Seoul Food: Cross-Cultural Design Sprints

The challenge - 1 sweet week

When Baskin Robbins Korea approached us about adding to their (delicious) product pipeline for 2017/2018, they brought along certain assumptions. They believed their consumers saw Baskin Robbins as a western brand. They wanted to explore having similar items to all the newest, coolest dessert shops that were the social media flavor of the day.  And, they wanted to go from insight to in-store at breakneck pace. 

Talking to Consumers

Sometimes a cultural gap can give you the fresh eyes you need to tackle innovation challenges. The Skyscraper Team took our eyes to Seoul to do just that.

Our research methodology design with consumers, food bloggers, dessert shop owners and trend tours revealed that Baskin Robbins was, in fact, a heritage brand for South Korean ice cream lovers. Baskin Robbins first introduced ice cream to the country in 1985. And although it may have once been seen as an exotic foreign treat, today's adults associate it with fond childhood family memories. Like drinking banana milk and eating yul-lan chestnut cookies, Baskin Robbins was another part of their upbringing.

the core job to be done: feel like a kid again!

We encountered an explosion of trends-driven (and trend-driving) street foods in Seoul. Teens unwound on the weekends by heading out to local street carts with their friends. And traditional favorites like the red bean filled fish-shaped buns called Bungeoppang were re-imagined as soft-serve cones by local vendors. Social connection, convenience, and casual fun were at the heart of the street food experience.

We also noticed that the cafés and dessert shops in Seoul were almost exclusively populated by female patrons: young professionals, students, and mothers. We discovered that—unless they're on a date or with their kids—South Korean men just don't go out for dessert or coffee. 

And what did a trip to Baskin Robbins do for these women? For many it reminded them of a simpler time when their lives were less laden with responsibilities. They described it as a small escape from stringent exams, heavy course loads, expectations at work, and the complications of adulthood. And for mothers, taking their child out for a treat was a way of making new family memories—connecting the old with the new.

A One-week design sprint

These insights inspired "Street Mood"—one of the three platforms we developed during our week-long design sprint. Street Mood is a delicious celebration of Ppopgi, Ddukbokgi, Kimbap, Gwangjang Market, and all the flavors of the Seoul streets. (With a Baskin Robbins twist, of course!)

Our 1-week Builder Sprint session took us from trend, to insight, to benefit-driven suite of over 20 new in-store concepts. In doing so, we needed to work with our clients to take into account the unique cultural nuances of ideating in a group session with varying levels of seniority.  Concepts emerged from Jobs To Be Done platforms that are then matched with knowledge of current manufacturing capabilities. Refinement of these ideas over the next few weeks lead to a range of consumer-driven, winning product propositions: 

"Street Mood treats are inspired by the unique shapes, colors, and textures of the delicious snacks you grab when you're out having the most fun. Cold drinks are layered with surprising toppings like mini red bean fish or sweet rice cakes, and cakes are grin-worthy sweet takes on familiar forms."

Most importantly, Korean heritage forms and flavors—like those iconic fish, sweet potatoes, and crispy caramels that all remind consumers of fun childhood experiences —all made cameo appearances. We even recruited our own panel of expats to help us refine language and confirm that cultural-insights were spot-in.


In Market

Talk about just desserts! The Flavors of the Month we developed were top performers for BRK, outperforming the sales share of all other monthly flavor options. In fact, they were so successful that they even exceeded sales of a Marvel and other global movie promotions. Not too shabby, considering Disney's marketing budget and brand awareness.


We're thrilled that Baskin Robbins Korea has asked us to completely fill their Flavor of the Month pipeline for all of 2019. We can't wait to go back to Seoul this Spring for our next sprint round. We'll be bringing our sleeping masks for the plane ride, and empty stomachs for the next round of Seoul tasting tours.

give us a shout!

We'd love to talk with you more about our Builder Sprint process for rapid insights-to-innovation fun. We'll never sell your information, but we would really enjoy getting to know you!

Name *

Innovatus, A Cross-Industry Summit

Ready, set, innovate! The Skyscraper team loves to share our passion for innovation with anyone who is willing to sit down with a drink and listen. Last month, we had the opportunity to do just this, but on a much larger scale. With our friends from Kohrman Jackson & Krantz and Cohen & Company at our side, we sucessfully co-hosted our first annual Innovatus Summit at Market Garden Brewery in Cleveland, OH.


Last fall, the team was approached about planning Innovatus with the hopes that we could share our innovation process with the world, as well as learn about the techniques of other organizations. With this goal in mind, we feverishly began coordinating everything from the panel of innovators to the color of the lanyards. 


