Retail store design offers many career benefits not found in other types of projects. Working as a store designer could jump-start a young person’s career, or it could prove so enjoyable as to become the core of a continuing retail practice. In any case, designing for retail has some real pluses.
Speed – Retail stores are always fast track projects. It is not unusual, for a modest-sized store, to have a timetable of 16 -24 weeks from the signing of the owner design agreement to the grand opening. These compressed design/construction timetables guarantee that the designer will never become bored with a project. In fact, they create their own excitement. Projects move so quickly that their actual construction, in a way, takes the place of the presentation and modeling modes in the design of other building types. The fruits of design labor are very quickly visible. This compressed time-frame is fitting for the age we live in, and makes stores a good project type for younger designers who live in a quick-paced digital world – and who might find the slower pace of other types of projects difficult. The speed of store projects is fun and rewarding.
Budget – Some shop designs, namely boutiques, offer the opportunity to build to per square foot budgets not found in other building types. It is not unusual for small stores to include high-end cabinetry, materials, details and lighting otherwise found only in the design of corporate conference rooms, luxury residential kitchens and baths, and high-tech facilities. Designers love to spend other people’s money (wisely of course), and the design of boutique stores often provides this opportunity. There is no room for waste in today’s downsized and efficient stores. This requires the designer be a crafty craftsman.
Technology – Shop designs often incorporate state of the art technology. Sometimes this is to provide the retailer an edge over its competition; sometimes the technology provides new ways to display merchandise, complete transactions, or tell the product story – think of all the special glazing details developed for storefronts; the computerized electronics to process sales transactions; state of the art store lighting techniques (LED, fiber optics, projector lighting); the early use of multiple screen and flat screen technology; the mechanical introduction of mind-altering smells to induce shopper purchases; and the use of music, sounds, and colors to induce other desired patterns of shopper behavior. The careful use of lighting and materials to create “green” stores, that must function well and meet or better their retail competitors, is a challenge that designers will welcome.
Fun – Retail designers can have as much fun as movie-set designers by creating an imaginary world, which would not have existed, but for the designer. Their designs can break through conventions to match the latest design trends. Store designs often have a short life compared to other building types like institutions, corporate offices, and churches. Store designers often ” live on the edge”. Dealing in this bold, highly competitive, fast-paced world is always exciting and challenging. In addition, store signs and other graphics have become an art form in their own right, and a technological stretch.