2017 NAIAS Recap


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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.


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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


Catch the Pokemon Wave

Seemingly out of nowhere Pokemon Go took over the world earlier this July. The free downloadable app was, and still is, the talk of social and news media. Turns out chasing imaginary creatures is getting everyone off of the couch and, for at least a moment or two, forgetting about elections, violence and all the bills they have to pay. It’s basically like a much welcome break from reality during a very hot and tiresome summer here in the U.S.

The app was launch without much anticipation or fanfare, but none the less has resulted in big bucks for Nintendo, the parent company that owns the Pokemon brand. Their evaluation was up way over 25%, or $11 billion (that’s with a “b”) in just a week according to an article on qz.com. Even if you don’t believe what they say as far as valuation goes, there is no denying the initial impact of the app on our short attention span society.

How long will the party last? Who knows. But what can and should you do to make the best of an incredible situation?

Merchants Seize the Opportunity

Not surprisingly, savvy merchants are taking advantage of everyone getting off of their couches and getting out to find imaginary creatures in our cities, towns and parks. A pizza shop in Long Island spent $10 on “lures” to lure Pokemon, and the people looking to capture Pokemon, to their shop and their sales were up 75% over the weekend.

Soon merchants will be able to sponsor their location to attract even more customers.

The beauty of the app is it’s getting people of every demographic off the couch and out into society looking for these critters. Families are putting down the iPads and wanting to go on hikes, or visit downtown to find Pokemon. Business people are taking a few minutes at lunch or before work exploring to find Pokemon. And when people are exploring, they get hungry, thirsty and want to visit your store.

A Spearow by Starbucks? Why yes, I’ll stop in for a latte.

Take Advantage of the Pokemon Go Trend

In the game there are “PokeStops” where gamers can get much needed enhancements to the game. As a merchant, download the app and figure out where the closest PokeStop is to you. If you’re lucky your venue may even be one, which should already be attracting people. In our town there are several churches and businesses that are PokeStops or PokeGyms.

As mentioned, it doesn’t cost much to “lure” Pokemon and their explorers to your shop. You get a couple free lures when you sign up, and additional ones only cost a few dollars and last for a half hour. Spread the word on social media that you dropped a lure and wait for customers.

Once there, be creative with how you seize the Pokemon phenomenon. Tout your business as “Pokemon Central” by offering provisions for explorers – water, food, licensed product. Maybe make it social by starting a club or offering discounts for people who’ve found certain Pokemon. Create photo ops for people to take pictures with their yet to be captured Pokemon in front of your store.

Missed the Wave?

No idea what Pokemon Go is, or you missed it completely? No worries, in our short attention span society there will surely be another app, event or trend that you can seize to amp up your bottom line.

Take the time to be aware of trends as they happen. Regularly read the news, and pay attention to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to hear what people are talking about. Observe you customers and talk to them to find out what they’re interested in.

My family didn’t pick up on Pokemon Go until three days into it, by then it was on the mainstream media. But there is still plenty of life in the trend cycle for Pokemon Go as they add features and improve the app.

Even if you missed it, establish habits now for how your business will react to social trends in order to enhance your bottom line. Trend watching is just as important as inventory, customer service and pricing for your business. With good habits and creativity you may be discovering some happy additions to your bottom line by year’s end.

In the meantime I think there’s a Rattata in the office that needs to be caught…


When not out looking for Pokemon, Chris Weigand is an industrial designer specializing in branding and retail design. As president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC, Chris and his team help some of the largest brands and retailers in the world, as well as independents, local and start-ups connect with customers out in the marketplace. Contact Chris today at (330) 858-8926 or chris@chrisweiganddeisgn.com to find out how he can help your brand seize upon the latest trends influencing the marketplace.

CLE Auto Show

We recently visited the Cleveland Auto Show and thought we would share a few photos with you. Auto shows are great for getting design inspiration from not only cars and trucks, but also the exhibits and displays.

And there was not a lot of duplicity in terms of exhibits with what we saw at the Detroit show earlier this year. In fact Subaru had a nicer presentation in Cleveland than Detroit (which is considered a larger and more “prestigious” show). We liked the illuminated slats on the display shown in Cleveland; these could be seen from a great distance and attracted us to the Subaru exhibit.

One thing we noticed in Cleveland vs. Detroit was a fewer interactive displays in Cleveland. The Motor City show had them everywhere, especially right next to each car. Our hometown show relied more upon traditional signs. Overall though the use of interactive signs is the highest it has ever been, according to our non-scientific visual survey.

Here are some pics from the Cleveland Auto Show. Enjoy.

North American Int’l Auto Show Roundup

We took the opportunity to visit the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan a couple of weeks ago. And I thought I’d share with you some of the things we found interesting there.

Auto shows are great venues to see the latest trends not only in-car design but also in color, textures, materials. And the cars are not the only attraction. For retail designers there are plenty of great displays and exhibits to get inspiration from.

