Please No More “Good, Better, Best”

So as a retail designer I work with brands, retailers, agencies and display manufacturers. They all have different viewpoints and goals when it comes to retail design projects. Some are better than others when it comes to creative briefs and project kickoffs. That’s fine. I’ve been doing this a long time and can navigate the waters to get the information needed to execute a successful design project.

Framing the design problem is something that almost every client struggles with. In my mind there are two ways to approach problem or project in retail design: tactically or strategically.

Tactical solutions solve issues like ergonomics (the existing display is too high), plan-o-grams (we need to fit three new SKU’s in the set) etc. Tactical is so easy for everyone to understand, you get like fifty people at the design table and they all have fun outlining what success looks like then go to lunch.  Anyone in the company, and often most everyone does at one point, can pop in and lay down tactical design direction. It feels good. I’ve had CEO’s design retail solutions on a napkins and say “here, design this“. Okay, I can do that. Tactical has its place and I’m more than happy to work on those projects because we all have bills to pay.

Strategic projects are more ambiguous. No one likes them because it could be months before we get to draw pretty pictures and drink beer afterwards. Strategic design projects requires us to understand our brand, the marketplace, consumers…the weather. Strategic projects require a design process: research, discussion, ideation, (more) creativity, difficult decisions, uncertainty AND fact based decision making. Yikes!

At project kickoffs we often hear ideation direction ranging from tactical “design this exact thing for us” to strategic “We need help selling more, or connecting more, or etc. etc.“.  Somewhere in the middle there is a broad band where executives, marketers and salespeople add-in, as if by knee-jerk reaction, “oh, and they want us to provide ‘good, better, best’ concepts“.

Aghh!!

I don’t know who “they” are but now I know we, and “they”, are in trouble here. Good, better, best (GBB) is a concept I think I first heard in the early 2000’s when working on concepts for mass retail. And for a while it actually wasn’t too bad. Physical retail still dominated over online. Cost of retail displays and fixtures was the main decision factor – how much do we want to spend. Technology in store was non-existent. Sure, give me three GBB concepts and call it a day. Good job.


As an aside, do not confuse my use of GBB to mean we don’t merchandise product ranges that actually include GBB products i.e. base model widget, intermediate model widget and top of the line widget. Yes, designing experiences around the actual product strategy is what we definitely want to do. What we don’t want to do is create a “good” display, then add a tv screen and call it “better” and then add lasers for the “best” retail experience. Also, some chains have so many stores they may not be able to afford to put the most expensive solution in every store, so yes, we do design for modularity and scalability. It’s important to note this as part of the strategy.


By now, in 2019, I’m almost ready to pass on ANY project where they mention GBB in regards to what concepts they want delivered. GBB is not a strategy. It’s throwing things at the wall while the person with the loudest voice in the room, or worst yet – the accounting department, decides which one to pick. This is not helping your business stay solvent past 2020. This is not design. This is not solving problems or seizing opportunity.

I can count on one hand (finger?) the number of clients I’ve worked with during the last twenty years that think strategically on almost every project. It’s not easy to do but it’s worth doing when possible. Stop with the knee-jerk reactions to what ideation should be and what solid retail design solutions are. The process is formulaic at times but the goals and solutions never should be.

I advise that all stakeholders in a retail design project work to be strategic. Create the best solution every time. Forego good and better altogether. “Best” never means most expensive or flashiest in my mind. It’s the number one head butting moment I have with clients, trying to convince them that we shouldn’t just throw stuff at the wall.

We need to look at the brand in stores and online. We need to understand consumers and how they take in information. Look at their wants and needs. We need to look at product, how does it add value and solicit emotion. On and on…

For important, big picture projects, we need to set aside the tactical, no matter how easy it is for everyone to articulate, because tactical isn’t going to help us. Tactical follows the strategy. Not the other way around.

Break the habit.

Recognize that GBB is a tactic.

Don’t lead with tactics.

Have a strategy.

Only accept the best retail design solution every time.

 

-Chris


Chris Weigand is an industrial designer and retail design pro based in northeast Ohio. For over twenty years he has worked with hundreds of brands, agencies and retailers to research, ideate and design compiling retail experiences. Contact Chris at 330-858-8926 to discuss your retail design needs or simply talk about retail design, strategy and pretty much anything of interest to your business. 

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Akron Northside Marketplace

I stumbled upon a really cool new neighborhood in Akron last night. The centerpiece is the Akron Northside Marketplace. The complex is adjacent to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad’s Northside Station. Within easy walking distance of plentiful parking are a collection of shops, bars and restaurants. Anchored in the middle is a Courtyard by Marriott hotel.

