An example of a store that’s bucked this trend and pushed a new direction for outdoor is The North Face flagship store on 5th Avenue by Set Creative. Their paired back approach, that eschews the usual stereotypical elements in favour of a fresh white open-plan space with blue tinted glazing implies a glacial freshness, treating the outdoor as a metaphor rather than the usual “bring the outdoors in” approach. This store also benefits from having a set of listed Harry Bertoia sculptures within the space that, by coincidence, give a great impression of the textures and forms of the wilderness – another nod to treating the customer with respect and allowing them to form their own vision of context.
To enforce this point, Andrew Stanton of Pixar gave a great TED talk in 2012 about the art of story-telling. He suggested that the art of telling great stories was to “make the audience work for their meal” by which he meant, tell them just enough information and allow them to fill in the blanks. I believe this is relevant in designing stores that embody brand values. We shouldn’t be designing in all the obvious cues that are relevant to that market, we should be using material and form as a metaphor for what is relevant and allowing customers to bring their own perceptions and experiences to forge stronger connections with a brand.
I’d encourage anybody in retail design to take a look at their current projects and evaluate whether their design embodies brand values and whether the customer will be able to bring some of themselves to the environment to connect more deeply. With retail constantly evolving and looking for new ways to stay relevant, the connection with the customer is key, and that’s why brand values exist – so let’s treat them with authenticity and use them to their best advantage.