Washington Federal, a cornerstone of the Pacific Northwest community, is one of the nation’s largest banking institutions with 235 branches across eight states. In conjunction with their brand refresh and transition to WaFd Bank, the business sought to reposition the interior and exterior of their flagship Seattle location, creating an experience and environment that resets the brand and its corporate headquarters. Design teams worked together to bring a modern, memorable destination to life, not just for banking clients but also for the entire Seattle community.
Illuminating a Landmark
Originally designed and built in the 1980s, the WaFd space located on the historical intersection of 5th and Pike in downtown Seattle was barely noticeable to passers-by as it faded behind the trees that stood outside. The teams sought to “empower the corner”, carefully curating an adaptive reuse effort while maintaining as much of the original 40-year-old stone exterior as possible.
MG2’s team achieved this feat through a series of design innovations: Shifting the entrance to a more visible, engaging location, we replaced the vacated spot with a vibrant, secure ATM experience. The reprogramming is complemented by a refreshed and illuminated external facade with the foundational design balancing bold, inviting digital signage and traditional architectural radiance. The canopy—now transparent—has been lightened and lifted, making the space more approachable to the community. Finally, new windows and glazing enhance visibility to the engaging branding within. These components harmoniously combine to pull the streetscape inward through a new entry vestibule, welcoming customers and passers-by alike.
Digital-first wayfinding and branding elements are custom-tailored to highlight WaFd’s new technology-forward strategy. It creates content zones that warmly celebrate everything from Seattle city culture to local sports teams, connect with the bank’s audience, and showcase their most essential services and features.
Complementing the technological approach are classic touches of an approachable, community-centered financial institution: gold and bronze elements combine with warm walnut, grass-green cloth coverings, and durable brand-centric finishes to breathe color and life into the otherwise neutral space. These features are easily changeable to evolve with WaFd’s newly implemented identity.
The concierge desk modernizes the space, bringing it into a new era while still embracing the building’s elegance and timeless permeance. It fosters a natural circulation and point of customer service throughout the lobby. Synchronized with the design of the space is an innovative user-centered banking process that creates new, flexible, friendly ways of connecting. WaFd’s hospitality-driven programming is strategically designed to allow for a symbiotic flow of bank staff and customers from teller interactions, loan appointments, and semi-private or private meetings.
The lobby further showcases deep shadows, dark wood walls, and stone finishes indicative of Washington’s natural hallmarks, which come together to draw your eyes to the elevator wall at the back of the space. Throughout are niches and subtle cabinetry that play host to storage for the concierge, coat closets, and the retractable bank grilles.
The Confluence of Compositions
Originally made up of four separate, closed-off areas—a bank branch, lobby, hallway, and retail shop—WaFd was redesigned to become one unified space. The experience offers an optimized traffic flow, allowing patrons to circulate naturally from the banking space into a new adjoining Starbucks. The internationally revered coffee brand, who struck up a rare collaboration with our designers, wove the bold themes of WaFd’s contemporary interiors into their retail motifs, extending to a tucked-away conference room space available to WaFd and their clients. These elements come together with commissioned local artwork, fixtures, and furnishings to seamlessly blend the juxtaposition of urban community and natural landscape.
With a refocus from simply a bank branch to a complex, design-forward program with multiple traffic patterns, vignette spaces, and memorable moments, the result is a modern, transparent, and welcoming experience that resides at the delicate intersection of gracious hospitality and progressive banking.