Each week students were tasked with designing and installing displays according to a theme I provided. This semester’s class was larger than usual. I had 52 students!! Many hands do make for lighter work, but it can also get really crowded in our small classroom with everyone working on either a:
- Window display
- Cubes (had to present twice)
- Table display
- Wall display
- Shelving display
Here are a few pictures from some their work:
This is actually a display from Group 6. It was the first week group projects launched. The theme for this week was POP CULTURE. I thought it was so clever that they used three very distinct time periods that Britain is known for – the Mod 60s, the Punk era, the Royals, which is reflected in the decoupage of their hand-made blocks inside the cubes.
The above display is from Group 2. Their cube display for POP CULTURE week was inspired by the artist Yayoi Kusama as you can see in the book cover of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Up above, Group 4 also looked to Great Britain for inspiration in the iconic image of the Beatles crossing the street. They actually continued the street on the table! Nicely done!
Group 1 looked to the current fashion trend of studs as their POP CULTURE inspiration! I loved everything about this display, it’s nicely balanced, clean, and they cross-merchandised.
Considering all the displays shown above was everyone’s first time at doing this type of work, I must say I was impressed! Students are required to provided all materials and merchandise themselves, they get no outside help, besides each other! Is it tough to work this way? YES, but in the world of display one of the first things you must learn and really need to be is RESOURCEFUL.
Throughout the weeks I saw many groups recycling materials and props into other displays – without me having to tell them, they automatically realized that is basically what display is all about! Stores don’t have unlimited budgets to spend on one-off props, so how do you take what’s used and make it look new again. If you can do that you will have a long and prosperous career as a display artist!
In my next post I will show more photos of student group projects from the other themes of:
- Fashion Designer
- “pick a City”
- Green (eco-friendly)
I recently started a Tumblr blog- nothing fancy, just a place to post random images I like (as if pinterest wasn’t enough!). It’s called The Fashion Teacher - Tumblr makes you sign up for an account when you want to follow others – hence why I have one. I follow a bunch of fashion blogs on various sites, and can spend the greater part of a morning browsing through all of them. JCrew is one of the sites I follow, which is how I came across this cool story on the displays they did for their new store within the Lane Crawford Department store in Beijing and Hong Kong:
For the visual displays that appear inside specialty shop Lane Crawford, our head of creative services, Ruth, was inspired by a toile-style wallpaper she’d first seen inside the historic building at 50 Hudson Street (now the J.Crew Ludlow Shop) in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood. From there, the design team riffed on the idea and decided to create a life-size cityscape inspired by J.Crew flagships throughout Manhattan to serve as a fanciful backdrop for the clothing on display.
The store design team, which includes Brandon and his assistant, Ellie, created the initial miniature renderings (which remind us of the dioramas we created in grade school) using reference images of the storefronts and architectural blueprints. Brandon and Ellie then turned their workspace into an artist’s studio, spending several weeks filling in the illustrations—which were anywhere from 6 to 9½ feet tall—by hand, using watercolor paint.
—FLORA AND FAUNA—
As part of the display, Ellie collaborated with artist Rebekah Maysles to create spot illustrations of various plants and animals one may encounter in Manhattan, including mice. (“But cute ones!” Ellie insisted.)
Ruth, Brandon and Ellie traveled to Hong Kong in advance of the opening of J.Crew at Lane Crawford to install the larger-than-life displays, which were shipped over in gigantic crates, to outfit the 2,700-square-foot retail space. The team worked through the night to ensure the display was properly placed to create a playful cityscape effect reminiscent of the Manhattan skyline.
The number one question I get asked by students is, “how do you get a job in display doing windows?” Getting on the window crew of a major retailer is fantastic if you’re lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time, but most newbies will start out as a “trimmer” or display artist doing the in-store displays. That’s when I see the faces drop!
I feel I need to explain that “doing windows” is only one part of the job, there are so many other duties that fall under the responsibility of the visual merchandiser. I love knowing that the entire look of the store falls under my domain! Perhaps when you grasp that, you won’t be so forlorn when you don’t get put on the window team right away. I actually only did windows for the small chain stores I worked for, the big department store had me doing Cosmetics, Juniors, all the Accessories, Lingerie and sometimes the Kids Dept. I really let my skills show in the Cosmetics Department!
