Unbrand Store Designs

Is this the face of the "Unbrand?"

If you are a sometimes visitor to this site you may have seen me ponder the impacts of “unbrand” in previous posts. With this recent article on “AdNews” I find myself again bestirred on the subject. The gist of the article is that “Unbrand” is a “Movement” initiated by Gen. C (connected) values, resulting in a shift in market focus from the designer to the designee. When considered in the context of the currently “logocentric” shopping place this shift could, in the design sense, prove to be profound. In short, how does/will/should an “unbrand” look? The temptation to present the obvious was too strong, leading me to alter the photo above to match the idea. Of course, no one has actually come to me and said, “I am opening a new store. I will be selling shoes. The store does not have a name. Please design the prototype.” That does not, though, stop me from trying to envision such a shopping experience.

toys dress

carOr maybe stores should rely on large format graphics and photos with generic labels to identify their products. It is, after all, how it is done on http://etsy.com. Either way, there are no answers here, just explorations. You will find the article here: AdNews: THE ADNEWS NGEN BLOG: The challenge of ‘Unbrand’.

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

Store Design: Materials

I was researching another project when I ran across these book stores. I was looking for examples of how different building finish materials can change the perception of merchandise quality in a store design, and as these views are void of brand signs, they allow for a fairly objective comparison on a store planning level as well. The examples were good enough to turn into an article as follows:

Store 1
Store 1

Store 1 – This first store reminds me of Strand Bookstore in New York City, locally famous for used books, which should not come as a surprise as the plastic on the windows, mismatched fixtures, cheap but effective fluorescent lighting and existing brick walls and wood floors all suggest, not only extreme economy, but also sustainability. The chairs and wide aisles suggest a comfortable and possibly entertaining shopping experience. In NYC this equals “shabby chic.” Anywhere else it risks being just shabby.

Store 2
Store 2

Store 2 – The actual fixtures used in this store, likely high quality painted wood, display the merchandise for maximum advantage and provide storage as well. Nevertheless, carpet and acoustic tile floors and ceilings are strictly utilitarian, as is the lighting, which is adequate but stylistically dated as it is used here. The monotone, high foot candle light level removes the possibility of any particular focus or feature areas, as does the “many evenly spaced rows” type of layout. This ambiance is all about volume and possibly crosses over to discount.

Store 3
Store 3

Store 3 – This appears to be a high profile, historic, urban environment that is possibly a destination unto itself. Efforts have been made to help the store fixtures disappear into the location. Wood shelving and display tables match existing architectural trim and carefully placed invisible light sources outline perimeter merchandise walls artfully tucked under the balcony. Like dancers in a grand ballroom, table top displays nicely present the merchandise to main floor shoppers. A polite, public mood prevails.

Store 4
Store 4

Store 4 – This is another example of how existing buildings can drive the retail ambiance of a space. Exposed structure, skylights, stone walls, and distressed concrete floors identify an industrial loft type environment made relevant by the addition of colorful art lights, and a bit of modern ceiling material. Tall store fixtures made of construction grade wood emphasize the soaring ceiling height and merge into the prevailing aesthetic. One might be surprised to find that this trendy store, like store 1, is also selling used books.

Store 5
Store 5

Store 5 – Perhaps the most unique of the stores, this is defined first by the the top to bottom wood finishes and then by the contemporary parkitecture, including the shelving units carefully incorporated therin. Visions of everything from Hoss Cartwright’s Ponderosa to Bilbo Baggin’s Hobbit Hole are conjured. The place practically invites the shopper to enter a mysterious world of fantasy.

Store 6
Store 6

Store 6 – Finally we have the shop of no finishes, except of course the books, representing the weighty world of gold bound illuminated manuscripts and classic volumes read and reread over time in days when they had more than just historic value. This is the revered library showing up in Patrick Rothfuss’, The Name of the Wind.

Finally, it is of interest that, in spite of differing book sizes, the shelf heights have been maintained to form continuous horizontally aligned rows of books in all of these stores.

All photos on this site belong to the author, are used under Creative Commons or with permission from the photographer. The source may normally be found by following the link attached to the photo.

Bridget Gaddis, of Gaddis Architect, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

Crossing Over the Line of Confusion

This is an instructive exercise on two levels. First lets consider the impact of merchandise placement in the black and white photo. It is quickly apparent that the main show, directly in the line of view as a customer enters or passes by the store, is an indecipherable patch work which says little about the products being sold. Also, there is actually some secondary “visual cognition”going on as our eye looks for clarity and finds it in the higher contrast which appears on the side walls where individual items or groups of items have been carefully framed by the surrounding architecture. This can be an effective technique when used in the right location; nevertheless assigning center stage to a confusion of merchandise is risky and could easily send customers searching for more understandable views in an adjacent store.

There is more to this particular story though as the second lesson is about what happens when highly saturated color is added to the mix. Suddenly what was a wall of confused merchandise becomes a high visibility focal point standing out in and being framed framed by the mid-tone world. Now the wall of merchandise has attracted attention sufficient to cross over the line of confusion and land squarely on the side of interest. Very interesting indeed.

