Design For Independent Retailers

photo via Corbisimages.com

photo via Corbisimages.com

In honor of Global Shop next week we thought we’d would share with you our thoughts on how independent retailers can benefit from engaging the services of a retail design consultancy. Regardless of whether run a “pop-up”, one store or a dozen stores it’s worth considering enlisting some outside help if you want and need it to give your retail experience a shot in the arm.

A Design Team Works Within Your Budget

You are the expert when it comes to your business. We’ll say that time and time again. You built it from the ground up. There’s no denying your knowledge and dedication. Why would you need or want a design consultant?

Well, sometimes it’s good to get a fresh set of eyes looking at something. They can provide experienced and professional insight. And it may be worth getting some help so you can step back to concentrate on other aspects of the business that need your attention more. A consultant costs as much, or as little as you have budgeted for your project. And they can help immensely.

As a retail design consultancy we start by meeting with you to review your business; learn from you the opportunities you face and assess areas where we can add value. A retail design services can run from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars depending on the scope and complexity of the project. The services you’ll receive are outlined in a proposal ahead of time, and each phase can be agreed upon to suit your time and budgetary needs. Truly, no project is too big or small.

Retail Designers Offer A Variety Of Services

Whether you are just starting out or you’ve been in the business for ages, it is critical that you connect to customers and your brand speaks with one voice. There are a variety of ways a design team can help. Here are some examples that would be of benefit to independent retailers:

Graphic Design – this includes branding, such as creating a logo or style guide for your store. Also graphic design covers in store signage and way-finding. The designers can use art, illustration, typography and photography to create inspiring graphics that hit your guests sense of style and emotion, putting them in the frame of mind to fall in love with your brand. Related to graphics is packaging design – so if you have a need to actually brand product, say juice bottles, soap or salon products – the design team can design those solutions as well to give a cohesive brand message to guests.

Interior Design – this is retail experience on a macro level. Everything on the inside of your store, from flooring to walls to lighting and ceiling influences how guests feel while they are shopping. Also space planning which is important, so that your store has good traffic flow. It can be as simple as rearranging and curating what you already have, to a complete extreme store makeover.

Visual Merchandising & Display Design – in concert with graphics, the design of the displays and fixtures that your products go on can make a impact on the experience. Your designer can select stock displays or design custom ones that can be made within your budget. Displays make sure your product is the star and is delightful to shop. Visual Merchandising attracts and helps tell your story.

Project Management & Sourcing – the design team can manage the project from kickoff, to design brief, through design and specification, ultimately to retail implementation. Designers are experts at managing multiple programs and assuring they are completed to specification, on time and on budget. Especially if you are trying something out for the first time, having sourcing help can come in handy.

Research, Trends, and Sustainability Consulting – design firms are a great resource for the latest trends, or areas where you may not be as knowledgable such as environmental sustainability. Plus if you need someone to research the market, your competition or your customers, a consultancy can provide those services. This can help your business beyond just how your store looks and functions.

A Retail Design Team Works With You

As I said, you’re the expert when it comes to your brand. Meet with your designers and assess your unique business and brand situation. Then the design team will make recommendations and provide design solutions as necessary. Equally important they’ll tell you what you don’t need. It certainly is not a one person dance; the design team you’ve hired is your partner. They’ll bring fresh perspective and interesting ideas, and be able to work seamlessly with your in-house resources. In the end your brand story will attract and connect with guests at every touch point. And you will save yourself from the frustration, not to mention time and money, of trying to do everything yourself.

You may not need an outside design firm to help you out. I’ve been in plenty of independent retailers that are doing an awesome job all by themselves. But at least be aware that these services are out there. They add value to the most critical part of your business: telling your brand story to guests. Take advantage of the professional perspective, creativity and talent that a retail design team can bring to your store.

The brand you built deserves it.

In what ways do you think you could benefit from engaging a retail designer?

If you don’t use a designer, why not?

Share your thoughts in the comments below. Happy retailing merchant peeps!

Chris Weigand has been designing innovative retail solutions for over 15 years. The results of his work can be found in over 30,000 retail doors, enhancing the shopper experience and improving sales. If you are an independent retailer who would like to find out how Chris Weigand Design can help your brand connect with guests, visit our website at www.chrisweiganddesign.com We are actively looking for great new clients to partner with, creating awesome retail experiences.

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Want Insight Into Your Designer Before You Hire? Try Pinterest.

Chris Weigand Design on Pinterest

Chris Weigand Design on Pinterest

Picking a designer, architect or agency can be daunting. You ask around for references, check out a few websites, review some of their past projects and interview them in person. All of this will likely give you a good feel for how they operate and their approach to your project.

When it comes to their aesthetic sensibilities or design philosophy that may not always be clear as day. While it is good to see how they creatively solved design problems for other clients, there is value in getting a feel for what inspires and drives your potential design team. As I was crafting our company’s Pinterest page, I started thinking: Pinterest is an awesome way to see how we think as designers. It affords a random stranger or potential client to see what we are inspired by, like and appreciate, as professional designers.

