Hawaii State Federal Credit Union: Soft Opening

The 1,800-square-foot space that is Hawaii State Federal Credit Union: Salt Lake, serves as a sort of "test lab" for their new technology. They are the first in Hawaii to have ITMs. Not only that, but their ITMs are the first in the nation to implement palm/vein-based biometric authentication with member specialists behind each ITM to answer questions and guide customers through the ITM experience.

"We're proud to be the first financial institution in Hawaii to introduce this new technology. But more importantly, we're proud to offer the best of both worlds. between the convenience of out new self-service options and offering expert financial consulation provided by our friendly staff-you choose how you want to interact with us. " - Ismael "Ish" Eustaquio


Representatives from Element (Nate and Bryn Baldasaro) flew out to witness the soft opening of the branch.

The day after arrival started at 8:30am in the lobby of HSFCU: Salt Lake. After some fine tuning of the touch tables, Ryan Hirata calls the group over to discuss the digital touch experience.

Meanwhile, graphics are being carefully applied to the windows. Despite there being a few minor hiccups, the atmosphere is joyful. Cherese Maio leads a team of women comprised of Trisha Aguirre, Rose Scott, Arinix Aga, Tori Yamashiro, Lauren Costello, and Haley Quinata. She has been coaching them on the new branch hospitality policies, training them to be the best in the business. Of course, their bubbly personalities, professionalism, and eagerness to learn lends itself perfectly to their job descriptions.

Introduction to touch technology.

The team is then called into a meeting lead by Ryan to talk about the importance of touch, the different features, and the new options that the touch tables provide. There are two on the right side [from the door] of the branch. As Ryan goes through his presentation, Nate interjects with some interesting anecdotes and personal points surrounding the touch process.

As the day progresses, Cherese takes the women through a variety of exercises to prepare them for the branch’s soft opening on Monday. After lunch, they practice their jobs, alternating between customer and employee, a roleplaying exercise that was quite fun!


Pictured: Tori and Micah

After a restful weekend visiting the North Shore and other local landmarks, the highlight of which was swimming at Makapu'u Beach, Monday morning dawned to another early arrival.

Makapu’u Beach Park

Element reps arrived at 7:50am to a branch that was already filled with employees, board members, and local partners of the credit union. To the left of the door, there was a table laden with coffee and customized donuts from DunkinDonuts, fruit, and some chichi dango. A local favorite, it is a sweet similar to mochi, but much softer. The space is clean and sparkling. Those on the staff as well as few other special people, including Nate, were gifted with leis to wear. The ladies, lead by Cherese excelled in their mingling. At 8:30, Andrew Rosen, the CEO of Hawaii State FCU, called for everyone’s attention. He delivered a heartfelt speech and thanked all those involved in the project.

Andrew Rosen: CEO of HSFCU

He was followed by Elliot Hatico who also thanked many. In a humorous speech, he addressed the staff directly about the importance of working together, using the analogy of a canoe team to illustrate his point. When he finished, Micah Yoshimura introduced the staff and their jobs and recognized those involved in the project. Among those recognized throughout the speeches were Ish Eustaquio, Nate Baldasaro and The Element Group, and Duke Gipaya the facilities specialist.

Elliot Hatico

When Micah finished, Elliot stepped up to introduce the Kahuna (Hawaiian priest) Curt Kekuna who did the blessing for the branch when construction first began, as well as many of the blessings for other HSFCU branches. He delivered a quick sermon on his involvement with HSFCU as well as the importance of the federal credit union’s mission to always, “be right by you”. He stressed the importance of connection and caring for each other and through audience engagement, creates that feeling of connection and family within the space.

Curt Kekuna

He ushered everyone outside for the blessing which concluded with a sprinkling of holy water and the untying of the ceremonial lei by Micah and Andrew to officially open the branch. Afterwords, everyone filed back in. Staff went first, followed by the people from corporate. Everyone else entered after them and took the opportunity to shake hands, hug, kiss, and congratulate those on the staff.

