Design for retail is a paradox. Ideally, a good design should draw attention to itself, but the goal of a display at retail is to showcase the product being merchandised, not the display itself. How effectively a display walks the “design tightrope” between drawing attention to its own design and enhancing the product it holds is a major factor in its success in moving product. Here are some tips on how to strike that balance:

  1. Scale key visual themes into the display. Does the product have a unique shape? Does the packaging feature attention-grabbing color combinations? Rather than settle for purely functional display elements or forms that contrast (read: clash) with the product, allow the display to enhance the product by working in key design themes. This approach is easier than it might first appear; oftentimes unique display proportions or even just a beveled shelf edge are all it takes to create a visual link between display and product.
  2. Balance messaging and merchandising. It can be tempting to “over-graphic” a display, creating a situation in which the shoppable areas of the unit are overshadowed not only by the structure, but the messaging as well. Although well-intentioned, too much graphic space can ironically make it more difficult for the customer to access the product for purchase. Let the product speak for itself as much as possible, and always ensure it remains eminently shoppable.
  3. Use the structure to underscore the actual qualities of the product. Is the product light and airy? Let the shape of the display reflect that attribute, whether with additional shelf spacing, or structure that controls the product in a minimalistic way. Does the product have more rustic, earthy overtones? Thoughtful use of shapes and materials can emphasize those qualities without overshadowing or fighting with the product’s primary selling points.

Retail display design presents creatives with unique challenges, but judicious application of the above guidelines can help cultivate designs that do much more than simply hold product. Instead, the display will allow its product to shine in a way that drives sales and customer satisfaction.

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