There is more to a well-designed retail store than meets the eye. Or rather, a strong design is one where everything the designer wants to meet the eye (and ear and nose) does.
Everything you see when you walk into one of DICK’S Sporting Goods’ new Chelsea Collective boutiques in Pittsburgh evokes a sense of fitness, femininity, and style, from the lively pattern of reclaimed hickory floors, to the thin black lines denoting lightness, to the giant vintage swim clock earning hip-cred from above the cash register.
The sense of wonder you get from entering the Libreria bookstore in east London comes from its design’s inspiration: the fictional Library of Babel. Designers used irregular shapes and mirrors to make visitors feel they are inside the unreal fairy tale space with nearly infinite dimensions.
For small retailers, these stores and the resources they command seem impossible to compete with. In reality, what makes these spaces engaging is a replicable interior design process that can be done with any size budget. It all starts with one important first step …
- Define your identity.
How do you describe your brand’s personality? You might call Chelsea Collective chic, feminine and energetic. That works for athletic clothing, but maybe you sell natural soaps. Also feminine perhaps, but your brand is more about relaxation than activity, more about feeling at home than at the gym. The personality then is quieter, understated, simple. All design work must be rooted in that feel.
- Choose your colors.
Libreria wanted to promote “a return to physical material things.” Naturally the color palette is … natural, featuring earthen tones from floor to ceiling as though the bookstore were carved directly out of a dense enchanted forest. The logo is the store name scrawled in a neutral white. Color is powerful and must be consistent across the design. In our natural soap boutique we might use earthen tones as well. We might add splashes of blue and green to evoke a sense of cleanliness and rejuvenation.
- Engage the senses.
In both the above real examples lighting plays an important role in not only bringing out colors but highlighting the products as well. (After all, that’s where all this is headed … selling the product!) Beyond the visual impact you can also use music and possibly scents to stimulate additional senses. In our soap example lighting and music should be soft and relaxing, scents should be enticing but not overwhelming.
Last but not least, merchandising. Avoid clutter, because it looks cheap. Isolated items look special. Provide enough space that customers can get around. Even here we’re still thinking about your brand’s identity. A cluttered space where people are shoulder to shoulder is not a relaxing one.
It all starts and ends with identity. What does your product represent? Once you figure that out, you’re ready to begin the design process … though the task may still feel daunting. Whether you’re starting fresh or looking to redesign, we’re here to help.