After months of hard work, we were excited to pack up and head to Ohio to see everything seamlessly come together. Seamless was the goal, but ended up being short of reality. As we packed our bags to set off on our 6 hour journey through two states, a nor'easter was brewing outside of our windows. Despite a few setbacks, we fought hard against the 17 inches of snow around us and made it safely to Cleveland with plenty of time to spare.

On March 22, we welcomed over 50 fellow innovators to help kick off the summit! The event was broken into five parts.


1. A keynote by Lou Von Thaer, President & CEO of Battelle.

During his presentation, Von Thaer touched on the innovative work that his organization has done over the years. He covered milestones like creating the world's first Xerox copier and developing medical devices that use deep brain simulation to return movement to individuals with paralysis.


2. A presentation by John Cavalier, Director of Management Consulting at Cohen & Company.

During his session about back-office robotics, John discussed how this automated methodology can be used to reverse outsourcing and bring work back to a company's headquarters. He also mentioned the main effects seen from these processes: cost reduction, lower error rates, and freed up time for employees.


3. A thoughtful discussion between Jon Groza, Partner of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, and serial entrepreneur, Don Greenberg. 

Jon began the conversation by touching on the ways a law firm—and other companies where you might not expect to see innovation—is the perfect environment for these techniques to flourish. The duo touched on how the partnership between Skyscraper and Kohrman Jackson & Krantz has positively benefited each of their respected organizations and how other businesses can benefit from similar partnerships. 


4. An insightful conversation with our panel of innovators

Our panel consisted of Joe Kossow, founder of Kossow Consulting LLC and former Vice President of Innovation at Church and Dwight; Jennifer Sabo, Innovation Systems and Discovery Team Manager at The J.M. Smucker Company; and Lou Von Thaer.

Although the panel focused on discussing how to create a culture of innovation within organizations, they also touched on where to turn to find new innovative trends, how to prioritize innovative ideas, and how to encourage healthy risk-taking in innovative organizations.


5. An interactive activity with our fearless leader, Michael Murphy, Founder and Chief Innovation Officer here at Skyscraper.

Murphy began his presentation by explaining the three pillars of actionable innovation: organizational capabilities, end user jobs to be done, and the passion to innovate. He also shared that creativity is the catalyst that brings these things together.

He illustrated this concept by asking attendees to take out their wallets. "What job does your wallet do for you—and how could it work even better?" he asked.  After sharing thoughts with their neighbors, participants were asked to design a new wallet using cardstock, scissors, and tape. This exercise opened up the minds of attendees to how creativity and collaboration fuels the innovation process. 


And that's a wrap! After a brief happy hour, filled with craft beer, delicious h'orderves, and great conversation, we had to say goodbye to all of our friends and head back to Lancaster. We took away so many new innovative tips and tricks from this event, and we hope the attendees did too. 

A special thanks to all of our speakers, our panel, as well as the friendly staff at Market Garden Brewery for helping the event go off without a hitch! We can't wait to see what next year's summit holds!

Interested in learning more about Innovatus? Visit For the presentation shown at the event, please contact for more information. 

A Renovation Story


Cross-functional collaboration lies at the heart of Skyscraper’s creative process. Team members with experience in everything from nanotechnology to sound-mixing come together to produce surprisingly original ideas. Genius is rarely an act of isolation.

So of course we approached the problem of renovating our new headquarters in much the same way. As a team.


On the tip-top floor of the Historic Steinman Hardware Building, we found our diamond in the rough. The long-unoccupied space—complete with aged green carpet, dirty beige walls, blacked-out skylights, and a thick layer of dust and sadness—was a poorly maintained homage to the early 1980s.

And, the perfect blank canvas for our team’s collective vision.



Using all the tools and talent at our disposal, we worked closely with the developers at Steinman Communications to build out the space to our precise specifications. All material finishes and layout modifications were selected by us—then 3D modeled by our Industrial Design Director—before being handed off to the construction crew.

Walls were ripped down. Toilets were towed away. New Armstrong flooring was laid. The walls were painted in crisp white and contrasting, bold swaths of on-brand color. And our skylights finally let in true daylight.

We also decided to preserve certain historic details. We exposed a 100+ year old wooden support beam. We revealed a hidden tongue-and-groove wooden ceiling. We even uncovered a priceless signature from the late 1800s, written in chalk by an early craftsman.



Our team also took on a few projects of our own. We built our own conference room table using reclaimed cherry taken from a local playground construction site. We worked with Jeff at Keystone Vintage Lumber to create the perfect unfinished tabletop, and then spent hours wet sanding for an immaculate, baby-smooth finish. (Seriously, you could ice skate on this thing!)

