We all want to create a window display that engages people enough that they want to come in store. A window that is striking and original enough that they feel excited and engaged.
So how do you go about coming up with the perfect original idea for your window design? How do you execute it, ensuring it looks as good in reality as it does on paper? What materials should you use, and how can you plan a budget for your window?
Here, I talk through my do’s and don’ts of good window design; my tips and advice, from 20 years’ of experience, for avoiding common pitfalls and creating a display that you are proud of – and that works!
If you’re planning a window design, how do you come up with ideas and a good design?
Firstly, you should have a good understanding of your audience, so you should always design with them in mind. But you also want to attract new attention and be original with your idea. Easier said than done, right?
It’s often best to start with pen and paper to conceptualise your design. Start perhaps with a story, based on a theme – I often use this technique to develop ideas. If you are planning a window for a holiday season, you can look to that holiday for prop inspiration. Sketch out some ideas, take some risks, be bold. Let your imagination run free! Remember to try and use the whole window space from top to bottom with your design.
Once you have a concept you are happy with, trust yourself and your idea. Remember, you have just a few seconds to grab the attention of those passing by, so try to be colourful, original, and surprising! Dull windows do not get noticed.
Any advice on how to position items in the window?
Once you’ve got some initial sketches, take a good look at your window and the space you have. Consider your customer’s eye-level, as you will want to ensure key products are placed here so they draw people in. Then build around this focal point, and try to be big and bold with your design.
Try not to over-clutter your display with too many products. This can have a negative effect, resulting in a window that is too busy for people to look at! Consider the sizes of the products you plan to use in your display, and get a good balance around your window of both colour and size.
How do you budget for a window display and what are the common pitfalls?
It’s important to be aware of your budget parameters from the outset, as ultimately this means no-one is going to be disappointed. We could all spend a million pounds in a minute, but any project has to work within the constraints of a budget, so set this first. How much you have to spend will be influenced by many things, but it’s fair to say you can be creative on a shoestring if you have a lot of imagination and are happy to be experimental with materials. Obviously if you want to incorporate technology into your window, or moving parts, or light shows then the sky is the limit!
When I work with a client, I find that fully understanding what it is they hope to achieve means I can manage their expectations from the start. I know the project will deliver a great result and a happy client if we all know what is possible from the outset.
A lack of time, money or planning properly for these two things are the two most common reasons a project will go wrong. If you employ professionals to help you on a project, maintaining a good dialogue between all parties is very important so they project stays on track and any issues that arise are dealt with quickly and effectively.
How important are trends and colour in window design?
If you’re creating a retail window, then naturally you will want to consider the brand or brands you are featuring in that window, and the colours, values and personalities of those brands – there may even be guidelines on how to present these brands visually. In these cases, colour, fashion and trends are vitally important. Originality of idea is also what the big brands strive for in their store windows, as it is so important to have a show-stopping window to stand out against big competitors- especially at Christmas!
If you are an independent business, then you probably have the freedom to be a little more creative and do what you want to do. Depending on what you sell, fashion and trends may or may not play such an important role. Perhaps humour or surprise will be the key to your successful window. As I said earlier, it’s important to be led by your audience’s tastes and preferences when designing your window. Consider what will appeal to them, not you. Giving the customer what they want is key.
What advice do you have on materials and how do you source them?
Even without the need for upcycling or recycling materials in order to help save our planet, I would still argue that there is great value in repurposing materials for window design production – and I always have done, since starting Minki Balinki back in the 90s!
Even in the very early days, we were inventive with materials. We used industrial items or components that were invented for something else entirely, but would lend themselves beautifully to any number of crazy uses in an artistic display. The key is to look in unexpected places and to think outside the box.
In addition, using repurposed materials really helps to keep your budget in check, while also being good for the environment. So my advice is to reinvent things and give them new life to create the most satisfying window display ever!
I will argue here, of course, that Minki Balinki will always have the best access to a wealth of sources through our wide experience and contacts, so bear us in mind at the production stage, if you have a fabulous idea but are struggling to bring it to life – because we are the masters at this!
Of course if you need to source new materials, and naturally this is sometimes the case when nothing else will work, always consider buying materials that can be recycled or reused easily. And there are also a number of businesses and charities that welcome used stage and window dressing props for other uses!
Any thoughts on lighting my display?
Lighting is incredibly important in creating the right mood and ambience in your window and can be used to highlight particular parts of the window display. This is important if you want to draw attention to a focal point in your display.
In my experience lighting can be frustrating if it hasn’t been specifically created for the project, and shop-fitting design often falls short of delivering this aspect.
Additional lights can of course be added but should always be considered carefully and incorporated into the window design so they seem seamless. Otherwise the lighting can end up looking a little like an afterthought. You also want to carefully consider where you might position additional lighting for you display – for example, lighting from above can create shadows, so consider lighting from the sides or the front.
There have been remarkable advances in lighting effects recently, and the options are broad so there is much to choose from. Just remember to always employ a qualified electrician to fit new any lighting!
What are your tips for avoiding mistakes when creating a window display?
When you’re at the concept stage, don’t dismiss ideas too quickly. We can all have doubts, or feel imposter syndrome if we’re doing something we’re never done before. Share ideas with friends for feedback if in doubt.
Try not to cram too much into one window. If a window is too busy, shoppers are likely to look away quickly, and you want to make your products stand out.