Outside for the blessing

With the Salt Lake branch officially open at 9:00am, those involved stood at their stations next to the ITM’s and happily demonstrated the new technology to participants of the blessing, as well as walk-ins intrigued by the hustle and bustle. By the time Element left at 11:15am, several withdrawals had been made and accounts had been set up. They headed over to HSFCU headquarters for 12:00pm to run a mini-seminar on pushing content as well as template opportunities (such as pulling in multiple feeds to one screen) on Element's digital platform. Those that attended the meeting were: Bonnie Sakai, Ryan, Nate Baldasaro, Stacy Fujitani, and Cullen Tegan. After a 5 minute break, Nate took some time to discuss touch opportunities. The meeting concluded at 3:00pm, after which the participants finalized plans for dinner at Tsukuneya Robata Grill. The people from Element joined Ish, Ryan, Cullen, and Aaron Valleley for a delicious dinner before heading out for home the next morning.

Dinner at Tsukuneya Robata

Upon arriving home, Element recieved news from Ish that the branch is thriving, serving as an interest point for many of the other local branches.


Thank you to the team at HSFCU for hosting The Element Group!

To see more about the Salt Lake team, click here.

To see the HSFCU experience gallery, click here.

Written by Bryn Baldasaro for The Element Group.

A Case Where "Every Bit Matters"

Here at Element, we often refer to the company tagline of "every bit matters." We stress the small things, saying that those things are what may set companies apart.

When representatives from Element flew out ot Hawaii for the opening of HSFCU's Salt Lake branch, they experienced the effect of their own tag line.

12 hours total, the flight to Hawaii State FCU was split into two different parts. The first leg of the journey went through Minneapolis. Upon a late arrival, Element's reps realized that in order to get to the flight headed into Honolulu, they would have to run. The gate of the flight that they were on was far from the next boarding gate and they thought it would be a tight squeeze. To their surprise, there was a gentleman waiting inside the ramp area, looking for the passengers bound for Honolulu. When the people from Element passed, he quickly led them down the stairs that were attached to the gate and onto the tarmac.

He explained that he was part of Delta’s Elite Services and as part of their Surprise and Delight Porche Program, they try to find people that are stretched for time and bring them right to their flight. A quick ride in a Porsche Cayenne brought the reps to the set of stairs connected to their next flight. This small act of kindness relieved a great deal of potential stress and demonstrated that the little “bits” truly matter.


Written by Bryn Baldasaro for The Element Group.

Designing a Great Workspace Part II

Welcome back! Here is Part 2, picking right back up where the last post left off.

What would be 3 or 4 crucial things to keep in mind when designing a modern workspace?


  • Maintaining Warmth through reds, yellows and wood grains. Modern workspaces tend to be very white and metallic, so it’s important to bring in aspects of warmth and life to visually soften straight edges. This could be as simple as adding some wood detailing, or inserting a plant here and there to liven things up. The addition of Natural Elements, allows people to feel calm and comfortable. There is something about the brain and the way it connects to Nature.

  • A Balance of Privacy, Collaboration, and Recreational Spaces.

    • In designing modern workspaces, many designers are removing walls and partitions in order to create an open work environment that promotes interaction and collaboration. While this is a positive change, designers are now missing the privacy aspect. In order incorporate this important element in an open concept space,  ‘phone booth’ type areas are in. These are quiet spaces, outfitted with a door that allows for productive work without interruption.

  • Meetings are a very important part of the office environment. As a result, they are often busy and very loud.  It is important to be able to have these animated conversations without disturbing the rest of the office. Being able to provide a variety of these types of spaces(such as: conference room style, lounge style, semi-private, very-private etc.) is ideal.

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  • Having a Break Room/Eating Space enables the ability to get away from the computer or work space helps to refresh and invigorate people. The human brain can only focus on a task for a limited period of time, after which, productivity can be a struggle. In setting aside a place for interaction, people are encouraged to talk about things other than work. This increases positivity in the space and builds up the team. It also provides a place to store the snacks and refreshments that will energize and fulfill the hunger pangs that can drive concentration away.

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  • Inspiration. Whether it is a pin board or a digital screen with photos, it is important to surround the workspace with items of inspiration.

Caleigh’s Pinterest Board

  • Lighting. Having a well lit workspace with the absence of window glare as well as an abundance of natural light gives off vibes of a positivity and openness.

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  • An extra point that must be included would be Dogs. Absolutely had to throw this one in! Here at Element, it is not uncommon to walk into the office and be greeted by a lolling tongue and wagging tail! Always happy and energetic, dogs can relieve stress and help change perspective in an instant, as well as get people moving.

How much do Ergonomics factor into your designs?

