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!

Trendspotting 2018: Editorial Design

Whether you’re designing for a print or online publication, many rules are the same with the goal being legibility. If users can’t read it or don’t understand the hierarchy, you’re going to lose them. Trends in editorial design have run the gamut from over-the-top imagery and graphics, to sparsely inhabited pages of floating type in a sea of white space. And what works for one publication doesn’t work for another, so it’s completely subjective.

Designers Xavier Schoebel and Amélie Lecocq have plenty of experience working in publication design in France for cultural institutions like the Louvre and Pompidou Center. Both teach graphic design—Xavier at LISAA, Institute of Applied Arts in Strasbourg, and Amelie at the Fine Arts of the University of Strasbourg. “Much of our work in editorial design revolves around cultural subjects, where we use illustrated charts and graphs to depict the information. For instance, what works for a children’s book, will not work in a fashion magazine,” Xavier explains.

Here, the duo, who also run their studio Collectif Ça va 2 Paire, share their predictions for five editorial design trends to watch for in 2018—many of which are tried and true.

  1. Typography: Mix it Up

The old type rules about using only two or three type styles in editorial design are no longer relevant. In fact, it’s fun to mix and fuse different fonts to create a particular mood. “We like the mix between old historic fonts and modern fonts, that are more flexible,” Amelie notes. “Creating contemporary typographic design sometimes means combining old and new to create a timeless vibe.”

  1. Color: Bright is Right

Bright, high contrasting colors can make the difference between a hum-drum layout and something that speaks to the masses. Xavier says, “Pairing a bright color with a pastel or gray tone, is a simple way to create depth and intrigue, similar to how vintage album covers were portrayed in the ’70s. There was a tendency to have bright illustrations or letters over less chromatic or black and white photos.” Oftentimes, the contrast contributed to the album’s narrative and intrigue.

  1. Images: Original vs. Stock

Stock photos are fine if you’re in a hurry or on a very tight budget, but original art is always best, and that’s a trend that’s never going to change—which is great for artists and photographers. Illustrators can take a story to a whole new level with their interpretation of the narrative. “It’s also fun to add headlines or drawings on top of photos—just be sure to get the photographer’s permission to do this if you’re not buying exclusive rights,” Amelie notes. “These graphic additions, can really add drama and perspective.” Of course, if you buy stock images, you don’t need permission to do that.

  1. Composition: Balancing text and images

Grids are always a starting point for any publication designer. Setting up the page, determining the width of columns, and how headlines will look on the page. “Oftentimes, designers will deconstruct a gird to create dynamism in a composition,” Xavier says. “For example, there is a tendency to use more space in the margins to put different types of information like a small photo that serves as a reference to the larger image found later in a publication.”

  1. Print vs. Online publications

We’ve been hearing it for years: “Print is dead.” Well, it’s not. Granted, the number of print publications has drastically dwindled in the last decade, but people—especially artists and designers—crave the tactile experience when it comes to flipping through a magazine or newspaper. “For us, digital editions can not replace print, but it’s a great complement,” Amelie notes. For instance, if you’re doing a limited print run, try using heavier sheets or different printing techniques, and then explain the process in the digital edition. Make them co-exist and work together.

Many of these trends aren’t new, but editorial design can be very experimental depending on your audience. As Xavier says, “It’s about finding a balance between different levels of text, photographs, and illustrations to create new visual conversations.”

Hypno-Baco-Tool-Rific!

Many design shops create calendars that get sent out once a year, or drip campaigns that are more frequent but typically no fun. Fifth Letter in Winston Salem, NC combined the best of both worlds and had some fun doing it, creating quarterly calendars that celebrate under-rated holidays in a beautiful, tactile format.

According to Fifth Letter’s ringleader, Elliot Strunk, his team started working on this concept in fall 2015, researching a list of odd holidays, and finding ways to loosely tie them together. “We tried to find ones that would not only be fun to spotlight but would also fit together into some sort of theme,” he says. Who knew people worshipped their tools on March 11? Read the rest of the article here.

fifth letter collage

Business Cards That Pack a Punch

Your card should make a bold statement about your business and ideals, because it’s still one of the most important and essential components to any business, especially designers and artists. Truly great business cards all have three things in common: good design, high quality printing, and durable, beautiful paper. If you want to make a good first impression, your card needs to be printed on a nice, rigid stock, not something that’s floppy and dare I say, impotent when you hand it to a potential client.

I’ve witnessed designers inspecting each others cards, studying the impressions, feeling the paper’s texture, and mentally guessing its weight. It’s the proverbial tinkling match to see who has the nicest card. Here we feature the best of all worlds when it comes to design, printing, and paper. Each card has a story to tell and the printing and tactile qualities are something to behold.

625_businesscards2

Design: Abbey Fowler

Client: 6.25 Paper Studio

Printer: Zeeland Print Shop

Abbey Fowler is a owner and creative force at 6.25 Paper Studio in Grand Rapids, Mich., so of course when she designed her business cards, paper was of utmost importance, and Neenah is her go-to paper choice for all her products. “With business cards you have to go thicker,” she says, adding, “Otherwise if you die tomorrow, you’ll eternally regret it and say, ‘Damn, I should’ve used that luscious 220 lb paper. Now my life legacy is a flimsy 80 lb business card!’” Read rest of story here.