Don’t Throw Your Bubblegum Out the Window

Twenty years ago my partner taught me to not throw my used bubblegum out the car window. Or anywhere else for that matter. What would happen if someone walked by and got the wad of chewed gum stuck on the sole of their shoe. That would, most likely, ruin their day or at least irritate them. I know I’d be put off. It’s a simple concept but it stuck with me. I haven’t thrown my gum away carelessly since; instead carefully placing it in it’s wrapper and into the trash every time.

I’ll apply this as an analogy for thoughtful design. Designers need to take into consideration ALL the stakeholders that will be affected by the things they design. Any time we do something that has the potential to ruin someone’s day, or inconvenience them at the very least, we are throwing gum out the car window.

We can not just worry about the user, client, engineering or manufacturing. Anyone that will come in contact with the finished design should be delighted or at the very least not inconvenienced by that which we put time and effort to present to the world.

Often, creative retail design projects, as they move from client to marketing and salesperson to sourcing, end up carrying a lot of baggage. Decisions are made ahead of time – materials, placement of interactive elements and elements that affect ergonomics (human factors). Designers can be handcuffed a bit. We as designers work to give a voice to the voiceless in the process. And if we’re not successful in convincing the others on the project to make changes, there’s a good chance gum is being thrown out of the car window.

Accessibility is the primary area this happens. The standing reach limit is about 72″ and we rarely ever run into anyone asking for something higher than that. Where we do run into a problem is making solutions accessible to people in wheelchairs and for shorter guests. A standard desktop height (30″) or countertop height (36″) is the preferred zone for interactive experiences. Any touch screen needs to have a centerline at 48″ or below, or at least have a set of controls below that height. More often than you’d think though, we get design requests that are beyond these – too high or too low – all to meet some preconceived requirement that has nothing to do anything really.  We have to match some sort of pre-existing standard e.g. an existing display or a racking set up and we aren’t allowed to “move steel”.  As designers we advocate for changes to the design requirements that benefit all stakeholders, making displays accessible to everyone.

Yes, I understand that we don’t see a lot of people in wheelchairs in some retail stores. But I would think they have enough challenges to deal with on a daily basis. Why make a retail experience be another one. And it goes beyond just accessibility. Poor way finding, confusing messaging, and poorly planned user experiences all work towards inconveniencing and annoying guests.

Prioritize design parameters, challenge preconceptions of what success looks like and focus on pleasing everyone, especially those stakeholders who don’t always get a voice at the design table. In the long run you may need to rethink the existing build environment if it’s not considerate and functioning. No sense adding more bad design to bad design.

My advice:

  • accessibility is important – know where humans can reach, see, and access interactive elements and design for them
  • keep it simple – guests are short on time when they are shopping, no one is reading paragraphs, educate concisely and quickly
  • easy to find – break it down so I can find what shoppers want, quickly
  • design the user experience – only use technology when necessary and spend the money to design the experience (should not be uncommon to spend 10% of project budget  for design of interactive user experience)
  • attention to detail – put buttons in the logical place, make sure everything works, delight guests, don’t make life complicated.

Is it the end of the world if a stranger steps in gum? No. But it sure is annoying and can really mess up someone’s day. Why would any of us want our brand experience associated with stepping in gum.

-Chris

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Chris Weigand is an industrial designer with over twenty years experience. He has worked on projects for over two-hundred brands during the course of his career. He may be contacted at 330.858.8926 and chris@chrisweiganddesign.com and would love to learn about your retail design project.

Meraki House Collective

So we did a thing.

Our consultancy has been based out of my basement for the last six years. Yeah, I know, sounds half rate but the reality is in this modern age we can work from anywhere, and there was really no need for the overhead of a leased office space. I work with a close group of designers and other consultants, spread out across America. Technology allowed us to share files and video conference.

But the reality is, especially in a creative field, there is a lot of value in having people physically near by to be able to bounce ideas off of each other, or ask opinions of. There is a whole aspect of a rewarding work environment missing if you work solo, no matter how nice your office is. Also home offices carry a lot of inherent distractions that are less work related, and more cat or grocery shopping related.

In late summer of this year I texted a friend and collaborator of mine and basically said “I gotta get out of here”. We had been knocking around the idea of getting a co-working space for some time and the time had finally arrived to make it happen.

So, fast-forward to October 1st and four (not just two) of us have moved into Meraki House Collective (M House for short). We each maintain our individual businesses but by working together in the same engaging and purposeful location we get so much more benefit than even if we had just rented a basic co-working space or joined some pre-arranged flex office space. We shoot to spend about seventy percent of our time on our core business and thirty percent on collaboration, development and exploration. While it has only been two and a half months, the space and our collective is exceeding expectations.

