Story Planet thinks outside the galaxy

Juniper Park developed the Intergalactic Travel Authority storefront theme for the non-profit learning centre.

Come into Story Planet and watch kids’ imaginations take off. At least, that’s the idea behind the non-profit learning centre in Toronto’s west end, which offers art and creative writing courses for children.

With the help of Juniper Park and Toronto design team Brothers Dressler, Story Planet created a dual space: a street-level store with a coffee bar in the front and a learning centre in the back. Originally founded by Liz Haines in 2009, Story Planet moved to its permanent digs (with the storefront) in July 2012, while the finishing touches and merchandise rolled out in April.

Taking inspiration from Story Planet’s name, Juniper Park’s creative team, led by Christina Gliha, developed the Intergalactic Travel Authority (ITA) storefront, a bus station for deep-space commuters. The backstory is that a wandering alien landed on planet Earth and fell in love with coffee, which inspired him to open the ITA, complete with all the products the tired traveller needs.

The agency was responsible for creating both the brand identity for the storefront and the learning centre, designing the interior space and curating the ITA’s merchandise, while Brothers Dressler handled some of the individual design elements.

“So you can walk in, get a coffee and other little things you can take on a long journey to outer space,” Terry Drummond, ECD, Juniper Park, says of products, including a double-headed souvenir t-shirt and baked beans that provide natural fuel (read: gas).

Proceeds from the retail portion support the learning centre – found behind a pair of wooden double doors toward the rear of the space. Beyond sparking the imagination of children, it also serves as a way of getting people into the space, inviting folks intrigued by the strange product offering in the window. The model is inspired by a similar program by 826 National in the U.S., where a dummy storefront was originally set up (selling pirate supplies) to comply with zoning requirements.

“You’re coming through the storefront [to a space where kids are] learning to write and express themselves,” says Drummond. “Therefore, it shouldn’t be [like] walking into something that feels like school. It should spark the imagination.”