Pinterest is an all-encompassing inspiration board for our design team. When working on a project we almost always generate inspiration boards as part of our design research. While these internal boards are specific to the project, they often pull images from Pinterest (and other resources) that reflect who we are as designers; how we aesthetically and functionally will solve the problem at hand.

Here’s why I think a designer or agency’s Pinterest page is a good place to check out when trying to get a sense of their style and design aesthetic / philosophy.

Categorized – When creating boards in Pinterest I try to cover all ways design is inspired. There are categories for retail (our specialty), product, graphic and interior design. Architecture is well represented with its own category as well as home related design and decor. Fashion lives in separate categories for women and men. Rounding out the core boards is one for “Color”, “Nature” and world travel. I also like to include the occasional specialty board like “Global Spice” that is a combination of all of the above, with a focus on eclectic, cultural design. Lastly there are boards for quotes, celebrity / historic photos and “Fun” to give potential clients a feel for how we think beyond design.

Curated – The selection of pins on their Pinterest board usually is a curated. Each pin is there for a reason. Over time the boards and pins will be refined. Personally I browse the internet, other Pinterest boards, and even my own photos. Anything that stands out gets pinned immediately. Then I’ll come back and add or subtract. I’ll also look at the captions and re-word them to state why we like the pin. Curated boards are alive – like a living species that is evolving over time.

Trends – It goes without saying Pinterest is a great source for trends. I don’t know if anyone has studied the site to see if it actually influences or creates trends, but my guess is at the very least some trends start to see the light of day there. Most trend setters – individuals and companies – have a page on the site so it gives us access to a vast array of design trends that we can browse. If I’m seeing the same types of things over and over again, I’ll create a board on our page or for internal purposes.

Design Network – The company your designer keeps is another good indicator of their design approach. Take a look at who your design professional follows, and who follows their boards. I just started our company boards (I’ve had my own personal Pinterest page for a year or two) and we already have a few followers. I’m always excited to see people and companies following our boards, who we hold in high aesthetic esteem. It’s also a great way to discover “pinners” who have a great sense of style that aren’t household names…yet.

Inspiration – Likely the most important point here, you get to see what inspires a design team. What images, quotes, ideas do they gravitate towards. Keep in mind, any design pro worth their consulting fee will arrive at a solution that is appropriate to you and the situation regardless of their personal taste. But I feel as a client you should be interested in what inspires the person or team that you’re entrusting your project to. Seeing that philosophy manifested in a fascinating series of image boards is an awesome reassurance.

With all of this in mind, spend some time exploring your design professional’s Pinterest site. I think you’ll find that you will get a good feel for their design sense. Design is subjective and there are a variety of ways to arrive at really great solutions. If all designers were the same the world would be a very boring place. Pinterest is a great tool to use during your design professional search. Do yourself a favor and go exploring.

Have you used Pinterest when evaluating companies and professionals? 

What else, beyond what I mentioned, do you like about Pinterest?

Share you thoughts in the comments below.

-Chris Weigand, President – Chris Weigand Design, LLC

chris@chrisweiganddesign.com

Chris Weigand Design is a retail design consultancy specializing in helping product brands and independent retailers connect with guests at retail. We create visual merchandising, display, graphic and interior retail design solutions. We also can provide space planning, project management and sourcing services if needed. Check out our Pinterest page at www.pinterest.com/cweiganddesign/ to get a sense of our style and the latest trends we’re seeing. Contact us today if you’d like to discuss your project. We’d love to work with you.

A Retail Design Roadmap For Product Brands

Make your product the star.  RF image via Corbis.com

Make your product the star.
RF image via Corbis.com

It’s all about the product silly

You’ve got a product.

Your team has been working on it for months, maybe years. Focus groups love it. Everything is perfect. You may even be selling it online and sales have been awesome. Retailers are clamoring for it and you are ready to make the jump to physically selling your product in a store.

If your brand is new to retail (e.g. a small company, or just starting out) you may not be sure what to do next. Not surprisingly we highly recommend you speak with a retail design consultancy who will be able to access your situation, provide a recommendation as well as design and other services if necessary. Obviously partnering with you is where they make their money, but an initial conversation shouldn’t cost much, if anything, and it’ll be a huge help. Full disclosure: this is what we do for a living so if you need someone…wink, wink. Seriously though, even if you don’t hire us, these guidelines are fairly universal as far as we’re concerned. We not convinced that going straight to a manufacture is always the best route, as they are primarily interested in making things that you may or may not need, that may or may not be in sync with your product and brand. Ask a lot of questions if you’re just starting out.

“…your product needs to be the star of the show.”

