When was the last time you walked into a bank? If you're struggling to recall, you're not alone. That's not just a result of the pandemic, when it was pretty much forbidden to walk in anywhere. High Street banking has been on the wane for several years. With the advent of digital banking, there's been less and less need for customers to trek down to their local branch.

That's something most will be glad about, not just to save the trip, but because of what they usually found when they got there: a grey counter, some weak coffee and lots of noisy marketing messages.

As most of the boring side of banking moves in-app, however, smart banks are reassessing how they use physical space. The results, thankfully, are far more hospitable. After ING Amstelveen and ING Leeuwarden and many more, it was time for the transformation of ING La Vie in Utrecht.

ING decided the way they accommodate visitors should be changed accordingly. In order to find out how to translate the idea into a new (office) space, Creneau International started a thorough research into the way staff and clients could interact in the “bank of the future”.



Our investigation gave us great insight into the possible setup of this new type of bank, functionally as well as aesthetically.

ING may be cutting their generic brick-and-mortar offer, but we advised them to also reinvest in physical spaces that address the wider needs that impact why customers seek out financial products in the first place.

We felt there was a need to move away from current stereotypes and had a clear vision of the future.



The concept

In the era of digital banking, the emphasis for bank offices is on personal contact and advice more than ever. In the rare moments you decide to visit a bank, your visitor journey should be flawless and intuitive. Your overall visit should be a confirmation that you have chosen the right bank that fits your needs. So, instead of the traditional face to face counter, we put transparency and homeliness at the core of the design. We created a place where conversations are started and relations can be built. A real bank.
The bank next door.

At ING La Vie in the Dutch city of Utrecht, classic counters have been abandoned. Wanting to make the experience warmer and more welcoming - in terms of both service and aesthetics - ING arrived at a model that looks far more like a social hotspot than the queue-based drudgery most banking customers are used to.

After waiting in the coffee bar Zwart goud (black gold), clients can use open "workbenches” for staff-guided self-banking. The range of consultation spaces runs from open to semi-closed to private, depending on the need. Staff offices are barely discernible from the public spaces in a bid to become more human, tangible and transparent.

ING's brand color is bright orange. Rather than slapping the corporate palette here, there and everywhere, Creneau subtly integrated it into the scheme.

The result, say the designers, is a public space that feels like a private space. At the first pilot location in Amstelveen, opened in 2016, we even received feedback from the staff that visitors were loading the dishwasher and wiping the counter by themselves. For us, that was the ultimate (and unexpected) compliment. Visitors felt so at home that they felt a certain sense of responsibility to leave things tidy. 

We wanted to stay away from the clutter of marketing collateral, which is present everywhere in most bank offices. We chose to communicate in an alternative way, using quotes that inspire, or trigger thoughts. These quotes are placed throughout the office and on the coffee cups as well.


That shift is also aided by a raft of design pieces from the Netherlands' rich creative sector. You'll spot Weltevree's Wheel Bench on the mezzanine and Dirk van der Kooij lamps for example. It's a discrete yet important reassertion of ING's position as a committed patron of the arts community.

ING is known for its art collection, which we didn't want to hide away in a depot. For every new branch to be opened, we work closely with the ING Art department. They look at both aesthetics and content to see which photo, painting or object fits a specific spot. The art is always matched to the color palette, resulting in an interesting harmony. ING has also commissioned (local) artists or designers to create art installations, supporting the concept of transparency and ‘life as it is’ for some of its branches. This makes some branches even more rooted into their surroundings.

An example is Jelle Mastenbroek’s interactive art piece named ‘Geld moet rollen’, meaning money should roll. The piece is a money-back vending machine playing a tune when a coin is inserted and rolls over different glass plates.



The bank of the future that we created for ING has been renowned for some time now and the concept is being rolled out all over Europe. What is different here in Utrecht, is the collaboration with De Stadstuin, a local partner. By joining forces, an even stronger hospitality feel was achieved. The goal is to empower young entrepreneurs to meet at ING La Vie, turning it into a breeding ground for creativity and entrepreneurship.

With entrepreneurship fast becoming the rule rather than the exception, it will be increasingly important to figure out how and where to address these new hybrid personal- and-business clients. Something you would not associate with a bank right away, yet it creates a personal and surprising angle for clients.

The positive energy is palpable throughout the office and is passed on to visitors. They can connect in an informal and personal setting, allowing for commercial and personal growth. In need of a break from your usual workplace or simply a cup of coffee in another environment? The coffee bar accommodates both.

More ING offices are transforming at the moment! Keep an eye on our website to discover the next one(s).

Scope of work

Interior design




Utrecht — Netherlands


ING Bank Netherlands