Highlights:

Flexible, purposeful spaces: There are a variety of work environments at M House that are conducive to doing great work. Two former offices have been turned into a library and a conference room. A generous main space allows for larger collaboration and ideation. There’s dedicated work space for traditional work in the loft area. In the warmer months, a large deck beckons outdoor conversation and gatherings. There are spaces and places to be quiet, and others for when you need to make a little noise. No matter the need or mood, M House has the answer when it comes to spaces to connect or work.

Delightful experiences: We got most of the furniture from Facebook Marketplace, or from home and some of it we made ourselves. The landlord did a fantastic job painting all the walls and refitting the kitchen and bathroom. Yes, there are traditional things like computers, a conference table and printer, but there are also crayons, whiteboards and a cork lined trend wall. So far, most of the art on the walls, we made ourselves. Plants help clean the air and soften the spaces. It’s a space for people to come together for fun, creative collaboration.

Guest friendly: Visitors are one of the best things about M House. People are excited to see us here, and they love being in this space. We take pride in what we are building and it shows. We are very purposeful in the space, it’s fittings, and beyond the physical space. We want M House to be a safe place to imagine, ideate and create. There is good energy here and it is shared with guests via the space, and our positive approach to having meaningful conversation. This is a place to feel renewed, productive, and it is a place to solve problems.

I’ll post more in the future about our businesses and how we are collaborating, but for now below is a visual tour of our space.

-Chris


Chris Weigand is president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC, a boutique retail design consultancy located in the (Peninsula) Richfield, Ohio area, halfway between Cleveland and Akron. He has over 23 years experience designing engaging retail experiences that delight guests and help communicate wonderful brands every day at retail. Contact Chris at 330.858.8926 to find out more and discuss your design needs.

Railroad Dining Car Interior Project

We just completed a pretty neat project for the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR) here in northeast Ohio. The railroad refurbished the interior of a multipurpose car and they asked us to help out with the interior design. The 80’+ long car was stripped bare on the inside by CVSR volunteers and lovingly put back together. As a multipurpose car it will primarily be used for dining, but with moveable chairs and tables, the car may be configured for various other events such as wine & painting excursions, and holiday parties.

Our design team initially proposed three material concepts: “Nature”, “Eclectic” and “Tailored”. Each was inspired by a different set of images, materials and concepts.

CVSR-Multipurpose-Car-02a

 

The Railroad selected the Eclectic theme which was focused on earthy spice tones. The foundation of the design is a wild botanical pattern carpet from Milliken. From there we built off of the carpet by selecting Sherwin Williams Resort Tan (SW 7550) for the walls and accents. This is a versatile color that can fit in a variety of situations. It’s an earthy mushroom tone that changes color depending on how the light hits it. And it allows for a broad range of complementary colors to set any mood. The monochromatic scheme inside the multipurpose car provides a warm inviting space, perfect for romantic dinner train rides.Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 11.29.11 AM.png

dining-car-in-progress

The painted car, ready for carpet. Note the ceiling is actually existing carpet that we didn’t replace. Up closed it is a variety of blue and red, but looks blackish brown from far away.

Simple dining chairs with a dark brown fabric and satin black powder-coat were selected for their durability and ability to hide stains, as people of all ages will be using the car for a variety of activities, not just dining. Existing tables were reused to keep the budget in check, and they can be outfitted in any number of ways depending on need and mood.

Light tan colored curtains from Carnegie help to lighten and soften the interior a bit. There was much debate on how they should attach and what their final form should be. The team went back and looked at historical photos for reference and landed on two single curtains per widow, with a gap between one curtain and then the next on subsequent windows.

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For a final touch, the Railroad sourced vintage luggage for the luggage racks. This adds a nice historic touch without a doubt, but the luggage also provides a means to hide speakers and wiring. Check out the photos below, clicking on them to zoom in.

This was our first foray into rail car design, and we learned quite a bit on this exciting project. Trains are amazing attractions, and fun for the whole family. Every car is unique and has a history all its own. We look forward to the opportunity to work on more of these cars in the future. Visit the CVSR website www.CVSR.com to view all of their upcoming excursions, and you can see the car firsthand.

-Chris


Chris Weigand is president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC. Our boutique firm specializes in unique retail and interior experiences, both fixed and rolling along the rails. We are a small network of experts with decades of experience providing world class industrial, interior, graphic and user experience design. We’ve worked on projects for over 250+ different brands, organizations and retailers. Contact us today to discuss your design needs, we are happy and excited to work with you.

