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Business Model Innovation Delivered Through Service Design & Virtual Reality: The Treehouse @ SUNSTUDIOS
Client: Canon

How to Impact brought amazing rigour and discipline to our process of assessing new business opportunities and worked with us from planning to completion to bring the concept to life.
— Alan Brightman, General Manager SUNSTUDIOS


The photography market in Australia has undergone a radical transformation in recent years as digitisation has driven the pace of change from product to experience economy. The usability and quality of Digital SLRs has enfranchised a growing pool of semi-professionals at one of the market, whilst ‘smart-phonography’ and Go-Pro’s have broadened the everyday, everywhere reach of imaging at the other end. Against this backdrop of change, Canon Australia acquired SUNSTUDIOS (the largest professional photography studios in the southern hemisphere) in 2014. Our brief was to discover potential business models and bring them to life.


We built a user-centric innovation approach based on the fundamentals of service design prototyping that drew on the collaboration & co-creation of the photographic community.

Initial business model hypotheses were generated from existing market intelligence, consumer insight, qualified hunches and the brand stretch for both SUNSTUDIOS and Canon so that we could quickly move to real-world exploration. In every service design challenge, tightly-targeted end-users are vital and we recruited all end-users directly from across the photography community – their ongoing feedback was a vital aid, as was the insight of parallel and vertical experts.

We moved through 3 rounds of hypothesis-testing – testing, re-thinking, evolving and layering the content in each round. This gave us essential ‘pivot’ points that allowed us to tighten the eventual proposition in terms of both service and spatial design.

The studio was our backdrop for every stage of exploration, and by round 3 we had built a full clickable prototype for the central service experience, 3D renders of the new space design and detailed membership models.

One of the toughest challenges in building the right environment was the loss of valuable gallery wall-space to create a new central entrance that not only ‘invited’ photographers into the space, but also showcased the stairway up to the proposed mezzanine level. We used an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset to demonstrate the power of this new layout and won our entrance way. 



Contrary to initial hypotheses, we identified the need for a dedicated photography hub for 2 types of potential ‘users’ and 3 common missions driven by the desire to progress in their professional photography path via:

- inspiration & community
- operational effectiveness
- access to dedicated resources

We built the membership models, service tiers, community schedules and layouts around the central mission of ‘helping professional photography grow in professionalism’. One key output was the full cost analysis and business case modelling for the new Hub.

…but we didn’t stop there: having created the blue-print, we then co-managed the end-to-end build process with the team at SUNSTUDIOS – including architects, builders, IT providers, internal and external collaborators, scheduling, marketing and membership modelling.


The “Treehouse” launched on 1st March 2016. Several of the first sign-ups came from the photographers recruited throughout the ongoing engagement process.