If you can’t make it to Detroit, which is the premiere show in the U.S., visit one of the other big shows such as New York, L.A. or Chicago if you can. Otherwise find a show near you. The auto show in Cleveland is one of the largest in the country, and many of the cars and displays from the big name shows can be seen just up the road from us, here in Northeast Ohio.

Observations from Detroit:

  • hybrids and electric cards are becoming mainstream, and the design of their charging stations it unique opportunity for branding and design
  • matte paint finishes continue to trend. Volvo and Mercedes had a lot of matte cars
  • interactive kiosks were everywhere, even replacing the static info boards by the cars on display. (Also you can find them in car dealerships, by the way – was in a Jeep dealer this past weekend and they had kiosks all over)
  • the design of exhibits seemed heavy on hospitality with nice desks, benches and seating areas, including benches with tablets and headphones for listening to music
  • the Buick display stood out for its use of fine finishes and curves. Lots of curves and attention to details
  • great graphic design on display, both in exhibits and on cars
  • large video walls were prominently used. Infiniti, Scion and Chevrolet in particular. You could see through Chevy’s LED video walls.


Visit Small Towns To Uncover Retail Gems

Look in any retail design trade publication and you’re presented with glamorous photographs of exotic retail locations sprinkled across the world’s largest metro areas. From big chains to small boutiques, seemingly if you want to see where it’s at in terms of retail design you’d better head downtown, or hop on a plane.

A recent vacation reminded me that you don’t have to travel to the big city to experience the best of retail. We spent our mid-summer family holiday in the town of Ellicottville in western New York state. It’s an international ski town that I’ve personally visited for the better part of thirty years; watching it adapt, evolve and grow. Despite the focus on winter, when the town is flooded by winter sport lovers from across the region (and Canada), it has grown into a vibrant summer scene also. And any time we’re in town we make a point of visiting the stores that line its main streets.

The village (part of the town by the same name) is very quaint and devoid of national chains. It’s a paradise for viewing independent retail up close and personal. Stores have come and gone through the years but vacancy isn’t too high right now so it is a great time to visit. There are several new stores to supplement the old standbys.

I took the time to visit most of the stores, and even talked to a few of the merchants to learn more about their awesome retail spaces. I suspect many of them are designing the stores themselves, and exciting those designs by the sweat of their own brow (one merchant said as much). Whether they do the work themselves, or hire someone (hint, hint) the key is knowing their brand and having that communicated in every way. Most of the stores we visited did this exceedingly well. As a retail designer I didn’t see much I would have done differently, and many things that I found beyond delight as a designer, and shopper.

Walking through the stores reminded me of how much I love shopping and retail environments. It made for a fun morning. An experience that can’t be replicated online. Nor is it easily translatable to mass retail.

So before you book your design team trip to New York City, San Francisco, London or wherever it is you go, consider driving through the countryside closer to home. There are a lot of great independent retailers creating really awesome retail experiences right in front of us.

Where are your favorite hole in the wall retail design haunts? Share in the comments below after enjoying the photos of Ellicottville.


-Chris Weigand

President, Chris Weigand Design, LLC

Chris Weigand Design is a full service professional retail design and branding consultancy. We work with companies of all sizes to design compelling design solutions that connect with customers. We love shopping, we love going out to stores and seeing what merchants are doing. We enjoy creating really awesome solutions for our clients. Contact us today at 330.858.8926 to find out how we can make your store a place that people love to shop.

I Don’t Think Retail Stores Are Going Anywhere

photo from Corbis.com

photo from Corbis.com

Maybe I’m naive but I don’t think physical “brick and mortar” (as the cliché goes) stores are going anywhere. Though, with a degree of good reason that does seem to be the word going around when having casual conversations about retail, or perusing the retail industry news sites. After all, online is prevalent, new and convenient. Stores can be a messy ordeal, limiting and inconvenient.

I recently met with several independent retailers and had some really nice conversations. Though one of the merchants I met had mentioned that they thought retailing wasn’t what it used to be like; that online retailers were going to put them all out of business. They were just waiting for retirement, then they’d close up their shop. As a retail designer, whose livelihood sort of depends on this sort of thing, I didn’t really know what to say. I mean after all, I may be biased. But frankly, in the scope of the daily tasks for my life’s work I don’t get to hung up on the online vs. brick-n-mortar battle.

So I’ve been thinking about it.

First of all, the economy tanking didn’t leave too many sectors untouched and certainly retail took a hit, regardless of where consumers were buying their goods. On the other side of the recession no one would argue the world is a different place.

Here we have online retailing presumably booming and old-fashioned stores on their supposed deathbed. Here are my thoughts:

It Depends On What You’re Shopping For

When I need a water filter, or rare commodity such as food safe bins for storing honey frames, yes I shop online. I need these items at the lowest price and I don’t have time to hunt all over Northeast Ohio for them. But if I, or anyone for that matter hopefully, needs something unique, immediately or something that tangibly needs to be evaluated, it’s hard to beat a traditional store. Especially if I want it today. On any given weekend I will goto Lowe’s seemingly fifteen times. There are customers who will not wait for Amazon to deliver a peach tree, car battery or children’s book. And of course there are those that will wait. Point is, for everything you can wait on, I’ll need today, and vice versa.

