Barnes & Noble is the last national bookstore retailer.

  • Online retailers (like Amazon) can do what they do at a lower price & higher convenience.
  • They failed to innovate quickly enough reflected in their failed Nook reader.
  • Shrinking retail foot traffic resulting in over 300+ stores closed since 2008.
  • They are operating at a -2% profit margin.

Category problem

There's a decline in reading.

  • 26% of adults haven't read a book in the past year, whether in print, electronic, or audio form.
  • 43% of adults read only 1 work of literature last year.
  • There's a 10% decrease in the number of children who love reading books for fun in the last 4 years.

our approach

We wanted to learn how Barnes & Noble could live beyond books.


A larger Societal Problem

Creative thinking is on the decline. 

People are opting for passive activities that require little thought or imagination.

Today we see kids preferring video games to playing outdoors. Before sleeping, adults choose to scroll through their phone rather than picking up a book to read. With an abundance of standardized testing, even school systems are fueling a society that thinks black or white.

As a result, society as a whole is becoming less conducive to imagination and creative thinking.

A researcher at William and Mary analyzed over 300,000 Torrence scores and observed that creativity had been steadily on the rise. That is, until 1990. Over the last 20 years, “Creativity quotient” scores have tumbled.

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Why is imagination so important?

Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.
— Carl Sagan, American astronomer

Brand Opportunity

Imagination is like a muscle, the more you nurture it, the larger it becomes. 

Barnes & Noble has the opportunity to show that it’s more than a bookstore; it’s an integral part of the community, a place for nurturing one’s imagination.


Brand Purpose

Nurture endless imagination.

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We asked ourselves:

How can Barnes & Noble  use its physical and digital presence to nurture endless imagination?


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4 Types of Visitors

We wanted to figure out why people visit Barnes & Noble. Through interviews and store visits we learned there are 4 types of visitors:

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    the loyalist

    "Reading is like having an intimate conversation with a stranger."

    • Perusing Barnes & Noble is second nature to them
    • Prefer physical books vs. ebooks
    • Stay up to date with new releases


    convenient reader

    "I can't wait for my friend to finish her book so that I can read it next."

    • Don’t care about where they get their books from
    • Likely to go after deals or ebooks
    • Enjoy recommendations from friends/family

    aspirational reader

    "I can't wait until summer break so I can finally get some pleasure reading in."

    • Disappointed at how little they read
    • Busy and/or tiring lifestyle prevents them from reading daily
    • Typically read during a vacation or school break

    the Explorer

    "When I worked as a freelance designer I would spend hours there, using books as an inspiration for work."

    • Barnes & Noble is an escape, a place to pass time
    • Appreciate a cozy place to work
    • Curious about their surroundings




    Key Insight

    Stories transcend books.

    Stories come in many forms: conversations, photographs, music, movies, presentations, or even audio recordings. It’s these stories that take you on new adventures, uncovering new truths, seeing different perspectives by transporting you to a world that's different than your own.

    In this age of the 'Imagination Crisis' Barnes & Noble needs to live beyond books by bringing storytelling to life.



    Spark imagination through stories.


    Brand Manifesto


    Updated Aesthetic

    We want to modernize the logo and make it more adaptable for digital use.

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    Retail Experience

    Barnes & Noble stores are overwhelming with their endless selection of books.

    We want to create a space that is cozy and inviting by featuring live greenery and ample natural lighting. Interactive storytelling will be immersed throughout the store to encourage visitors to share ideas and excercise their imagination muscles.


    Interactive Displays

    Walls throughout the stores will come to life as people color, write, and rearrange.


    Employee Stories

    Employees will take a more active role in storytelling by wearing shirts featuring their own personal stories.

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    Restructured Membership

    The current membership structure is expensive ($25) and provides little value beyond product-related discounts.

    We want to make it more accessible by providing 2, less-expensive tiers. Perks will focus on building a loyal community around storytelling through exclusive access to store events. 

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    Repurposed App

    The current Barnes & Noble app provides little value beyond buying products and searching books.

    We want to integrate it with the membership program to make it easier for members to track their points and become part of a larger community of members.



    Casey Phillips (AD), Ted Gregson (AD), Naomi Bradley Jean (XD), Thea Ryan (CW), Morgan Garber (CBM), Sachee Maholtra (ST), Carly Harrison (ST)


    My Role

    Identifying problem

    Crafting strategy

    Creating brand manifesto video

    Conducting primary research [store visits, customer interviews]

    Segmenting audience

    Brainstorming creative executions for in-store experience

    Defining new membership structure