The five most important design tools to get people to stop and really look are: color, angles, movement, simplicity and/or repetition and imagination. Use a combination of any two of these and you will have a successful window or interior display.
1. Color is the first element that attracts attention in a store window.The strongest color combinations are black and white with a bright accent, or a monochromatic colorstatement. It is also effective to combine a neutralwith one or two bright colors. All white or all blackwith an accent color is strong as long as the wall or background color is in contrast. If your merchandise is mainly neutral or subdued tones,try using bright backgrounds, props or accessories.
2. Movement: When movement is used, we can’t not look! It’s a natural response. A fan blowing a lightweight fabric is easy and inexpensive. A fan blowing Post-it notes makes them flutter like leaves. Put a train in a window or on a shelf (LGB runs longest with the least amount of effort) and you will have people stopping and staring: at the train first, but then at your display. Those little motors that move things back and forth can move accessories, large hands, props, small (fake) animals, scenery or anything within reason. Movement can also be created by blinking lights, but depending on the lights and the blinks, this can be either great or really tacky! Movement indicates affordability; if you have a high-end store, movement should be perceived rather than actual. Angles feel less costly as you try to work your way through the packed fixtures and aisles.
4. Repetition is another way to attract attention. If a store believes in this glass rooster enough to show five in the window or on a shelf, it must be an important, hot item! Allow one of the repeated props or items to be slightly askew or offset with an unusual prop or accessory. Odd numbers are always more dynamic and interesting than evens.
5. Imagination is what sets the good apart from the great. Look for displays you think are interesting and imaginative. If you live in or near a city, alter your routine and walk in new neighborhoods, go to new stores. Think about your product and look at all aspects of the merchandise. Look at what vendors do at trade shows. Encourage the use of colors that aren’t selling well by combining them with inexpensive, simple props that are fun and interesting. If a huge taupe vase is a slow seller, combine it with hot pink or orange oversized paper flowers. Use a bright to sell a neutral … and a neutral to sell a bright.
Linda Cahan is a retail visual design consultant based in West Linn, OR. This column first appeared in the November issue of Gifts & Decorative Accessories and is reprinted with permission.