Friday, October 21, 2011

Using design principles to make a statement in retail windows

Susan Negley
Stand on the side walk outside of some retail flooring stores and look at the windows. What do you see? Unfortunately, sometimes you see the backs of flooring displays or maybe static branding and sale signage. Retail visual design experts say that windows need to drive traffic to the store, draw the consumer in and make passersby think of you when they need new flooring.  Five important design tools to make people stop or remember your store are color, angles, movement simplicity/repetition and imagination.
This post was prompted by two events. On a recent road trip I passed several unmemorable buildings that turned out to be flooring stores. I remember reasoning at the time that maybe there was only one flooring store in town and this retailer felt he didn't need to make a statement. Then I read a fabulous article on the Surfaces blog site, Five Powerful Display Tools by Linda Cahan.  Linda is a retail visual design consultant who will speak at Surfaces and she gives a great overview of how important it is to incorporate those five important design tools: color, angles, movement, simplicity/repetition and imagination, into store windows and signage. I highly recommend her article which reminded me of the recent road trip and inspired me to look for some good examples of great and no so great windows.

Here's an example of a window that, while colorful, is lacking a branding message. This example from the New Sales Ideas website illustrates how a cluttered window filled with sales signage can be confusing and forgettable. The message this conveys is mostly about their lack of imagination and design expertise. If you are in a fashion based industry like flooring covering, that might not be the best message to convey. I have to say that the stores I saw on the road trip didn't even have color in the windows to draw attention; one had their windows totally covered.

Cluttered signage in the window is uninspiring
In contrast, would you walk past the store window below without getting the message that they are passionate about cakes!  This example from I Do Windows leaves no doubt that this store sells cakes and they seem to have some pretty inspiring ideas. I'd remember to visit these people when I needed a fabulous creation, wouldn't you?

Imagination, repetition, color - a fabulous and clear message to the consumer

I know that store owners feel they have no choice but to cover windows in order to make the most of the interior showroom. I've seen backs of displays, windows painted black and even plywood covering some flooring store windows. I confess to doing it myself many years ago but it wasn't the best use of that space then and it sure isn't now.

I hope this prompts you to take a critical look at the message your windows and the outside of your store is sending to the consumer.  I'm not an expert on the subject, but I do know that advertising is expensive and uninspiring windows seem to be a lost opportunity. I'd love to see some examples of your inspiring window displays and signage.


Susan Negley is Director of Communications for the Floor Covering Institute

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