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Design elements in retail design

Since the evolution of retail design and its impact on productivity have become clear, a series of standardisations in the techniques and design qualities has been determined. These standardisations range from alterations to the perspective of the structure of the space, entrances, circulation systems, atmospheric qualities (light and sound) and materiality. By exploring these standardisations in retail design the consumer will be given a thematic experience that entices them to purchase the merchandise. It is also important to acknowledge that a retail space must combine both permanent and non permanent features, that allow it to change as the needs of the consumer and merchandise change (e.g. per season).


The structure of retail space creates the constraints of the overall design; often the spaces already exist, and have had many prior uses. It is at this stage that logistics must be determined, structural features like columns, stairways, ceiling height, windows and emergency exists all must be factored into the final design. In retail one hundred percent of the space must be utilised and have a purpose. The floor plan creates the circulation which then directly controls the direction of the traffic flow based on the studied psychology of consumer movement pattern within a retail space. Circulation is important because it ensures that the consumer moves through the store from front to back, guiding them to important displays and in the end to the cashier.There are six basic store layouts and circulation plans that all provide a different experience:


1.Straight plan: this plan divides transitional areas from one part of the store to the other by using walls to display merchandise. It also leads the consumer to the back of the store. This design can be used for a variety of stores ranging from pharmacies to apparel.

2.Pathway plan: is most suitable for large stores that are single level. In this plan there is a path that is unobstructed by shop fixtures, this smoothly guides the consumer through to the back of the store. This is well suited for apparel department stores, as the clothes will be easily accessible.

3.Diagonal plan: uses perimeter design which cause angular traffic flow. The cashier is in a central location and easily accessible. This plan is most suited for self-service retail.

4.Curved plan: aims to create an intimate environment that is inviting. In this plan there is an emphasis on the structure of the space including the walls, corners and ceiling this is achieved by making the structure curved and is enhance by circular floor fixtures. Although this is a more expensive layout it is more suited to smaller spaces like salons and boutiques.

5.Varied plan: in this plan attention is drawn to special focus areas, as well as having storage areas that line the wall. This is best suited for footwear and jewellery retail stores.

6.Geometric plan: uses the racks and the retail floor fixtures to create a geometric floor plan and circulation movement. By lowering parts of the ceiling certain areas can create defined retail spaces. This is well suited for appeal stores.

Once the overall structure and circulation of the space has been determined, the atmosphere and thematics of the space must be created through lighting, sound, materials and visual branding. These design elements will cohesively have the greatest impact on the consumer and thus the level of productivity that could be achieved.[citation needed]


Lighting can have a dramatic impact on the space. It needs to be functional but also complement the merchandise as well as emphasize key points throughout the store. The lighting should be layered and of a variety of intensities and fixtures. Firstly, examine the natural light and what impact it has in the space. Natural light adds interest and clarity to the space; also consumers also prefer to examine the quality of merchandise in natural light.If no natural light exists, a sky light can be used to introduce it to the retail space. The lighting of the ceiling and roof is the next thing to consider. This lighting should wash the structural features while creating vectors that direct the consumer to key merchandise selling areas. The next layer should emphasize the selling areas. These lights should be direct but not too bright and harsh. Poor lighting can cause eye strain and an uncomfortable experience for the consumer. To minimize the possibility of eye strain, the ratio of luminance should decrease between merchandise selling areas. The next layer will complement and bring focus onto the merchandise; this lighting should be flattering for the merchandise and consumer. The final layer is to install functional lighting such as clear exit signs.

Ambiance can then be developed within the atmosphere through sound and audio, the music played within the store should reflect what your target market would be drawn to, this would also be developed through the merchandise that is being marketed. In a lingerie store the music should be soft, feminine and romanticized; where in a technology department the music would be more upbeat and more masculine.


Materiality is another key selling tool, the choices made must not only be aesthetically pleasing and persuasive but also functional with a minimal need for maintenance.Retail spaces are high traffic area and are thus exposed to a lot of wear this means that possible finishes of the materials should be durable. The warmth of a material will make the space more inviting, a floor that is firm and somewhat buoyant will be more comfortable for that consumer to walk on and thus this will allow them to take longer when exploring the store.By switching materials throughout the store zones/ areas can be defined, for example by making the path one material and contrast it against another for the selling areas this help to guide the consumer through the store. Colour is also important to consider it must not over power or clash against the merchandise but rather create a complementary background for the merchandise. As merchandise will change seasonally the interior colours should not be trend based but rather have timeless appeal like neutral based colours.


Visual branding of the store will ensure a memorable experience for the consumer to take with them once they leave the store ensuring that they will want to return. The key factor is consistency exterior branding and signage should continue into the interior, they should attract, stimulate and dramatise the store. To ensure consistency the font should be consistent with the font size altering.The interior branding should allow the consumer to easily self direct themselves through the store, proper placement of sales signs that will draw consumer in and show exactly where the cashier is located. The branding should reflect what the merchandise is and what the target market would be drawn to.

Source: Wikipedia


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