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

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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.

Promoting the Use of Lesser-Known Timber Species

Tropical Rainforest Thailand --- Image by © Corbis

Tropical Rainforest Thailand — Image by © Corbis

Yesterday I read an interesting article in ‘International Wood’, an International Wood Products Association (IWPA) trade publication, about a topic I didn’t previously know about: the use of lesser-known timber species. I found the information to be well worth passing along to our readers. Here’s my summary, followed by some helpful resources on the topic.

Exotic, often times tropical, woods are much in vogue these days. As such there is high commercial demand for, or regulations regarding the use of, several species such ipe, mahogany, and ebony, which in turn drives up price and reduces available inventory. More importantly, there’s a chance many tropical woods, not just the ones mentioned, are not forested or harvested sustainably.

The wood industry is looking to promote lesser-known species (LKS) for several reasons, and designers would be remiss if they didn’t check out the various options and think about using them in future projects.

Reasons to Consider Lesser-Known Timber Species:

  • Large Selection – The IWPA lists nine LKS’s that have great potential for the US market, including garapa which is an attractive option for building exteriors and lattice-work. The World Wildlife Fund list over two dozen species to consider in their ‘Guide to Lesser Known Species’ (click here).
  • Design – Using LKS makes your design project standout. Many of these woods look great with no need for color altering stain. And because you don’t see them that often used at retail, they look fresher than the typical wood finishes you see in store interiors. Also LKS broaden your material palette. Garapa, tigerwood, and morado are all good species to consider.
  • Cost Savings – Because they are not utilized as often, the cost is often less than high-demand wood such as mahogany, while still providing excellent durability, color, and performance. All at a fraction of the cost.
  • Sustainability – Specifying LKS of wood promotes diverse forest eco-systems, reducing the pressure on forests that provide only high demand timber. Managed correctly, wood is a renewable resource that works well in retail environments. Always make sure the lumber you specify and use is FSC certified. No exceptions.

Here are some links for more information:

World Wildlife Fund’s Global Forest & Trade Network has a ton of info on sustainable forestry: http://gftn.panda.org

International Wood Products Association’s LKS page: http://www.iwpawood.org/?page=81

The UK Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) page on LKS: http://www.fsc-uk.org/lesser-known-timber-species.155.htm

The Amazon Alternative LKS page: http://www.theamazonalternative.org/news/en/news-july-lks

The World Wildlife Fund has a comprehensive guide to lesser-known species, get it here: http://www.worldwildlife.org/publications/guide-to-lesser-known-tropical-timber-species

The U.S. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) page: https://us.fsc.org

Have you used any lesser-known species of timber in your retail projects?

What are your favorites?

Join the discussion below in the comments.

Chris Weigand Design, LLC is committed to sharing our passion for a sustainable environment with our clients, our industry and our community. We encourage the use of sustainable materials and processes in retail design solutions. For more information on our commitment to the environment or to find out how we can develop innovative, sustainable solutions for your next retail design project, visit www.chrisweiganddesign.com or call 330.858.8926

3D Printing Part Deux

Here’s the follow-up to my 3D printing rant from last week (click here to see last week’s post).

This video demonstrates all the misleading hype about 3D printers the tech industry permeates into our social media.

A few things the 3D printing revolution will be good for:

Product Development – No surprise here since this is what it’s intended purpose is. The only reason the tech industry is putting out this propaganda is to sell 3D printers. Just like everyone needs a Thneed, we’re sold on the fact we’ll all need a 3D printer. The reality is lower cost printers are a boon to small businesses and institutions who are developing new products. The technology speeds the process to get unique products to market. But like any tool they are not and should not be the only means for making prototypes.

Replacement Parts – This is a primary (only?) area where 3D printers will revolutionize how we live. If you’re so inclined to have a printer at home you can have product companies send you a file to print your replacement part. This assumes that the company has the foresight to set up this service, and you know what how to install the part. The company can profit by selling you the print file (can be a one time use file). You win as a consumer because you have every part available to you. One major caveat: the products need to be designed for disassembly and repair. Can’t afford or don’t want a printer?….