330-858-8926 or Chris@ChrisWeigandDesign.com

 

Brand New Beginnings

We are assuming spring will show up someday here in Ohio. And with spring comes spring cleaning. And while we clean up the home office, and get rid of the random stuff laying around taking up space, we also start thinking about the rest of this year and the future. Fresh starts, new beginnings.

We’re going to make a push this year to work directly with more brands. Any time we can focus on brand, and solving marketing challenges by directly partnering with them, it’s going to be more effective, creative and engaging.

We have over two decades of working with brands, from large ones with fancy websites and in thousands of doors to small ones that barely have two dimes to rub together. It’s about making connections. It’s about writing your brand story and communicating that to the world in tangible, meaningful ways.

That’s what we do for you.

You are people, your customers are people. We connect people.

My touchy feely take may not be enough to prompt you to pick up the phone, so here are some service details. We like to truly partner with your brand so that we can understand how you operate, what your goals are (or help you craft those goals), and understand your brand and customers. Then we work with you to create meaningful connections, wherever the world interacts (or should interact) with your brand.

So, there’s nothing proprietary about creatively solving problems, or seizing opportunities if you’re hard core “glass is half full” kinda person. Thinking about this I’m going to frame up what we do in this list below. But every brand and situation is unique; this is the toolbox we have at our disposal, and kinda the order we work in:

  • relationship building – understanding your business, brand, challenges
  • research – trends, marketplace, materials, society, shopper mindset, culture
  • strategy – goals, ideation, role-play, finances, sourcing, foundation building
  • framing – articulating challenges, inspiration, reference,
  • concept – play, mock-up, long walks on the beach
  • design – visualization, human factors, ergonomics, user experience, wrestling
  • making – sourcing, pricing, specifications, engineering, programming
  • execution – construction, events, going live, maintenance
  • relationship building – identifying and understanding new opportunities

Straight up, these are the skills we bring:

  • strategy – design, marketing, in-store, online
  • graphic design – packaging, signage, web, environment
  • industrial design – retail, product, human factors, ergonomics, packaging
  • interior design – space planning, retail, some commercial and hospitality
  • UX (user experience) – web, interactive, retail
  • digital – web, SEO, digital marketing strategy, social media
  • interactive – kiosk design, event planning, in-store digital strategy
  • editorial – copywriting, social media, editing
  • support – creative capacity, sales support, sourcing

Services are services, and process is process. We try to keep it simple. We want this to be fun. We’d love it if we can meet with your brand team to find out how we’d approach connecting your brand to the world and see if we’d be a great fit. You can call me at (330) 858-8926 and let’s discuss. Thanks.

Now if we could just get spring to show up…

-Chris

visit us at http://www.chrisweiganddesign.com.

New(ish) Inline Fixture at Target is Spot On

A little while back, on one of my several-times-a-week trips to Target, I spotted this Hearth & Hand upgrade to the Home department. Chip & Joanna Gaine’s brand Magnolia is pretty mainstream. We’ve even worked on a Magnolia project (so it really must be mainstream lol). So having an offshoot in Target isn’t surprising as the marketing arc completes itself.

I really liked the execution of the brand at mass retail. I stopped and (secretly…shhhh) snapped a few photos to share with you all. I don’t know who designed this but I think they did a decent job of creating a stage for Magnolia’s curated product offering of home decor and lifestyle products.

The overall look is clean and simple with a palette consisting of clear coated steel, matte black powder coat and a light natural (pine?) wood. Also there’s a nifty wood door looking panel on the show end cap. It give a contemporary look while honoring the authentic look that honors the brand. Shelves and fixtures are arranged, off of a standard gondola backbone, in a way that evokes “boutique”; once again, on brand.

Have these materials been used before?

You betcha.

Do they still work?

Yes indeed.

A hundred years from now retail designers will be using clear coated steel and natural wood together and it’ll work perfectly.

What would I fix? Really I’d fix the merchandising…we need some taller products in the boutique areas inline, where the shelves step down to create a stage. Instead we’re left with book holders or some other low product. And on the show end cap all the product is low. Gimmie a plant or something tall to keep my eye moving.

Kuddos to the framed hanging headers. I do this all the time on concepts because it’s simple and looks great – gets the message across in an elegant way allowing everyone to focus on brand not fixture. Nothing about this fixture is overdone, and the details – exposed welds, nods to board and baton siding, and barn doors – all work together to provide delight without stealing attention from the product.