Some People Still Like To Shop

I love shopping. I don’t know if it’s because of my job or my job is a result of that love. I enjoy going to the store, hunting…pecking…talking to merchants, discovering and bring one or many things home with me. I like feeling special in well done store environments. I like spending time with my family in the car, going to the store and having a shared experience I can’t get whipping out my credit card and typing on my Apple keyboard at home. I think that people who like to get out in the world and interact with humans aren’t limited to just one demographic. There may not be as many as there used to be, but they still have a lot of buying power.

People Want Authenticity

I believe there is a large enough group of shoppers that, if they are going to spend money, they value the story behind what they are buying. They want to tangibly hold it, learn about it and buy it in person. Whether it’s locally grown food, unique crafted items, or an expensive handbag. Online has it’s limitations and doesn’t check off all of our emotional and primeval needs as humans.

Keep in mind, I do believe the marketplace is changing, so merchants need to adjust as well. But also remember, despite the adversity, there still are a lot of people in this world; you only need a small percentage to buy your goods or services to flourish.

So what to do?

Determine Why You Exist

I rhetorically ask this of clients all the time: why do you exist? Take the example of the shop owner who thinks brick and mortar is done for. Of course it is, unless you change the game in your favor. Looking around, why would anyone get in their car or hop a train to come here and buy this stuff? Why do you exist? Differentiate your product and your customer experience based on what sets you apart. Otherwise I’ll just go on Amazon or Etsy, click, click and wait for the UPS guy to ring the bell.

Communicate Your Special-ness To Guests

If your store looks the same as it always has: slat wall, a handful of display cases, prescribed layouts, random crap everywhere, then I have little incentive to once again travel all the way out to your place. If guests have to deal with down-trodden associates, poor customer service and a maddening shopping experience then yes, retail stores are dead. Guests are savvy and they don’t have a lot of money, give them reasons to get butterflies when they visit your store. Show them why your place is the only place to get that item or service.

Be Consistent In Everything You Do

I’m a strong believer that consistency can do much of the heavy lifting for you, so you can get back to keeping an eye on the big picture. So often merchants fuss over the details and never think about the big picture. Figure out what makes you special and make sure that drives everything you do. Every touch point guests have with your stores should either overtly or subconsciously connect them to you: from the parking lot, to the merchandising, to customer service to, get this, your online store or experience (yes you should have one of those too by the way). Consistent, consistent, consistent. Heck if I walk into the bathroom at your store it should be on brand with your philosophy.

Evolve, Adapt, Engage….Keep Working At It

It’s not an easy job (that’s where we can help you by the way, so you don’t get stressed out). You have to determine what sets you apart, pay attention to the detail, execute, then guess what? Stay with it. Listen to guests, do your homework, have a short and long-term goals, constantly work at it. Do not, please do not just set up a bunch of stuff on slat wall and old mannequins waiting for the door to open. Don’t cram a bunch of stuff in your store, put it all on sale and scratch your head. Guess where I can find a bunch of stuff crammed into a “store” on sale? Online. Is that why you exist?

Every retailer is different, but not every retailer acts differently enough to keep guests engaged and wanting to come back.

Brink and mortar stores aren’t all going away. But you do have to up your game if you’re going to be among those that flourish.

Best of luck to you.

I for one can’t wait to go shopping.

-Chris Weigand

President, Chris Weigand Design, LLC

Chris Weigand Design is a retail consultancy focused on helping independent retailers and brands connect with guests at retail. Chris has over 17 years experience as a designer, manager and consultant. His solutions can be found in over 30,000 retail doors from the largest chains down to one off displays in single stores. When he’s not working you may find him lost, on purpose, in a book store: a brick and mortar he hopes never goes away.

2014 CLE Auto Show

While the Cleveland Auto Show doesn’t get any national press, and rarely does it get a new car introduction, we still think it’s a gem of an event right in our back yard. The show is, or was at one time, the largest auto show after Detroit, New York City, Chicago and L.A. The main advantage of the show here in CLE is that parking is plentiful and free, and you can essentially sit in every car – the show is canted towards real people, who buy real cars. There’s even an area to ride along in a new Jeep or test drive other cars in the parking lot.

And with the uptick in the economy the show has recently been benefiting from fancy human models (male and female) touting the new car features, as well as many of the same exhibit displays you’d see in the larger markets. At the low point of the recession, the show was basically cars on carpet with no one around. The one thing we didn’t see too many of this year were concept cars. It seems the industry is focused on putting near production models on the turn tables instead of blue sky dream cars. We’re not sure if this is universal at many of the shows, but it’s a trend snippet worth delving into more….

When we went the show was incredibly crowded so getting photos was a tad difficult due to the sheer number of people all over the place. Here are a few photos we did snap as we walked the show floor.  Enjoy.