Rosa Fernández Cerdán : Rosikaa

Strategic & Service Design | Innovation in Retail

Pop Up Commerce: a prototyping journey

Stages developed

8 weeks of training, co-creation and testing experience to foster innovation in the retail sector. Design and launch of a business incubation pilot project for the development of innovative ideas that can be tested and prototyped before setting up a retail in the city of San Sebastián.

Challenge: An emergent sector to integrate new customer needs and city changes

Donostia-San Sebastián is a coastal city in the Basque Country, in the north of Spain, famed for its beauty, film festival and fine food. The city has always combined a wide variety of traditional shopping areas with a new range of chic and stylish shops. However, new challenges such as the massive online shopping trend with a more informed, experienced and demanding customers are seen as urgent needs to be tackled by the City Council to maintain a vibrant and valued sector in the city that creates employment and local wealth.

Fomento San Sebastián asked ColaBoraBora and Tipi to design a programme to support and create new retail projects in the city that integrates some principles such as sustainability, innovation and collaboration. I had an active role in both the design process and the implementation stage. 


A programme based on the format of Residencies, which combines training, co-creation, support and experimentation. Pop Up Commerce offers a favourable setting to participants to try and test business ideas by creating a prototype. It makes possible, via the “Pop Up” concept, exploring the previous stage to “opening a business” or bringing to market a new innovative product or service.

A methodology based on Learning by doing structured in three types of activities.

  1. Open Commerce talks and lectures: workshops led by experts and guests of local businesses with a practical approach.
  2. Creation and prototyping: ongoing testing with users and final production of the idea in a show.
  3. Mentored accompaniment: individual sessions to monitor and support, combined with group sessions of ‘compare and contrast’ and shared learning.
Several elements were designed, such as this PopUp trolley to advertise the programme and attract the attention of interested people and passers-by


During the investigation stage, several clear trends were observed. A sector detached from its role as a neighbourhood link and socialising element. The growing opening of franchises, which don’t generate relationships or a personalised experience for the customer, are a threat to the self-sufficient, small commerce. Businesses moved to the city centre or to malls in the outskirts in opposition to the closing up of businesses and empty retail shops in the neighbourhood.

The starting problem statements to design the programme were: How to revitalise a business across the city via new commerce strategies?, What type of business and experimental ideas can survive this changing situation?, How to support the new generations to develop innovative projects?.

How can businesses be a key element and an opportunity for change in consumer habits, making them more co-responsible, ethic and sustainable?


During 8 weeks, the eight participants followed intensively the given path. All the businesses ideas were brought to life in a prototype of their service, product and model business, showcased at a central square in town. The “Pop Up Prototypes Circuit” drew many visitors interested in knowing each project, its creative process and to interact with them. The programme met its goals and even exceeded expectations. Up to this date (2019), there have been four more editions.

Most of PopUpCommerce’s success was due to the coordination, collaboration and involvement of the different agents throughout the whole process, from the investigation and design to the implementation and measurement/evaluation. ColaBoraBora and Tipi facilitated a constant dialogue and an exchange between the local government techs, businesses and commerce associations, different communities and the participants. Equally, a larger community was reached by the weekly publication of the whole process (methodologies, results and learnings) through a digital blog within the Fomento San Sebastian’s website. Some of the publications have had more than 10.000 visits.

Creativity and learning through play have been essential to generate “out-of-the-box” ideas and trust in the participants.

Biarritzkitsch Gastro. Artistic pottery co-designed and created to enhance the most exquisite culinary dishes. They showcased their first prototypes.
Ropateka is a fashion library concept which offers local fashion and design, sustainable and at a reasonable price, through a network and a club where the client is presented with two options: either rent it or buy it.
Gros Running is a platform promoting group running that offers consulting and builds up a community. They used shoe laces as part of their interactive display where they collected users suggestions.


Client: Fomento de San Sebastián (City Council)
Team: ColaBoraBora and Tipi Studio
Collaborators: Petitcomitestudio (Technical support); Ion Vazquez (Team support); Pantori (Retail innovation Contents)
Date: 2015
My Role: Strategic Designer | Capacity Builder
Methods: Experience prototyping. Learning by doing. Business model canvas.