The role of the visual merchandiser is not only to make the store pretty, and dress mannequins. You also work with the buyers, do a complete floor layout of new merchandise, maintain the standards of the store, replenish merchandise when needed, and make sure all the signage in every department is correct, in addition to making sure the in-store displays and windows are clean and presentable. Oh – did I forget to mention staff meetings, and meetings with the Department Managers on the visual standards for their respective areas.
While you’re running around doing all this with your feather duster, scissors, pins, hammer, and glue gun, the General Manager is wondering why sales are down. This is where you come in again. We contribute to sales too! How? By creating displays that are so attractive people want to come into our store; in-store displays that make them want to shop, and an ambience that makes them want to stay. It is definitely our job to help increase sales, for without which, we would be out of one! Keep in mind the fashion merchandising team will take all the credit for when sales are really good .
I’ve had a few run-ins with the sales staff, but I know my role is to be understanding, patient, dependable, and hard-working, on top of being creative.
(image via: Bestof NJ)
“I love my job – love my field. Visual merchandising is changing due to the internet, our role is even more important because how do you get that person into the store? Those answers are really important to think about. How can you WOW them and do bigger than what you’ve done before.” -Ken Ferrrais
[Here are some highlights from class, these are my recaps on the discussion as I am paraphrasing Mr. Ferraris' responses]
What led you to pursue a career in visual merchandising?
I am a San Francisco native who studied fine art and worked at an art supply store. I started helping out doing visuals for the store, and building props; eventually I began freelancing for 20-30 stores in SF (various kinds of retailers). I moved to NYC without any connections, and landed a job for a kids stores across the street from Barney’s. The visual merchandising manager from FAO Schwartz hired me as a freelancer, that’s where I got my real training. I then became the Creative Director for FAO Schwartz, then came back to SF to open a store for them here, which is now the location of Barney’s! I’ve done a lot of work doing store design for the Viacom brands: meeting art directors, costume designers, fashion people, makeup people. I was also the Display Director for the Discovery Stores, as well as head of retail design for Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.
What are the primary responsibilities for your job?
I look at the store from the customer’s perspective. The windows change about every 5 weeks. The interior displays change in the front more often than other displays. I have a staff of 3. We do our floor walk in the morning and maintenance checks. I have management meetings throughout the week, lots of clerical stuff, and I make inventory maps.
What are your sources that you refer to for the development of your projects? What sources do you use for materials and props?
The dollar store! We use materials that are fairly inexpensive and we use them magically! We reuse a lot of props, but we try not to use them in the same manner.
Do you network with others at your position level within the industry, if so, how do you go about it?
Lots of networking within the Barney’s store, and I’m friendly with display people in other stores.
Do you ever have to work or consult with Fashion Merchandisers or the marketing team on some of your projects?
We work with the fashion merchandisers a lot in doing the floor changes, depending on the floor of the store. The managers are responsible for the placement of product.
What are the education or skill requirements for a job in visual merchandising?
You must like working in a store, it’s a very physical job! You have to be on a ladder, be able to lift stuff, and think on your feet. You need to research and learn about the brand you are promoting. Barney’s is a very signage heavy store – in which a lot is made in-house.
What are some of the positive aspects of your job, in other words what do you enjoy the most?
I love being in a creative job and thinking on my feet everyday. Every single day I enjoy going into work! I like working with other people, and I like working in teams.
What are some of the negatives?
Managing your time and deadlines can be challenging.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get in this field?
Do what you can to make yourself stand out from the others for the job. Play up what you think is appropriate for the interview. Always present a portfolio! Do as much research on the company as possible.
Thanks Ken for your time and knowledge!
[Editor's Note: I'll be gone for two days at a work conference, so posting will be light this week. I am excited to get up the next set of group project photos once I return. In the meantime I ask you what is good display? The Godfather of display Martin M. Pegler answers this in one of his MANY books:]
“A good display is the result of Planning, Coordination, & Co-operation!
A display person must know, in advance, when a particular display will be installed, where it will be installed, and what will be shown and promoted. He or she needs some sort of a schedule (which can be altered if need be) or, at least, a master plan.
The execution of a good display comes from knowing in advance what trends, what colors, and what type of merchandise are scheduled for future display so that some though and preparation can be made for the eventual visual presentation of that new merchandise. It also requires a close working relationship with the retailer, buyer or merchandiser, marketing people, and display manufactures and vendors.