First and foremost, you may be able to simply ship your product into the retailer and they’ll take it from there. This will save you a lot of time and money (and hassle). The primary down side is that you may not control how your product is merchandised.  The retailer will do whatever they please, or whatever you can work out with them. On the plus side they want to sell your product too. Cross your fingers. If this is the case, spend extra time working on your packaging design and packaging graphics. Your product packaging is going to have to do all of the heavy lifting at retail to shout your brand and attract guests who hopefully convert to customers who will buy your product. In fact regardless of the situation at retail, spend time (and money) on your packaging design, especially the graphics. Regardless of whatever else you do, your product needs to be the star of the show. One quick note: make sure you’re branding is in good order too – great packaging and graphic design won’t cover up an incoherent brand message.

Suppose you have a little more leeway – you’ve got the budget, the retailer asks or allows you to provide display or graphics, whatever the case may be. Your brand shouts loud and clear through your exquisitely designed packaging. Now you want to amp up your retail experience. Here are a few ways you can do this.

Graphics / Signage – These will give you the most bang for your buck, and flexibility. Signs generally are inexpensive and require little or no tooling. These are good qualities for agile product brands looking to make an impact at retail. Signs can fit into stock or custom holders. The store may even already have graphic holders in place. The possibilities are endless for size and location: small shell callouts, headers that assist with way finding, aisle signs, overhead…there are a lot of options. Start with attracting and informing guests – put them in the right mindset to buy your product, and go from there. Your retail design consultancy will develop attention-getting graphics that make guests swoon when they catch sight of your product at retail. Art files in hand you can use your favorite printer or a good consultancy can handle the sourcing and project management portion to assure signs are produced to spec, on budget and delivered to each retail door on time.

Temporary Display – These are any displays that are meant to be recycled once your product sells out. Occasionally you may restock these display but not usually. They’re typically made from corrugated board, and designed to last around six months at retail give or take 3-6 months. We really love temp displays for a few reasons. In this day and age they can look really nice, with litho labels and exotic finishes. Or if you want to go the opposite route, direct-printing has gotten so refined that you probably don’t need anything more than that. Retailers are mixed on how well they like temp displays, so work it out with them first. Temp displays can be as simple as a PDQ (pretty “damn” quick) that is simply a box that is shipped, opened up and put on a shelf, to elaborate display environments that showcase your brand. Your design consultancy will be able to leverage their expertise and creativity to develop an awesome solution for your product, and once again help if necessary throughout the process to get both your product and display out to retail.

Permanent Displays – Permanent means that they are meant to last up to seven years or so at retail, give or take a few years. They are often made from wood, plastic or metal and the product is restocked whenever it runs out. Depending on how they are designed, costs can rise quickly because tooling for jigs, fixtures, dies and molds may be involved; costing anywhere from a thousand to tens of thousand of dollars. That being said, a good designer will be review / manage expectations and design to a budget. You need to determine to what extent the display is the star of the show. Too often we’ve seen brands and retailers try to make up for middling product by creating overwrought displays. Have an open conversation with the retail design team that you’ve hired. As I’ve said, we like to have the product and the brand experience be the focus for guests, displays are a means to that end. Another thing to consider is modularity. If you have a family of products or retailers that your product is going into, a modular system can help lower cost and increase flexibility. Once the design phase is complete, your consultancy can either hand you the final specs or help see the entire project through to retail execution.

Ultimately everything needs to work in concert. The above are just three simplified examples….tools designers use to market your product and brand at retail. And really the best way to find out is to talk with a design consultant about your project. It’s like building a house, you can pick a plan out of a book, rely on your general contractor to handle the design and build, or hire an architect. The first two might be okay for your product or brand situation. But if you don’t want to leave things to chance, if your brand is more than a commodity, just as your home is more than just a building, you should consider hiring a retail design consultancy. Like an architect, the consultancy works with you from start to finish to imagine, design and specify a solution that is perfect for your brand, product and retail situation. And they are a valuable voice for your brand throughout the process when dealing with vendors and retailers as well.

“Of all the things you could get for free, why would your brand  gamble with seemingly free design?”

No, design isn’t free. But it is the most important money you will spend and it is a fraction of the cost of your overall retail program. Design decisions influence so much downstream, one hiccup during the design phase can translate into death at retail. If you think you’re getting “free” design, there is no such thing; it’s likely bundled into the price of something else down stream. Your brand isn’t a commodity, it shouldn’t be treated as such; left to chance with the lowest bidder. You know this, after all you designed your product in-house or paid someone to design it. Of all the things you could get for free, why would your brand gamble with seemingly free design?

A retail design consultancy will provide awesome solutions and help guide you throughout the process, eliminating  many of the pitfalls that you would face if you went at it alone.

Does your organization pay for design? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

-Chris Weigand

President, Chris Weigand Design, LLC

Chris Weigand Design, LLC is professional retail design consultancy based in northeast Ohio. We strongly believe that a design consultancy is your best bet for assuring your product is merchandised at retail properly and guests fall in love with your brand. Contact us today to find out how we can help you with expert graphic, display and interior design services. Beyond design, if you need help managing the production of your solutions, we know how to make that happen also. Visit us at www.chrisweiganddesign.com