Designers Lead the Charge in the Retail Revolution

Although we’ve seen many huge retailers downsize (like the Gap) and some close altogether (Toys R Us), you’d be surprised to know that there was a 58% increase in store openings in 2017, according to a study by Fung Global Retail and Technology. Amazon even made the leap to brick and mortar through pop-up stores and by purchasing Whole Foods. Surprisingly, a lot of this has to do with Gen Z and millennials who prefer to shop in-store vs. online. Granted, they gather intel and find the items online, but then head to an actual store to make the purchase.

This is good news for brands and designers who are marketing to these segments. Direct mail, gift cards and packaging still play an indelible role in purchasing decisions at the store. According to Liz Burnett, principal at Matchbox Studio in Dallas, “As consumer behavior changes, brands are starting to design packaging and in-store experiences with social media in mind.” She cites a study by Contract Packaging Association that says, “Nearly 40% of consumers say they’ll regularly share product packaging that is ‘gifty’ or ‘interesting’ on social media.” With that in mind, she says, “Thoughtfully designed packaging and collateral pieces entice customers to share products with their followers on Instagram, which can boost brand awareness and word-of-mouth.”

Matchbox Studio was commissioned by Neenah Paper to design the Retail Revolution promotion which features several examples of printed materials that can help boost retail sales in the luxury market. “In the luxury retail environment, details matter. A great deal of care is taken to make luxury brands look and feel great. It’s the little things that mean the most to a customer – right down to the paper choices a brand makes to elevate its message. With personal health and wellness markets growing ever popular, we chose to focus on four brands that illustrate consumer aspirations to look and feel great as well,” Burnett notes.

“Today, shoppers are paralyzed by choice in almost every purchase category. Strong branding and premium paper can cut through the noise and help sell products. The product itself must be able to deliver on its promises, but the packaging and collateral alone can do a lot of the heavy lifting,” she says.

For the Neenah promo, the designers at Matchbox conceived four luxury brands that are influenced by major brands in the same category: The athleisure brand, Knetics, was inspired by Uniqlo, Lululemon, and Nike; the men’s apothecary brand, Pack, was inspired by Kiehl’s and C.O. Bigelow; Desert Mothers spa, was inspired by Four Seasons and The Springs Resort; Odyssey was inspired by Blue Apron and HelloFresh.

Below, she explains the significance of each piece they designed for the promo.

The first section of the promo is called “How to Get Customers in the Door,” which has become an increasingly harder task as consumers are relying more on online shopping, so we highlighted three pieces get them there and keep them coming back: a direct-mail postcard, a gift card, and a colorful hangtag. ColorCom has reported, “Colors can increase brand recognition by 80 percent.” Once customers are in the door, a branded color alone can drive them to purchase a product.”

The next section, “How to Engage and Excite Customers In-Store,” demonstrates how proper branding paired with premium papers can excite and encourage purchases. The featured pieces include an attention-grabbing business card that used foil and Neenah’s memorable CLASSIC COLUMNS finish; a product display card; and an interactive package piece to help illustrate that shoppers often select products based on the packaging.

Sending the right message at the right time is crucial. In “How to Spread the Word,” we wanted to show how premium papers can make memorable first impressions. We designed a large event invite and envelope and a prism-shaped brochure filled with fictional spa treatments like “Vision Quest Meditation” and “Sweet Nectar Body Wrap” that could draw in customers who are interested in unique or VIP experiences.

In “How to Build A Following,” we created a meal-kit subscription service brand, Odyssey, to illustrate how online subscription services are building brand loyalty by using curated, personalized print materials.

Let’s move the Retail Revolution forward, by designing jaw-dropping print materials that draw customers in and keep them coming back for more!

Finding Your Way: Designing Functional & Beautiful Maps

Graphic design is all about solving problems and making things functional and easy to understand, and wayfinding materials such as signs and maps aren’t the exception. In fact, they’re the rule. If the information is wrong or misunderstood, there can be deadly consequences. But not all maps are life and death. Some can be really fun while providing factual information, such as maps for parks, playgrounds, museums, and more.

One company that knows how to put the fun in mapmaking is Visual Maps based in Copenhagen, Denmark. They’ve designed colorful, richly detailed maps for parks all over the globe for the past 20 years. “It started with an illustration for a DUPLO universe on a LEGO package I did, which was spotted in Legoland, which then commissioned me to do their park map,” explains founder and creative director Mads Berg. Since then, they’ve designed all the Legoland parks worldwide, and have specialized in park maps since.

Here are five tips for creating successful map designs.

  1. Combine fact with fiction for emphasis

Designing wayfinding maps for parks isn’t so much scientific as it is illustrative. Sure, you need to help visitors find their way around the park, but it’s much more loose and playful than a city map. “There’s a mixture of reality and fantasy in each design,” he notes. “Google does the reality thing beyond compare. We love to do the fantasy part.” Of course, they do this without overriding the wayfinding purpose.

  1. Visit the park to get perspective

Although Google Maps is a great resource, Berg always starts projects by visiting the actual park, “not only to see the facilities, but also to experience the park as a visitor and know the points of navigation and get a first-person point of view.” Make note of the biggest attractions and their popularity. Often, these are points of interest that draw visitors to the park in the first place, so capitalize on them in your design by making them prominent.

  1. Sketch it out

When he’s back in the studio he does a pencil sketch to get the point of view right and define the composition. “Then we do a digital disposition map, where we take all facilities/rides/buildings individual height/volume in to account, and lay it all out,” Berg says, adding, “It remains a nice challenge to detangle the pathways, and to distribute everything, keeping the pathways correct, but at the same time focusing on and exaggerating individual features.” The biggest challenge is capturing all the landmarks and details in miniature, while still making them easily identifiable, as well as capturing the topography. In a zoo, for instance, different animals require different habitats, like water or vegetation, so be sure to visually represent them where applicable.

  1. Use Color as a differentiator

Color is a major factor in map design, not only to represent actual points of interest, but to use as identifiers. For instance, use a color key to identify things such as restaurants, gift shops, restrooms, exits, etc., for quick reference. Berg says of his maps, “Each park has its own colorways and atmosphere.” Be sure to capitalize on this as part of the overall brand strategy.

  1. Keep it real and keep it fun

He admits that he likes balancing the realistic demands of accuracy and wayfinding with the aesthetics, by exaggerating details and colors to create intrigue and beauty. “I especially like Tivoli Gardens and Liseberg because of this equal balance between aesthetics and navigation service. They both have poster qualities as well as being a good guide.” Use icons and buttons to help identify and locate points of interest. It can be frustrating for a visitor, if the map shows one thing and in reality, it’s completely different.

The tips above can be adapted for any kind of map project, just be sure to capture the fantastic qualities that draw visitors and help them get around the park, museum, school, or city safely.