FAO Schwarz


A classic, reborn

FAO Schwarz, founded in 1862, was the undisputed ruler of the toy business for generations. However, after years of customers changing allegiance to stores like Wal-Mart and Toys “R”  Us, FAO was forced to close all fourteen of its stores until D.E. Shaw & Company bought the business out of bankruptcy for $41 million. D. E. Shaw shifted the focus of FAO’s strategy from competing with mass retail to featuring specialty product offerings that largely do not compete with the merchandise available through big box stores. The new FAO would be an evolved vision of kind of the unique and distinct toys that it was once known for.

To realize this vision FAO turned to Rockwell group to relaunch their two remaining two flagship locations; New York and Las Vegas. Both stores were gutted, completely reimagined by Rockwell group and rebuilt from the ground up.

The redesign project began with a comprehensive assessment and documentation of all 20,000 square feet of the New York location. Product locations and pedestrian traffic flows were mapped out in detail and used as the basis of a “crystal clear” wayfinding system that was installed throughout the store.

In parallel to the wayfinding program a comprehensive signage system was developed with several tiers of identification that ranged from newly-designed external architectural signage to signs for every product group, service and amenity in the store.

Research revealed that a large segment of the FAO customer base was comprised of international tourists. In response to this all critical instances of wayfinding and signage were designed and implemented in English, Spanish and Japanese.

The new FAO Schwarz is world-class toy-emporiums featuring everything from twenty-five cent marbles to twelve thousand dollar kid-size Jaguar autos.


FAO Schwarz (for rockwell group)
creative director: john schettino
senior designer: craig byers
junior designer: timo kuhn
lead architect: david wilbourne
senior architect: anthony deen


  • traffic flow maps
  • sign maps/schedules
  • fixtures
  • wayfinding system
  • environmental branding