We needed something strong and resilient to carry the weight of all that solid hardwood. Enter a beautiful pair of steel legs from Symmetry Hardware— crafted in Portland, Oregon and made to last.

We even cut tiles ourselves and installed a beautiful backsplash. And yes, we Pantone matched our grout. (Purchased on Etsy of course.) Doesn't everyone?

And those beautiful origami lamps from Mio we assembled? Yup, we PMS matched those too.



A raised platform separates our ideation space from the rest of the open plan. Rolling workstations allow for easy collaboration and breaking off from larger into smaller groups. Four wifi enabled flat screen panels throughout our space make presentations and design reviews a cinch. The space will flex and grow as we do, well into 2018 and beyond.


Do you need a fresh, off-site location for a team brainstorm? Want to swing by for a downtown Happy Hour? Drop Trish a line at


Meet Brooke Snyder

Introducing the newest, most bright-eyed member of the Skyscraper team, Brooke Snyder!

She's a recent graduate of the Communication Design Program at Kutztown University and joined the Skyscraper Team as our Communication Design Associate this summer. We sat down with Brooke to try and figure out how she’s managed to put up with us thus far.


What made you want to be a designer?

As a child, I always loved doing things that were crafty and creative. I had way too many art kits, drawing pads, and random art supplies around my house. 
I’ve also always enjoyed working on a computer and with other technology. In 9th grade I was helping teach a Sunday School class at my church and we needed an illustration for a story we were writing. I essentially ended up creating and editing a cartoon in MS paint. Through working on that simple project, I really started to become intrigued by the idea of creating art digitally and knew I wanted to become a designer.

What makes you excited to head to work every day? (We know it’s a bit of a commute from York!)

The main thing is knowing that I get to work with such a fun, talented group of individuals. I know that they are going to teach me or inspire me to push my design skills and creative thinking in a new way each and every day. 
(I also get a little more excited when Lancaster Central Market is open. I love walking around and trying treats from all the different vendors!)

We have a lot of global clients. Anywhere in particular you’d like to see Skyscraper visit?

I would love to see Skyscraper visit Iceland. I’ve always been curious about that part of the world and the way of life there. Not only would it be interesting to see how people there live, but also how that affects the way they view different products and services.    

On the weekend we can find you ____________?

I’m hard to track down on the weekends! If I’m not at home spending time with my friends and family, I really enjoy taking weekend trips to different places. Most recently, I visited Pittsburgh and Atlantic City, but I also enjoy exploring Philadelphia and New York City with my friends from college.   

What's on your 'Most Innovative' list lately?

I'm into The Vamp Stamp made by Cult Beauty. Essentially, it's a stamp with a wing shape on the ends that allow users to stamp on their winged eyeliner, rather than having to physically draw it on.
I've never been one who spends a great deal of time putting on makeup. For me, the easier and simpler the process can be the better! 
Despite this mentality, I've recently been trying to learn the rather difficult art of applying winged eyeliner. After much practice, it’s just not something I can seem to get the hang of. When I saw this product, it immediately piqued my interest. I love that it's a quick, easy, and hassle-free way of getting a look I want. The simple stamping action is much less stressful than trying to keep my hand from shaking when drawing on my eyeliner.
With a product such as this, I know my eyeliner will always come out looking great, even though I spent no time at all applying it. 

Where do you find creative inspiration?

This is probably the most millennial answer possible, but I would have to say Instagram!
I like having the ability to have so many different styles of design at my fingertips. It keeps me thinking about how I can expand upon the designs I'm working on in a new way. It’s also fun to be surprised by a new style of design every time I open the app.

Women in STEM Podcast

Women in STEM Podcast

Our very own Creativity Director, Melina Blees, recently appeared on the Women in STEM podcast hosted by Kara Newhouse.

She discusses her experiences as a scientist, artist, and lifelong student of curiosity. An unconventional—in retrospect—and very special childhood gave her the confidence to take the road less traveled. This particular road led to a Phd in Physics from Cornell University, pursued in tandem with classes in print making and an interest in paper arts that informed her work in nanotechnology.

Building Higher at Skyscraper!

2017 is shaping up to be a year of big changes at Skyscraper! With a rapidly-growing team and a new studio space, we felt a re-brand was in order. We're officially rolling it out today and couldn't be more proud of the results.  

Much of the credit goes to our Communication Design Director, Shani Tucker, who built this new identity from the ground up. She leveraged the best of our previous identity, while creating a mark that reflects how our team works together using the building blocks of consumer need to create amazing innovation.  

Much gratitude and congratulations are in order to the team for an amazing step higher!

Screen Shot 2017-05-11 at 10.42.49 PM.png