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

Store Front Design: setting up a shopping experience

It is such fun to watch excellence in action, no matter where it happens to be found. Even better if it happens to show up in ones particular area of interest. By changing it often, Dash’s treats this store front design like a blog, allowing it to attract the interest of locals as well as visitors. I walk out of my way just to see what is up. I will be shopping there, thanks to the window, the next time a need a gift for the men in my family. So what makes it work?

To start with, the natural architecture, already oozing with quaint, is given a decidedly turn of the century Austrian flair by dint of the permanently placed gargoyles and wreathe on the transom shelf. Add the multi panned window arrangement and the place might be right out of a BBC movie set; all the better to conjure visions of high quality haberdashery. Add the attention grabbing black and white planter below the window, which by the way is able to counter the reflections on the glass, and then finish the presentation off with super organized visual merchandising, including the message decals, end view of the suits, and pointed ties all lined up in neat little rows like a line of soldiers on parade. The place not only delivers a really strong retail message, it sets up a shopping experience.

Bridget Gaddis of Gaddis Architect is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

Retail Store Design: Avoiding the “Tchotchke Effect”

As a retailer, the last thing one wants is for their merchandise to be associated with the terms like worthless, disposable, or tacky. Yet, if it looks like tchotchke because of the manner in which it is presented, that is exactly what is communicated.

The primary remedy for the tchotchke effect is to recognize that the problem exists in the first place. I have seen business savvy start ups and experienced retailers alike end up with stores resembling tourist traps. The effect has many causes. Things like high inventory levels, lack of storage, and mixed product lines are physical issues that, in my experience, are easy to fix. Psychological blocks, though, resulting in denial, can undermine store performance. Causes aside, if the symptoms are not completely evident from the photo above, here are a few main ones: over crowded merchandise, no departmental definition, no visual focus, mixed and non matching store fixtures, cheap lighting, exposed equipment… the list goes on.

Restraint is the operative word when it comes to avoiding the tchotchke effect. After that, there a few visual rules for effective retail store design that work.

1. Create a design concept.

2. Use only store fixtures that stick to the concept.

4. Place key merchandise at eye level.

3. Vary the scale.

4. Leave some empty space.

5. Create a feature.

6. Repeat in an organized way.

7. Color coordinate.

8. Use props and graphics to visually reinforce your product.

Bridget Gaddis of Gaddis Architect is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

Visual Synergy

From http://fixturescloseup.com by fellow blogger Tony Kadysewski

From http://fixturescloseup.com by fellow blogger Tony Kadysewski

Wow! What a great example of what can be done with the most simple and inexpensive props. This photo, from a post by a fellow blogger about how it is easier to sell the idea of color rather than the idea of painting a wall, does a whole lot more than that. It does such a good job of attracting visual attention that even a guy living out of a suitcase might think about looking for something to decorate.

So, let’s consider what makes this work? Not only do the bold colored stools do a great job of counteracting visual noise on the glass, they are at a very recognizable “human” scale. Every one knows what the table in their living room looks like. Also the tables, size wise the biggest elements in the window, are repeated at a smaller scale in the colored boxes and paint samples in the background. These not only have the effect of drawing the passerby directly into the shop, but are also made more interesting because of the suggestive graphic used as a backdrop in the window. The synergy between the window display and the store interior is very successful in this project. The message is clearly that the interior of the store is as dynamic as the exterior. It is a message that is often overlooked by specialty retailers.

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

In Search of the Perfect Daytime Storefront: VII. Simply Successful

I deliberately left the storefront sign out of this photo in an effort to help the viewer maintain objectivity. Can you determine what product is sold here? High contrast graphics are artfully installed first on the storefront glass and then repeated on the white backdrop in first a lighter color and second a smaller scale, creating the previously discussed concept of visual cognition and leading the shopper to focus on the dinnerware. Not surprising then, that the store is Bed Bath and Beyond. Further, the street reflections are kept to a minimum by the awning. Adding a few pieces of colored dinnerware into the mix might have been an improvement, but the window is nevertheless simple and successful as is. In my experience it takes a true professional to practice the restraint necessary to implement such a sophisticated design.

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

In Search of the Perfect Daytime Storefront: VI. Donating High Cost Display Space

Blossoming Backdrop

I am always surprised when companies with large store planning and marketing resources, not to mention budgets, create and then miss visual display opportunities. It is hardly necessary to comment on the problem here. Any student of this blog can see that the white cut work backdrop forms a high contrast and visually compelling pattern against the black storefront surround and dark interior. It had my attention from across the mall, leading me closer, to be captivated by the interesting pattern. I actually found my self trying to see, snow flakes, flowers, even lace.

So the real question is what did I not see. Of course the main event absolutely disappears. The fix here is too easy to be missed. Just imagine what a great display this would have been had the mannequin been dressed in bold color blocked garments. I almost went in the store to see if they had a suggestion box. Also, on a more serious business note, this is some very expensive real estate. To expensive to be donated as a public service gallery when it should be selling a product.

I see and additional flaw in this display, which may be personal preference and pales in comparison to the aforementioned larger issue, but is, nevertheless, worth a mention here. I have a problem with headless mannequins in storefront displays. I find them unnatural and too cheap for all but limited use.

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.