Are Retail Designers & Architects Not Feeling The In-Store Digital Thing?

April 8, 2016 by Dave Haynes


There’s a really good blog on retail design I monitor through its regular tweets – with me looking mostly for featured projects that use digital displays in the design.

I’ve been watching the feed for many weeks now – and seen scores of projects pop up, from around the world – and almost none of them have digital displays in them. I don’t mean the design doesn’t feature digital like big video walls and large displays built into the overall design. I mean no displays. Period.

The feed may be indicative of absolutely nothing, Maybe the high-end design of luxury apparel and specialty boutiques never has and never will build in displays, when they’re really all about exotic finishes and minimalism. Maybe digital display is a chain retail thing.


But my gut tells me a lot of architects and retailer designers have tried digital in-store, didn’t have a rationale beyond eye candy, and passed on it in future designs. And probably a lot of them have seen big screens and walls in stores, looked at the content and impact, and shrugged.

Digital displays definitely have a place in a lot of retail environments, but they can’t just be things. They need to be part of a communications strategy and fit whatever the feel and experience the designer is trying to achieve. It’s possible to see amazing things like the cascading ceiling display in that Oakley store on Fifth Avenue in New York. But for every one of those, there are scores of screens behind sales counters, hung on walls, just playing “stuff” – as in whatever was available or someone whipped up, absent of strategy.

We all hear and talk about how long it takes to close signage deals in retail. That owes to many factors, and the biggest ones are probably sales figures, not design strategies. But I wonder if part of the story – based on store designs showing up around the world – is that designers and architects just aren’t feeling, or getting, the whole screens in stores thing.


  1. Dave – thank you for posting this topic!

    As a digital experience design agency, we’ve struggled with aligning with studio groups to this mission. The reality is that architects and designers are focused on what makes them money; things they can control.

    You are spot on with what’s missing and that is, “what are the retailer’s digital strategies?” Layering in digital strategies is such a huge conversation. For studio groups and architects to focus on “how” these elements get layered in takes a group-commitment of retail stakeholders being at the same table when the physical space is being conceived.

    We’ve been moderately successful taking an educational approach with design groups by setting in-house capabilities meetings and driving the message, “bring us in as early as possible.” This is a lot of heavy lifting but in our opinion worth the cause. Encouraging others to keep spreading the word – thanks!

  2. Stephen Ghigliotty says:

    The simple problem is that no party involved can absorb and take responsibility for a long-term content strategy. The retailer itself typically has no dedicated resources to manage and create…and the vendor just wants to slap hardware and software in for a long term contract assuming content is somebody else’s deal. Except when they show up with their own creative team…that’s not on brand and is self-directed. No wonder why minimalist retailing is defacto today. Retail should move to mobile first. Video walls are DOA.

  3. John Zib says:

    Do you follow SEGD – Society of Environmental Graphic Design?

  4. Sealy says:

    Digital displays aren’t the answer to every marketing solution, traditional signage and marketing concepts still have there place in the most modern stores. For marketing to be effective it must speak to the consumer, the right message, at the right time…

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