I attended a local food entrepreneurs meet up at the Countryside Conservancy’s Public Market. On my way out I briefly stopped upstairs to check out the community bar and shops. Many of the shops were open late. A sense of community is created with open seating, tv screens and tables where people can meet to exchange ideas, work or just share conversation over a few beers. Most of the shops appear to be smaller local start-ups and this space gives them the perfect leg up in starting out in the real world with brick and mortar retail.

Step out on the street and you can discover a nice environment decorated with holiday twinkle lights. Adjacent to the marketplace are fine dining and a wicked cool looking speakeasy. Above everything are condos that can be purchased in case one wants to live in the heart of it all. The entire complex has some elevation too so you get great views of the valley and city.

This is the experiential retail, food and hospitality spaces we need. And it’s all very well done. I’ve already made plans to visit again when I have more time, and bring my wife and friends for a night out.

Wicked Cool Material Usage

I was at Best Buy the other day researching a project when I came across a couple new headphone displays that caught my eye. We’ve worked on plenty of these kinds of project, but I was really impressed with the use of unique materials. Why didn’t I think of that?

 

The Beats display used felt for the backdrop and head shaped headphone display mounts. Felt seems perfect for a headphone display since it resembles sound deadening material used in sound studios. We often talk about this material on these types of projects but never really came up with using it so nicely. The extruded look of the background is contemporary and pleasing to look at. And the use on the globe like “heads” is a fantastic, touch worthy detail.

Adjacent was a Skull Candy display with an awesome platform detail – stacked plywood and acrylic, below the headphone case display. Plywood is a great on brand material for Skull Candy, and the thoughtful way it was used in the display was well done.

These are two great brands to work on. Great products and brand stories, that give the retail designer a ton of room to do interesting, cool details and well thought out retail experiences. The use of these materials in these displays helps reinforce brand stories (sound story for Beats, authenticity and raw appeal for Skull Candy) while remaining playful and unique.

Wicked cool.

-Chris


Chris Weigand is an industrial designer with over twenty years experience designing retail experiences for over two hundred brands (including a few that sell headphones). Contact Chris today to have him help you tell your brand story at retail. 330.858.8926 or chris@chrisweiganddesign.com

 

3 Things I Like About LinkedIn(‘s Office)

While eating my Honeycomb® cereal and enjoying my coffee this morning I caught up on some of the trade mags I have piling up. In the June 2018 issue of Contract magazine I came across an article on the LinkedIn NYC office that M Moser designed recently. It’s a really nice looking office, with well thought out details throughout.

There is a lot of good stuff going on in this office space, if anything maybe too much, but I’m okay with everything I read and saw in the article. Here are three things that particularly tickled my design fancy:

linked in office image 1

Color square dividing wall.

Most of the renovated office is actually food service for the employees. The various food stations have different themes based on NYC parks. And apparently the Highline Park themed one has this excellent translucent color square wall divider. I love to nod to the skyline that surrounds the park, and the colors were selected deftly; greens at the bottom with blue skies and purple buildings and / or flora. I love the idea and it was executed well. The wall adds a perfect pop of color in a purposefully muted space.

Linked in office image 2

Extra long lamp cords, artfully arranged on the walls.

I think I’ve seen this before, but I still like it no less. In the article’s one photo they show overhead lams with purposefully long cords. The cords are arranged artfully on two walls to create modern wall art. I love the double duty of the cords acting as art which also negates the need to add another “thing” to the space in order to avoid blank walls. It’s a touch that, while may seem impractical and inefficient to some, actually kills two birds with one design stone thus being the very definition of efficiency. It also speaks to attention to detail both in design and everyday work life – a subtle reminder all can benefit from.

linked in image 3

Full size chess board on carpet tiles (presumably).

Last is the fun, life size chess board made out of (what I’m assuming are) carpet squares. Why didn’t I think of that? Only downside is it’s virtually impossible to discuss work during a chess match if you’re doing either right, I feel. That’s probably the point. Keep your mind sharp, while taking a break from helping people network.

Kudos to M Moser, LinkeIn and Contract for creating and sharing this project with the world. It’s a design feast of all the details that can make a work space delightful, engaging and appealing.

-Chris


Chris Weigand is an industrial designer and retail design consultant based in northeast Ohio. He may be contacted at 330-858-8926. All magazine images are borrowed from the June 2018 issue of Contract Design Magazine