from the state capitol. Originally a bank, it’s predictably solid and imposing. But Chute Gerdeman designers created a warm, colorful and inviting experience without disturbing the historically protected architectural bones.

They even turned an old bank vault and its 4-ft. concrete walls into a “dream vault,” where visitors can record their plans on a “dream ledger” (an old-fashioned bank ledger) and deposit them into the vault’s safety deposit box.

Metal safety deposit box keys dangle from a chandelier in the middle of the store, creating a shimmering visual attraction at night.

The square, not far from the University of Wisconsin campus, is full of activity – restaurants and college bars and a large green space that hosts a farmer’s market in the summertime. So big, open windows along both sides of the building attract pedestrians to the bright colors, changing exhibits and interactive displays, making it inviting to consumers who’d probably never consider spending a couple of hours in an insurance office if they didn’t need to report a claim or grab a desk calendar.

The DreamBank logo, prominent on the outside of the store and repeated throughout the interior, is a softly drawn cloud with red and blue lettering.

“The goal was to create a logo to call attention to the exhibit side of the flagship as its own destination. They wanted people who were not necessarily seeking insurance to come in and check out the space,” says Mindi Trank, Chute Gerdeman’s vp, brand strategy and consumer insight.

The space has been designed almost as a gallery, with colorful visual elements popping off the white walls and spotlights throwing illumination against them.

“Since we weren’t able to lower the high 14-ft. ceilings, we dropped pendant lighting, which bounces off and enhances all the 19th Century architectural elements,” says Trank. “Then we filled in the space with a lot of contemporary touches – mirrored chrome, textured wood and Eames chairs –
for a blend of historical old and residential new.”

American Family employees, called “dream curators,” are on hand to guide guests to the “discovery dream den,” where a 65-in. touch-screen digital wall helps them explore their plans and goals. Another station allows them to “paint” their dreams with a digital brush. The art can then be displayed in electronic frames around the 2600-square-foot space.

“We wanted to create a space that was tactile and visually stimulating, but also easy to use and would help create personal stories,” says Chute Gerdeman’s Nicole Faccinto, senior designer, visual strategy. So everywhere people turn, there’s something to touch, pick up and use.

“The interactive displays allow consumers to answer various questions about themselves, such as ‘Where do I see myself in five years?’ and ‘What do I need to protect to get there?’ ” says Chute Gerdeman senior designer Steve Boreman. “In the process, they learn what kinds of dreamers they are.”

Project Suppliers
American Family Insurance, Madison, Wis.

Chute Gerdeman, Columbus, Ohio
American Family Insurance, Madison, Wis.

Engberg Anderson, Madison, Wis.

General Contractor
S&R Borchardt Builders LLC, Madison, Wis.

Graphics and Fixtures
CGRetail One, Atlanta

Hill Electric, Madison, Wis.
Hinkley Lighting, Avon Lake, Ohio
LBL Lighting, Skokie, Ill.
Crate & Barrel, Naperville, Ill.

Digital Content
Material Group, Chicago

Armstrong, Lancaster, Pa.
Interface Flor, LaGrange, Ga.
Mats Inc., Stoughton, Mass.

Crate & Barrel, Naperville, Ill.
Design Within Reach, Stamford, Conn.
West Elm, San Francisco
Beaufurn, Advance, N.C.