How do you design for a memorable in-store experience?
16 Jan 2020
Every day, there are countless brands competing for our attention, but as an independent brand just starting out with a limited budget, how can you compete? One of the most impactful ways to stand out is through imaginative design, and it’s something that doesn’t always have to cost the world.
For the first Appear Here Masterclass of 2020, we were joined by a multidisciplinary creative studio who made their name creating some unforgettable fit-outs; Art Director Mehrnoosh Khadivi and Myles Grimsdale. With a portfolio of iconic projects for clients including Sketch London, Nike, Nicholas Kirkwood, LVMH, British Fashion Council and Roland Mouret, we learned how any brand can create a memorable customer experience through imaginative design. Here are some of the key takeaways from the event:
Even with a great idea, trying to get noticed on a smaller budget can be difficult, but aligning your brand values with the unexpected can pay dividends; something that Mehrnoosh learned in her time as Creative Director for Sketch. Although now an unmistakable tourist destination, no one at the time was combining the world of fine dining and contemporary art. Within a year, they proved that the two worlds could sit together in a new way through unexpected and daring design; a huge risk that made the restaurant stand out in a saturated market. Although a new brand might start out without any history or heritage, it’s also a perfect opportunity to reinvent yourself from the get-go. As Mehrnoosh summed up: “If no one knows who you are yet, what have you got to lose?”
To create a memorable retail space, start with your core brand values and make sure you stick to them. For the new generation of consumers, authenticity is paramount to cutting through the clutter, and can also be the easiest way to realise your physical space on a limited budget. In her work with designer Nicholas Kirkwood, Mehrnoosh recounted how identifying key visual motifs allowed her to reimagine his brand’s signature aesthetic wherever he was in the world. The now unmistakable chevron print was used in pop-ups from Las Vegas to Paris to carry the brand to a new audience, while still staying true to the Nicholas Kirkwood aesthetic. Being sure of your brand values and aesthetic when starting out was a resounding takeaway from the Masterclass. “Do it well from the beginning, and it will serve you long term”, affirmed Myles. “Take a brand like Chanel: their brand values have been consolidated so well, they’ll live on long after Karl Lagerfeld.”
The devil’s in the details.
Although an innovative design is a must for curating an in-store environment that generates industry interest, Mehrnoosh highlighted the importance of nailing the basics first. After all, you can have an incredible design concept, but it can fall through if your fit-out isn’t up to scratch. She discussed her first time working with Nicholas Kirkwood and how she convinced him to spend half of his budget on industry-standard lighting for his pop-up. “It was so important and helped him to elevate from a wholesale brand into the luxury market. Investing in the details meant that his showroom always looked perfect,” she said, “It’s still the rig that he uses to this day!”
Create an environment for storytelling.
There have been huge innovations in the world of retail design, so having a generic in-store experience won’t be enough to make a brand stand out. Some of the most impactful retail spaces create environments around their product that invite their consumers into an immersive world, and they use anything at their disposal to make that happen. Interiors, sound, design, even scent; the more innovative, the better. Myles spoke on his experience working with a florist for a pop-up for Zara Home, and how something as simple as incorporating floral displays resonated with the brand’s image and elevated the physical space on a small budget.
Ideas don’t cost anything.
Impressional in-store experiences don’t have to cost the world. To round off the evening, Myles and Mehrnoosh looked back on their work with Appear Here and sustainability platform Mutha for their charity Spair Max Day; an event that would see over 1,000 pairs of trainers cleaned and donated to Brixton Soup Kitchen. With less than £5k to work with and only 24 hours to come up with an industry-leading idea, the duo were pushed to get creative. The resulting pop-up used a simple in-store design that used the space to its full potential. Using little more than laces and shoes on, the creative duo created an immersive physical space quite literally on a shoestring. The challenge was one Mehrnoosh relished, and recounted how pop-up can be an exciting opportunity to get creative with ideas, summarising “I love the creative challenge of a tight space a pop-up offers.”
Understand your brand.
For both Myles and Mehrnoosh, determining what your brand stands for early on in the design process is crucial, but there’s a huge difference between identifying a brand’s code and its values. A brand’s code consists of technical properties such as the logo, design and retail targets, but a brand’s values are what makes up its DNA, they sit at the core of its message. Myles stressed their significance in a drawn up chart for attendees; “It’s so important to identify what your brand stands for,” he said, “But it’s even more important to be constantly checking in on yourself to see if you’re upholding them. Stay true to yourself.”