Keep the window clean! It sounds so obvious, but with lights and heat, it’s amazing how quickly the dust can settle! Frequently stand outside and take a look at your window to check everything is still in place, clean and looking its best.
Ultimately, keep it fun, enjoy it, and put some passion into it. This will always shine through in a great display.
After a period of unprecedented change and innovation in the sector, retailers need to update their VM strategies to ensure they stay relevant and attractive to customers.
Physical stores have some distinct advantages over online shopping that mean brands will always benefit from combining the in-store brand experience with e-commerce. Here we take a look at what the physical store can offer that online shopping can’t, and some of the latest innovations and trends in retail visual merchandising.
Engage all the senses
Being able to engage all of the senses is clearly an advantage of the physical store.
We may think only certain product types engage certain senses – perfume is smelled, food is tasted – but big brands know that creating a multi-sensory experience, whatever their product, will have a greater impact on consumers. After Nike added scent to its stores, purchase intent among consumers increased by 80%. And let’s not forget the power of a simple jingle (think McDonalds or Intel) to instantly bring to mind a brand.
Multi-sensory design for retail is not new, however great leaps in technology mean we can now create exciting in-store displays that engage not only sight and touch, but sound, smell and taste too, creating a completely immersive in-store experience.
Branded pop-up stores and events have been growing in popularity throughout the pandemic. They can offer a relatively low cost and low commitment way for retailers to take creative risks, generate a buzz, or introduce their brands to new audiences by ‘popping up’ in an unexpected place. Some luxury fashion retailers have even followed their customers on vacation to the Hamptons or the Mediterranean.
These immersive pop up experiences usually combine a number of visual elements and plenty of opportunity for customers to interact with the brand, bringing together rich visuals, limited edition products, and opportunities to take part in a digital experience that is directly interlinked with the physical experience.
Check out Burberry’s Animal Kingdom, in association with Snapchat; a series of pop-ups that used augmented reality to create a game for customers and a wealth of user-generated content on social media.
Shop windows have also become an interactive shopping experience. Take a look at Selfridge’s The New Order campaign, which came alive via the use of QR codes that allowed passersby to explore and shop products without entering the store, during the height of the pandemic.
For the opening of their flagship London store, we worked with Levi’s and a group of influencers to create this unique, interactive in-store display. Shoppers could wander around the different interactive exhibits and find out more about these influencers. The effect was a museum-like installation that invited shoppers to get involved, connect with the Levi’s brand, and spend more time in the store.
Luxury brands need real stores
We’ve learned, especially over the past 18 months, that we really value human interaction and relationships. For luxury brands and retailers, having the opportunity to create personal interactions with customers is vital because luxury brands rely so heavily on repeat customers.
Luxury brands have to build high brand loyalty and they do this by offering great customer service in order to meet customers’ expectations of exclusivity. It’s difficult to maintain this loyalty through an online presence alone.
Bricks and mortar outlets will remain vital in personal luxury and fashion, but retailers will need to do more to build loyalty with customers, who now look to be entertained, rewarded and valued more than ever.
Design trend: Monochrome
When we hear monochrome, we immediately think black and white. But in 2021, we’re seeing a trend for monochrome windows of one key colour throughout, and yellow is having a moment – used in recent window displays by both Louis Vuitton and Swarovski.
Pantone even launched a new bright yellow hue called Illuminating, along with Ultimate Gray, as its two new colours for 2021 – both synchronously representing unity, stability and hope.
While monochrome outfits by luxury fashion houses are not new (think Chanel and their ubiquitous black and white suits of the 60s), using a single colour theme in a visual display is definitely a 2021 trend which looks set to carry on through summer.
For this monochrome red window at Harrods, our brief was create a luxurious statement for Alice and Olivia’s Fall collection with hundreds of red roses. It formed an opulent setting to feature key pieces from the collection.
Window trend: Natural and organic
People are drawn to nature and fresh air more than ever, and we’re all more focused on our well-being after the pandemic. From healthy food options to natural textiles and sustainable fashion, we’re all buying into good health and supporting the environment right now.
This Autumn, picture windows that are inspired by nature with materials like jute, linen and timber, and think subtle colours like terracotta, sage and olive greens, blush pinks and every shade of beige.
Below is the Chelsea Flower Show display for Hobbs’ flagship store, designed by their in-house team and realised by Minki Balinki.
Overall, be original
Trends are important as they allow you to respond to current moods and tastes and ensure you are creating something that is right for the moment. And we are clearly moving to an omni-channel future that means retailers will need to be more innovative with visual merchandising, combining tried and tested methods with technology and sustainability.
But paramount for success is being original.
Whether in the window, in-store, on a billboard or in a pop-up, the key to creating a truly attention-grabbing, crowd-stopping visual retail display is originality of concept, brilliantly executed.
Professional visual merchandisers are ready to help retailers and brands achieve all of this, by weaving together trends, new ideas, innovative technologies and experience to come up with something truly original and captivating for your next campaign.
Commissioned to design, manufacture and install this window display, Minki Balinki created a look inspired by pop-out model kits. Fusing this with the heritage of the Ecco brand’s history of shoe-making and craftsmanship, we sourced ancient shoe making tools and gave everything a matt white finish, bringing a touch of Scandinavian style, characterised by simplicity and minimalism.