Ergonomics are a critical factor. Task seating and workstations, must support the physical needs of every employee. Specifying task chairs with height-adjustable seats, arms, and tilt control backs will allow the user to adjust to their specific needs. If an employee is comfortable in their personal work area, they will be more productive and, most importantly, will not have long-term physical issues. There is a significant increase in the number of height-adjustable desks in the workplace. This type of workstation provides an employee the opportunity to sit or stand throughout the day.


In your opinion, what makes a workspace great?


A great workspace is one that an employee looks forward to working in. The space must be comfortable, inviting, and support the daily job requirements and tasks that an employee must perform. Studies have shown that environments that are fun and lively, have a direct relationship to productivity levels. Natural light, comfortable furnishings, flexibility,  ample amounts of the overall space combined with how it’s utilized, are all important aspects to making a workspace great. Throughout the course of a day, an employee will need to have access to meeting, collaboration/lounge, and break/lunch areas.



Once again, a space that allows people to work and communicate fluidly. It is vital to be able to combine time for productive work as well as time for brainstorming, collaboration and problem solving. A great book on this topic would is Typologies by O + A Architects. Inspiration for this idea can be drawn from big technology companies, as they are reviving the concept of office work. Companies such as Apple© and Cisco™ are building large HQs to bring people together under the same roof and create a welcoming and open space accented by nature. For example, Apple© is building a headquarter that will fit approximately 12,000 people, while the rest of the surrounding land will go towards parks and recreation centers, surrounding the offices with beautiful scenery and activity.

Thank you to Caleigh and Laura for taking time out of their day to answer these questions!


Interview conducted and written by Bryn Baldasaro for The Element Group.

Special thanks to Laura Mynahan and Caleigh Pollard.

Hawaii State Federal Credit Union: Salt Lake Location

Waves lap at the sides of a massive ship powering through the currents of the Pacific. Nondescript, the containers stacked on the deck offer the viewer little in the way of their contents. However, one of these containers holds something unique, the pieces of the newly designed branch for Hawaii State Federal Credit Union all in one place, and ready for implementation.

Rendering of HSFCU Salt Lake Branch, Hawaii: Part 1

It was just over a year ago that this project took its first steps in Portsmouth, NH. Six members of Hawaii’s executive team traveled overseas to visit Element headquarters. They spent four days discussing the new strategy, work environment, as well as various ways to improve the member experience.

Out for Lobster in Perkins Cove, Ogunquit, ME.

Strategy Session

In addition to the meetings and discussions, the team at Element took their visitors to Boston to see the sights and tour multiple “branch of the future” locations.

Touring the sites!

Inspiration Source: The Capitol One Cafe

Over the next several months, the team from Hawaii and the team from Element worked their way through concepts, schematic design, and design development documentation. Since then, a variety of specialists have come together to bring this project to fruition. All of the millwork and materials were manufactured in a Phoenix location, then carefully packaged, crated, and shipped to Honolulu.

With minimal room to space, the boxes containing the branch were ready for departure.

Meanwhile, a “vanilla box” was created on location. This meant prepping the outside of the branch as well as creating a clean slate on the inside. Just prior to shipping, the teams reconvened in Phoenix, Arizona to review the millwork and catch up on the digital touch experience. Then, the branch was shipped to location in one large 40’ container, separated by type in wooden units. This included the millwork, the ceiling tiles, flooring, lights, doors, digital, computers, and hardware.

Inspecting the millwork

Ultimately, this type of shipment allowed for a faster delivery, as all the moving parts are delivered together, a faster installation, and an immediate start to construction. It is a more sustainable, organized, and efficient option to the normal (and slow) process normally reserved in putting together a new branch.

Lunch in Phoenix

Hawaii State Federal Credit Union is the first credit union to make use of this unique service. Shipped out of Phoenix on May 6th, the transporters sent a complete photo gallery detailing the process and ensuring that instructions were followed to a T.

Renderings of HSFCU Salt Lake Branch, Hawaii: Part 2

What ended up being 28 packages and 24,125 pounds of weight, arrived safely in Honolulu approximately two months ago. The implementation team has been busy constructing the branch in preparation for the soft opening on July 29th, 2019.

To see more photos detailing the process, check out this gallery.

To see the finished product, head on over to Instagram where there will be photos of the completed branch, as well as of the opening itself!


Written by Bryn Baldasaro for The Element Group.

Designing a Great Workspace Part I

Creativity, Adjustability, and Collaboration. With the constantly evolving trends, these three themes create the foundation for a great workspace. Laura and Caleigh are interior designers here at The Element Group and they sat down and shared some information about the design process.