Hardware Stores – Off the top of my head this is the main type of retailer that better get on the 3D printer bandwagon. They could, and should, still sell all the usual stuff but wouldn’t it be awesome if they had a 3D printer to print out that gear for my washing machine, or a replacement for the cracked housing on my stapler. It could be a whole new avenue for profit and service. We’ll be more than happy to design an in store printer environment by the way, if everyone promises to stop printing yoda heads to demonstrate the power of 3D printing.

User Interface Design – One of the only ways they’ll get 3D printers in the homes of the masses is if the user interface (U/I) is vastly improved. Currently most of our CAD software is designed by U/I techs and engineers with seemingly little regard for making things usable or intuitive. If we’re all going to design our own products from now on, and apparently we are, then we sure as heck better understand how to use the software and hardware. I’ve been using CAD for 20 years and still don’t fully understand how all the tools work, and I certainly couldn’t model something as complex as a woman’s shoe in CAD (I’d have to use a pen and paper like some sort of Neanderthal). The point is user interface design has a long way to go – putting more technology in the hands of the masses will necessitate better design.

Art & Biomimicry – This is kind of the catch-all but coupling 3D printing with 3D scanning technology opens whole new vistas for turning what man can conjure into new realities. Artists willing to take a plunge into the steep learning curve can churn out really awesome sculptures and artwork. Also we can learn from nature and create structures that aren’t easily resolved by current manufacturing methods. For example taking the strength of a skeleton and manufacturing it as a framework in a building or product. Yeah, 3D printers are really freaking good at doing that.

Space -Yes! This is where we need 3D printers. Load up our Mars spacecraft with at least three printers – one plastic, one metal and one with goo that makes human cells or tomatoes. Because space is one place where you need to build parts on site, on demand. I don’t live in space, so I’ll just goto Wal-Mart.

Some question marks I have:

On-Demand Manufacturing – I get it, you store bytes instead of products on shelves. But I need someone to start showing me parts and products that really can be used. Show me the true costs involved. I abhor tooling, but I also understand the advantages injection molding, metal fabrication and other manufacturing processes have based on quantities. On-demand manufacturing may not be right for your product or business.

Community – One of the selling points is that we’ll make all our stuff by 3D printing. We won’t need designers, factories, shipping companies…you name it, anymore. Um, if no one works in mass production anymore, what are they going to do? What happens to the communities that depend on manufacturing to be able to flourish? Okay, this is an extreme example but just because we can self provide doesn’t mean we should. On the surface every new technology looks like it will save us. What we need to do is focus on community instead of the latest social media darling.

Role Of Designers – What will making everyone a designer do for design? Why should I hire a designer when I can just do it myself? I not sure where things will land but I know design is tougher than most people think it is. Maybe the advent of manufacturing democracy will mean more people will need design services. Maybe 3D printers will force my hand and nix my value as a designer. I don’t know.

More Stuff – The advent of 3D printing for the masses doesn’t solve the social problems associated with consumerism. It says we still need stuff, we just don’t need the system to produce it for us. Well I think that’s a pretty narrow viewpoint of stuff and the system that produces stuff. We should value material and human craftsmanship. The ease of self manufacturing also makes it easier to make and consume products that may not be entirely thought out, in an unregulated environment. 3D printing for the masses, as it is sold in the articles and videos disconnects us from the earth and society as a whole.

With mass production if we needed 10,000 cups we had one machine making them. Now with the 3D printer revolution we need 10,000 cups we need 10,000 machines plugged into every house making them singularly.

I don’t see how that is progress.

 

What we need to do

Start valuing ecology, humanity and economy. Understand the impact design has on all three. Read ‘Cradle-to-Cradle‘ when you get a chance. It talks about fundamentally designing systems and products to be nurturing to what we really need as a planet.

3D printing challenges the status quo, so for that fact alone I applaud it. But we need to temper all of the media glamor with a dose of logic and understanding of the pros and cons of the tool.

And know that it’s you and I that will change the world. 3D printers will just help make our job a little easier.

 

Here’s a good Newsweek article on the topic.

Thoughts?

Where am I off base?

What do you agree with?

What can you expound upon?

Share in comments below.

-Chris

Chris Weigand is president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC – a full service retail design firm. Visit us at http://www.chrisweiganddesign.com for more information. And no we don’t have a 3D printer yet but would really like one someday.