I love seeing the exposed spot welds on the well proportioned shelf frames that are all meticulously lined up. Like saying “we’re artsy, yet organized”.

Spot on.

-Chris

 


 

Chris Weigand is a professional designer and artist (and politician and…) who operates a fun little boutique retail design consultancy in the middle of a National Park in Ohio. He loves shopping, or at least window shopping, whenever he can. If you’d like to have Chris and his wicked awesome partners work on putting art and strategy to your brand at retail or online, contact him today at (330) 858-8926. We are totally not affiliated with Target or Magnolia, we just dig the way they’re doing things.

2017 NAIAS Recap

MORE THAN CARS

Basic RGB

As has become tradition I drove up to Detroit for the North American International Auto Show last week. I really like cars so you don’t have to twist my arm to go to a car show. But I also take the opportunity to look at all the awesome pavilions, displays and design details throughout the show. And obviously the cars themselves have a lot of cool details as well.

As a courtesy to our clients, we put together a trend deck, which is basically several sheets summarizing the things seen at the show.

Color-wise, copper and electric blue were the hot colors. Copper was being used for detailing interiors, and coating a few exteriors as well. There were also copper details in the information desk environments such as mirror finish copper light fixtures, and laminate trim details. On the cars, copper could be seen in linear forms evocative of copper wiring in electric motors.

Speaking of electricity, electric cars are all the rage as manufacturers tool up for the forthcoming consumer demand for high mileage and eco-friendly transportation. Blue is the color of electric cars. Every car charger, electric car, and electric concept seemingly had an homage to the color blue, utilizing subtle and not so subtle uses of the color in paint, and lighting.

Museum quality displays were common too, as consumers focus more on one of kind features, and almost cottage like manufacturing vibes. Mazda played this up quite a bit with tools and material proudly displayed, evoking the idea that maybe these cars are hand built or at least hand designed out of raw materials and apprenticed craftsmanship.

There was plenty to see throughout the show, and while some was carryover, even those pavilions were freshened up for 2017.

Contact us if you’d like to learn more about what we saw at the show. Also if you’d like to accompany us to a future Detroit Auto Show or other event, let us know. We’d be happy to make arrangements to walk the show with you and exchange thoughts.

-Chris

Basic RGB


Chris Weigand is an industrial designer and president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC a retail strategy and design consultancy located in Peninsula, Ohio. When he’s not fawning over the latest car trends, he’s helping clients make kickass impressions at retail. Contact Chris at 330-858-8926 or chris@chrisweiganddesign.com

Retail Resolutions for 2015

RF Image from Corbis © Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Corbis

RF Image from Corbis © Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Corbis

Ten Retail New Year’s Resolutions You Can Make in 2015

It’s that fun time of year when we enjoy making lists for the new year. All the stuff we’re going to do, not do, or do better now that we’ve got a clean slate. I’m not immune from list making, so I thought I’d share ten retail related things I think are worth doing in 2015, to help make your retail experience the best it can be. They may not be monumental, or even new, but they are worth considering in the new year (every year really).

1) Create A Website For Your Business

I don’t care if you’re a name brand, a local shop or a plumber: you need an online presence. There are plenty of DIY website providers that have simple to use templates. Often they can host your site, provide you with a domain name, and an email address. For less than a couple hundred dollars a year, everyone will be able to find you, learn about your business, and know how to get in contact with you. Get at least one page up on the internet with your information. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. If you still don’t want to be bothered, sites like Facebook allow you to set up an online presence basically for free.

2) Start A Store 

Are you selling online? Take a stab with a physical retail space. Pop-up stores are becoming ubiquitous. These little temporary shops can be rented for short periods of time, sometimes for the day, and are usually found in high traffic areas that are favored by hip young shoppers. Often all you’ll need is your product, some in store marketing (i.e. signs) and your sales hat. Check out websites such as The Store Front to get started.

Do you have a physical store? Add a shop to your website, or get a free or  low-cost shop online on sites like Etsy (for art, antiques and crafts) where you can sell your goods.

3) Define Your Brand

Whether you’re new or you’ve been selling for a while now, try to take a look (or hire someone to take an unbiased look) at your business and your brand. Why do you exist? Answer that and then let that guide every decision you make about your retail business. And throw out anything that doesn’t add value to your answer; everything that does not contribute to your purpose. Understand your strengths compared to your competition and leverage those. Don’t be something you’re not. Customers want products from brands who have a clear vision of who they are. Insert obligatory Apple or Nike example here.

