Fernando Fischmann

The Last Place One Would Expect To Find Design And Innovation: The Dentist’s Office

17 January, 2017 / Articles

In a year of searching for a good dentist in New York City, I happened upon a pretty amazing one, in a class by herself when it comes to design sensibility and customer touchpoint innovation, and unlike anything I’ve seen before. I would venture to say there is no practice like hers anywhere.  It starts with a vision, a desired response from patients, a thoughtful and detailed understanding of all the steps on the “customer dentistry journey”, an ability to challenge what has been customary, a far hipper, tech savvy approach springing from being a 35-year old millennial, being innately creative, and a particularly creative husband as a collaborator, Kent Rogowski, who is an artist and professor of photography at The Rhode Island School of Design.  Jennifer Plotnick is the dentist/owner of the newly launched Grand Street Dental in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The unusual practice she has created goes to show that no matter how small or mundane a business may seem, there’s always the opportunity to totally rethink it, innovate, and stand out by delivering exceptional customer experience. Jennifer’s example provides a small business primer on mastering all the marketing elements that go into creating a great overall brand impression and strategically positioning the brand among competitive options. The example is customer touchpoint mastery on steroids, in a good way.

Most new dentists who set up practice are referred to large dental suppliers, who provide free office design and layout options in hopes of future orders of big ticket items like dental chairs and other large equipment. Grand Street Dental forewent that route and instead decided to do its own office design and sourcing of virtually everything.

Vision And Desired Patient Response

Adjectives Jennifer used to describe what she was going for include artistic, homey, “cottagey”, familiar, approachable not slick, clean, fresh, filled with personality and character, kid-friendly for those who are treated or accompany their parents, and instilling confidence you’re in capable hands.


The location is brilliant on two counts. Williamsburg is one of the hippest places to live in New York, with a tech savvy, young population, many of whom are new to the area, attracted by like-minded residents and the explosion in housing, restaurants, unique coffee shops, one-of-a-kind boutiques, and bricks and mortar stores like The Apple Store, Whole Foods, J. Crew and Madewell. The local population that earns a good living to be able to afford the rents, appreciates what’s new and different.  Many are starting families and are looking for a new dentist. It’s a population with great “customer lifetime value”. Grand Street dental is also next to Sprout, a popular plant shop that people who move into the area go to buy plants for their new apartments. Williamsburg is also underserved by established Dentists, because it’s so relatively newly developed.

Grand Street Dental’s location is also brilliant because it was a retail store front they fitted with huge windows. Passersby can look into and view the unusual decor for a dentist’s office, including lots of cacti, artwork and a warm and soothing color palate. The large windows also make the office feel more connected to the community. As a result of not being hidden away in a high-rise or brownstone like many other practices, Jennifer feels she saves a small fortune in marketing she otherwise would have needed to spend to generate awareness.

Name And Logo

The name and logo/font were strategically chosen. Jennifer wanted a name that registered “Dentists’ Office” in a way that communicated neighborhood and friendly, and wasn’t “cheesy”, pretentious or expected. The name Grand Street Dental is simple. Jennifer art directed the logo herself, playing with different fonts, sizes and spacing. Another consideration was not to use her name, in case she one day decides to sell the practice. The sign hangs outside, perpendicular to the exterior, so it’s readily seen up and down the street.

Business Cards, Postcards, Stickers, Computer Screen Savers, Website, and Window Graphics Pre-Opening

Jennifer and Kent created the fun graphic motif of smiles from foods they literally ate, and other objects they bent, twisted or arranged into smiles. The playful graphic and tagline “I like when you smile, but I love when I’m the reason” is on their patient referral card. During her 7-month construction period, the smile images were printed out in large scale and filled the 14-foot high street facing windows that intrigued local residents to see what was coming.

Décor, Color Palette, Office Scent, Lighting, Artwork, Reading Materials, Soap & Office Scrubs

Jennifer’s design sensibility is consistently carried out throughout the entire office.  The waiting area was designed to feel like a cross between an interesting, comfortable home and a mini, uncluttered art gallery. Works by Jennifer’s husband Kent, and friends who are artists line the walls. The goal was to make patients feel relaxed and engaged. Jennifer went through 16 different shades of white to find the perfect wall color. All the small items are a crisp and cheerful light turquoise, including the Poppin brand pens, sign-in clipboard, mouse pad, rinsing cups, patient bibs, and tray liners.

Her good friends, Putnam & Putnam, a popular NYC florist, selected and arranged a wonderful collection of cacti to attractively fit the space. Putnam & Putnam also makes uniquely scented candles and Grand Street Dental chose Mythos, a blend of moss and mint, as their signature scent. The reading material is also carefully curated… Not the usual doctor’s office magazines, but rather interesting art books and hip magazines like Vice (with Kent’s photography on the cover) and the New Yorker.  A large bookshelf lines the waiting room wall, filled with art books from Jennifer and Kent’s own collection. The upbeat self-help book “Failed it: How to turn a positive into a negative” sits on a coffee table.

A Stelton carafe, carried in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Store, provides tea for patients while they wait, to be poured into handcrafted ceramic tea cups made by local Brooklyn ceramists. An attractive apothecary jar on the counter contains a beautifully packaged and deliciously scented dental floss called Cocofloss, for sale. It’s sent in from San Francisco and is made with coconut oil that has antibacterial properties. The floss tagline is “100% gum bliss guaranteed”.

The waiting room door has sleek door handles and a magnetic closure made by a door company Jennifer found through Instagram. The doors, are 10 feet high and once closed become practically invisible to the walls around them. Once inside the treatment area, there are no doors, but rather semi partitions, to delineate each room. Along with the very high, 13 -foot ceilings, the ambience is light and airy. Jennifer designed her custom cabinetry in each treatment room to include a small, built-in bench where parents or kids can sit while they accompany each other. There’s even a small cabinet below the bench for kids to put their backpack or boots in!  A giant model of teeth sits on the counter and adds a sense of humor. The cabinets were custom designed, and the apothecary style jars for the dental floss were custom imprinted with Grand Street Dental.

The interior, recessed LED lighting, emanates from attractive square shaped sockets, approximates natural light, and dims. Another set of recessed lighting along the far wall simulates a skylight. Unattractive pipes were intentionally placed underground and wires are carefully hidden from sight. Even the WIFI boosters in the outlet plugs are modern and coordinate with the décor.

The science man and innovator, Fernando Fischmann, founder of Crystal Lagoons, recommends this article.





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