Good displays come from the display persons knowledge of what is available and where, what is in stock or in the warehouse, and what can be borrowed or “begged” from neighbors or institutions in the community. It requires an awareness of what is going on in the community, in the city, in the country, and in the world, and then being able to draw on that awareness to create attention-getting image-building, and merchandise-selling displays.
The display calendar is a well-thought-out schedule that keeps displays and merchandise moving freely in and out of windows and on and off ledges. A change of windows can be set for every 10 days to 2 weeks, but should never be longer than one month.”
Christmas at Chanel, 2010 – image via Moodboard
Group projects are underway in class and we are off to a great start! I love this part of the semester when I don’t have to lecture as much and the students get to unleash their creativity.
This week’s theme was “green”. Their displays had to have an eco-friendly focus. The students get to choose whatever product they wish to promote. Here are some photos from this week’s displays. The only group missing is Group 2, as the display cubes went MIA from our classroom (I’m on the hunt for them now)!
Group 1 had the wall this week:
Two students who are proud of their work!
Group 3 had the window this week:
Group 4 had the table this week:
Group 5 had the shelving unit this week:
So how do you think my students did? Everyone in class is getting the chance to critique each others work.
Coming Next Week: Holiday
When I worked for Macy’s one of my favorite departments to work in was definitely cosmetics! I LOVED setting up my cosmetic displays at the end of each week, in preparation for the GWP (gift with purchase) promo for whichever company was holding one; not to mention how incredibly generous the make-up ladies were to me! They always sent a GWP my way and I used to get invited to the launch parties for the latest perfume or cosmetic item they were promoting. That is one job perk I truly miss!
I was pleasantly surprised to see in the April issue of Allure, an article on shopping at make-up counters, plus photos with captions on how cosmetic counters are displayed. I’ve scanned page 195 below:
I would like to send a big shout out to all the ladies (and gents) that work in cosmetic retail. It looks like such a glammy job to the outsider when in actuality it can be quiet demanding!
I found this on Martha Stewart.com, you can also find this photo and the recipes in the March 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living.
This is deliciously gorgeous!
When food is artfully arranged like this it really entices people to indulge.
Well class, it looks like there will be a new “required reading” book. Tony Morgan has published a fantastic new book all on Window Display! But don’t fret yet – this book is a big picture book, it belongs on your coffee table with all the other fashion books.
The photos are beyond inspiring and cleverly broken up into genres:
Every trimmer should have this book on their work shelf for reference. This book doesn’t go into deep detail on the “how-to”
, for that you should read Tony’s other book, which I use as the textbook for this class - Visual Merchandising – Window and In Store Display for Retail.
This book is a great reminder of why I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my work so much. Thanks Tony!
Here is a great question from a new reader:
I just stumbled across your blog as I was doing last-minute prep for my interview with Macy’s tomorrow for a Seasonal Visual Associate. I don’t have any formal studies, but have had some creative experiences in merchandising, floral event design, styling and photography as well was retail sales experience.
Just wondering if you have any tips or input on what to expect for the first interview.
Here’s what I wrote back:
Really emphasize your “hands-on” experience in the areas that you mention. Skills in styling, floral design, etc transfer over into merchandising because you have trained your eye on what looks good and creating optical balance. Explain what you learned in retail sales, I’m sure you paid attention to how the sales floor was laid out, and which areas are the prime selling areas in the store (It’s always the front).
Visual Merch. and Window Display are “artsy” hands-on jobs. You can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty or move around store fixtures when called upon. You need creativity, organizational skills, and good time management, and it doesn’t hurt to be self-motivated. This is what I tell my students and what I would look for in a potential employee.
I started at Macy’s as a part-time Xmas trimmer as well. If you have a portfolio showing creative work you’ve done that’s a plus. When I applied many, many years ago – I didn’t get the regular permanent position because of my lack of a portfolio even though I had all kinds of experience. The guy with the portfolio, who was an artist got the position over me. The manager called me up a few months later and offered me the seasonal part-time position. I took it and worked really hard to learn how they did things. I was the only seasonal trimmer they kept once the holidays was over.
Best of luck to you!
I heard back from J and was told she did not get the seasonal position but was contacted for an interview for a full-time position instead!! That is wonderful news and I sincerely hopes this works out, as I could tell from our email correspondence J has a real passion for this kind of work!