Storytelling in retail design

As designers, there’s a patterning to be explored, something to be seen, sensed, experienced in the making of place and the character of brand, in story — and the telling of retail.

Girvin card deck, obverse puzzle assembly by Alyce Hoggan: “The Six Ravens”

The story for me began some thirty five years ago, working in the beginning as a designer — a calligrapher, a type designer, a creator of books, limited edition printings, drawings and illustrations. I made the rarest of the rare. Then I moved to other things — graphics projects, packaging, hand-drawn logos, signs and shopfronts.

In 1976, I traveled to the UK, to France, to Austria, to Switzerland, to the Soviet Union — Moscow, then Estonia. And that traveling was about exploring and connecting with the best of the best in design. In each, I’d reached out, explored and stayed with various brilliant points of inspiration. Stone cutters, signing designers, scholars, fine printers, binders, papermakers, printmakers, calligraphers, type designers and illustrators. Then, in Moscow and Tallinn, I spoke to groups about American design. That changed my perspective on the work.

Craft. Making. Hand. Art fullness. Beauty.

In the beginnings, I saw the concept of design as a form of storytelling. And what that might mean is that the whole experience was a celebration of conception. Working over time, in different stores, as a freelance designer, I saw that things could be integrated. And, early on, friends at Nordstrom believed in the idea.

So a campaign would be:
concepts and fixtures
broadcast and animation

An early campaign framing: Nordstrom | Indian Summer

From there, Bloomingdale’s, working for years with Creative Director John Jay and Marvin Traub, Design directors at Macy’s, connecting with other retail luminaries, like Bendel’s Geri Stutz, and later, Dawn Mello. It was working for Dayton Hudson, Jordan Marsh, Rich’s, Bullocks Wilshire, Neiman Marcus — even rebooting Frederick&Nelson, or rethinking Eddie Bauer’s positioning.

There’s history then; there’s history now. Yves Saint Laurent.
Bloomingdale’s renewed. Harvey Nichols — brand patterning.

And that is one of the profound components of exploring the conceptions of retail — and retelling.
It is about the story of the brand — the expression of conveying something that is embraceable, something that is captivating — and even something that is psychically powerful — just beneath the surface. It might not even be noticeable, to the gazing eye — but there are reaches in the collective unconscious, the hidden archetypes of sensing content, that are beneath the obvious — the connection of the eight senses of sight, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling. And balance, instinct, memory. And the brand — it can reach to the mind, as patterning — notes in the melody of the place: made.

We walked in the Girvin space — and explored ideas in placemaking. And we talked about energy — the ch’i of design. We talked about the conceptions of wabi/sabi, of shadow, of mystery — and the beauty of dissolution.

And of course, we talked about crows.

And my connection with them.

Good to share, in all things. One story leads to another.

E x p l o r i n g   f i r e b r a n d s:
Brand as fire
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