What steps do you take when designing?


Step 1: Meet the client - This gives a sense of the personality the client that the designs are for, as well as the brand that the company stands for. Always go into the first client meeting with an understanding of who they are, through research. Learn about what could be done for them and as well as things such as past projects and missions.

Step 2: See the space - Either through photos or an onsite visit to see the space is essential. This is the time to define and understand the scope of the project, what the limitations and concerns may be, begin to explore all the available opportunities, and if needed, record measurements.

Step 3: Research + Idea gathering - Based on the client meeting and site visit, the information gathered is used to establish ideas for the space and to find photos of similar or drastically different spaces for inspiration.

Step 4: Schematic Design - This is when the formal design process starts. Using all the information gathered, one can start to scribble rough ideas and gather product images that support the ideas that are generated. When defining spaces, it is vital to start thinking about the space three dimensionally through things such as elevations and sketches. The design process continues with decisions about space size and functionality. Followed by materials, furniture, and finishes needed to ensure the look, feel and functionality the client desires. Once things are finalized, the completed design development and the construction documents are assembled in order to finally build the space

How do you determine the best color scheme for the space?


It starts with an interview to determine the desired look, feel, and approach. Their design team gets involved and talks over their branding guidelines/standards in the form of a manual. This can contain the color palette, logo and how it should be used, and specific paint colors.

Desert Financial Credit Union Layout

Usually there is an element from another branch or their logo that they want to carry over. It could could be something like walnut paneling, a specific color blue or a special carpet. Sometimes, if there is a large logo wall with video displays, one of the colors featured could be used to create a stronger brand. There is usually a neutral color prevalent through the space, and then accent colors (along with environmental graphics) are used to focus the customer’s eye on certain areas. Often the carpet is selected first and it plays a huge factor in determining the rest of the details that will be added such as the laminates, tiling and countertops. Finding a carpet that enhances and blends with some of the accent colors can provide a base for everything else.

Blue Hills Bank: Seaport


Utilizing a company's brand as the start off point and finding something else we would like to highlight is key. Using those logo style colors and brand guidelines as a key, the next step is to gather materials that complement and harmonize with the brand/logo, and find materials that will make the brand really POP. If a company has a bold logo color and style and values fun and bright graphics, the goal is to bring those colors subtly into the space so that the overall impression is not overwhelming. Balance is also key with color schemes. If there is a certain orange found in the graphics or on one side of the space, one should be bringing in that warm tone on the other side whether it is through paint, fabric color, or wood tone.

What would be 3 or 4 crucial things to keep in mind when designing a modern workspace?


  • Simplicity.  An uncluttered and sophisticated approach that emphasizes fine lines and a sleek, seamless look. A well planned space will allow extensive collaboration in addition to focused individual work. One should have more than one option in the space, this includes conference rooms with increased privacy so not to disturb the other people working, areas dedicated to individual work, and areas for the team to meet and alternatively hang out. There also should be private spaces that allow individuals to find an increased focus. Finally, there should be ample space given to an individual so they can perform their job effectively and efficiently.

Popular Community Bank Lobby Furniture: Dadeland Branch I

  • Furniture and Finishes. Furniture must be comfortable and ergonomic and both must work together to capture the feel and design of the space, be it traditional, modern, or transitional. Comfortable ergonomic furniture is something that has been stressed over and over again as it is one of the most important elements. It is crucial to have options in order to easily adapt to different body types and preferences and be welcoming and supportive of the person in it. It should be of high quality and welcoming.

  • Signage and Wayfinding. For a client, properly designed signage helps the customer identify key areas and clearly directs them around the space.

Newburyport Bank: Newburyport, Massachusetts

  • Glass. Previously, workspace design only used this delicate, yet versatile media for small window panes. Now, designers are embracing this material and are seeking to incorporate it as much as possible. Having an abundance of glass in the design improves the sleek and modern aspect of the space and boosts the moral of the people working there. Glass can be treated in a way that it can regulate heat and still provide ample light, thus reducing electrical costs.

  • To extend on that, Lighting is really important, whether it is for employees, overall illumination, or to highlight features, it should be appropriate for the task at hand.

Part II Coming Soon!


Interview written and conducted by Bryn Baldasaro for The Element Group.

Edited by Bryn Baldasaro and Dawn Rabinowitz.

Special thanks to Laura Mynahan and Caleigh Pollard.