4) Omni-channel Sync

You’ve got a brand, your store and an online presence. That’s a good omni-channel retail experience. Now sync them all. Make sure your message is consistent, consistent, consistent…at every touch point consumers have with you. And constantly examine and rework any areas that are falling short. If you don’t have the time, then hire an expert in retail design, search engine optimization, graphic or web design to help you out. Subconsciously consumers can tell when you’re sending mixed signals, which can translate to lost sales.

5) Understand Your Customer

Consumers change whether you like it or not. Even if you have a highly specialized customer base that you think is impervious to the changing world, it is still important to make sure you understand their wants and needs. Advances in technology now allow customers to shop from any store in the world. Even die-hard loyal customers will peek around every once in a while just to make sure they’re getting what they want. Leave nothing to chance. Identify customer needs and provide top-notch customer service and goods. If you need help researching customers, market and trends, there are a plethora of professional resources out there that specialize in retail research. And don’t be afraid to go in a new direction if that is what your retail business demands.

6) De-clutter 

Yes, everyone loves the charm of hunting and pecking through an antique store. But unless you’re an antique store take a look at your retail environment and try to straighten things up a bit. Last year I was in a clothing shop and I could barely move between fixtures places a foot apart. It drove me crazy just being in the store. Yes some customers don’t mind, but then why even bother with all the fancy displays and fixtures; why not just put out cardboard boxes for them to rummage through? That would save you a lot of money.

Using your brand mission as a guide look at every element: fixtures, signage, props, product, way finding. Make sure everything speaks to your overarching message, but also make sure guests can navigate and shop in a clear, fun, rewarding manner. For example, if you’re stuck with an eclectic collection of metal fixtures, paint them all the same color to create some consistency. Create aisles that can be navigated at the very least. The retail experience is why you’re selling your items in a store instead of from a shoebox on the sidewalk. Good design, a good retail experience, does not cost any more than a dismal experience, and it will make you more money in the long run. Know when to bring in outside help if necessary. It’s not always a DIY type of project.

7) Get Flexible

You need tools that work for you in your retail space. While it’s fun to peruse catalogs, or buy props, simplify your display and fixture offering by utilizing flexible merchandising systems. Typically they share parts, are easy to tailor to your changing retail landscape (once you figure out how they go together) and they help give some consistency to your visual merchandising. Even if you’re using all found objects, use items that can be used in a variety of ways. A crate that can be a table, box or seat maybe. And if you can swing for new fixtures, make sure they all use the same accessories so you can mix up your merchandising as the year progresses. Modular display systems should be “updatable” as well, so as styles change you can switch wood tones, graphics or color accents.

8) Amp Up Visual Impact

Graphics (i.e. signage) is the cheapest, easiest and most effective way to amp up your retail experience. Large format graphics attract from far away. Good way finding helps guests find departments and products. A consistent signage package is an extension of your brand message. You can now direct print onto virtually any substrate including wood and glass. And printing has become very environmentally sustainable. As a subset of visual impact, if you don’t want a ton of signs in your store, utilize awesome store window displays, and props to get your message across. Lastly, let your product and it’s packaging sing. No need for the display to fight the product or retail experience.

9) Store Within A Store

Creating a boutique retail experience has always been a great way to generate interest and help guests navigate. A large percentages of our projects are these types of projects. Pick a brand in your store, such as a purse manufacturer if you’re running an apparel store, and allocate a specific area for that product. Amp it up with special displays, flooring, lighting, and signage. And feel free to change these areas out seasonally or tailer areas for different brands. Go to any big box or department store (such as JC Penny with their in house Sephora shop) and you’ll see what we’re talking about. Regardless of your store size, and even if you’re only on-line, you can set up an enriching store within a store experience.

10) Have Fun

Ultimately figure out why you’re in retail and pursue the things that make you and your customers happy. Try different things. Challenge conventional thinking. And have fun.

Chris Weigand is president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC, a full service retail design agency that specializes in designing interiors, displays, fixtures, packaging and graphics for retail stores. They also provide expert retail market research and environmental sustainability consultation services. Chris has designed retail solutions for retailers such as Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, and Home Depot, and product companies including American Greetings, Valspar, Step2, Flambeau Products, and Energizer.

No project is too large or small. We add value to your business through design expertise, and provided you with the expertise you need, allowing you to focus on your business. Contact us today at (330) 858-8926 or visit http://www.chrisweiganddesign.com for more information

We do not endorse any companies or products mentioned on our design blog. They are for reference purposes only. Utilized goods and services from these companies at your own risk. Happy new year.