I Do Windows

Flower Arranging

Posted in Learn from the Pros, Props, Window Lessons by Arcadia on May 11, 2012

One of the very first skills I quickly acquired, when I joined my first big visual team was flower arranging.  Regardless of who you were or what department you oversaw, everyone and I mean everyone on our team knew how to arrange flowers!

It’s kind of like your go-to prop when you need something quick and pretty.  Stick a vase of flowers next to a purse, shoes, bustform, on a table, etc….you are good to go.  If you don’t know how to do quick and simple arrangements, pick a book and a bunch, and start practicing.  I promise you it’s a skill that will come in handy over and over again.

I have also found that my arranging skills have helped me when arranging props.  They use some of the same principles, when it comes to layering items, the pyramid (triangle) shape, how to play with height, and experimenting with various colors.  You’ll find your flower arranging skills to be transferable to other  things – which is a huge bonus.

Here’s a simple video to help get you started.

[images via Sterling Style/tumblr]

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Terms of the Trade

Posted in Fashion 49, Window Lessons by Arcadia on September 1, 2011

I consider myself pretty well versed in fashion and design, with lots of room for improvement and more learning.  My new book – Contemporary Visual Merchandising and Environmental Design, by Jay Diamond and Ellen Diamond, have presented me with such an opportunity!

This post is not a book review as I am still getting through it, but it has introduced me to some new terms:

  • Shape Contrast
  • Textural Contrast
  • Progression
  • Radiation
  • Unique Placement

When I looked up the meaning of all these words I knew exactly how it applied to display as we use many of these techniques in our work, I just never really had a word for it….it kind of made me laugh, but in case you are wondering here’s my summary:

Shape Contrast – incorporating a variety of shapes (duh!)

Textural Contrast – incorporating unusual or unexpected textures (ditto!)

Progression – accomplishing rhythm by incorporating the same color in various shades, or same shape in various sizes

Radiation – rhythmic movement that radiates from a central point (this leads me to believe radiation is mostly accomplished in a circular fashion)

Unique Placement – an unexpected or unique placement of an object!

Other terms I use a lot and expect my students to know are:  focal point, harmony, repetition, scale, balance (symmetrical and asymmetrical), lines, and proportion.  

I guess you could call this Unique Placement!


(image via: Winnie’s Wardrobe)



A Visual Merchandiser’s Tools

Posted in Learn from the Pros, Window Lessons by Arcadia on July 27, 2011

Every good display person keeps a toolbox filled with tools they will use on a day-to-day basis.  Here’s what I keep in *toolboxes and recommend.

*I have several toolboxes, one in my truck, one in my garage/studio, one in my office, you get the idea…..

Measuring Tape:  this is the quintessential tool needed in everyone’s toolbox, and probably the one tool you’ll use the most, next to the staple gun.

Staple Gun:  You will use this tool to cover a myriad of items from the ceilings to the floors.  Invest in a good one!

Hot Glue Gun:  The sister to the staple gun.  There’s nothing I can’t fix with my handy glue gun!  Invest in a large and small one.

Hammer:  You don’t need a large serrated head framing hammer, a good 16oz., smooth head, finish hammer will do; because the most hammering you will be doing is pounding in finish nails.  If you need to secure something heavier, I would suggest using screws instead of nails if possible.  Remember:  everything you install will eventually come down, screws are a lot easier to remove than nails.  And PLEASE don’t ever pound screws in with your hammer!!!

Levels:  You’ll use this tool to help you find out if something is straight up and down.  We call that plumb (vertical) or level (horizontal).  Levels come in various sizes.  I have a four-foot level (48″), and two foot level (24″), and a small 12″ level, sometimes called a torpedo level.  Make sure this tool does not get knocked around a lot, you could ruin the calibration (that’s the reading the instrument gives you).

Various Screwdrivers:  Keep both flat-head and Phillips in your toolbox, in a variety of sizes.

Scissors:  These I actually keep in my back pocket or stuck in my work-apron pocket!

Pencils:  I keep a bunch of the flat carpenter’s pencils thrown in the bottom of my box as well as in my pocket.

Pliers:  This is handy to have when you need to remove pins or staples that are stuck.

Bradawl:  I know some display people who keep this tool around.  It punches holes into materials.  I’ve also been known to use a large nail if I don’t have this tool around.

Safety Glasses:  I’m big on working safe and keeping yourself properly protected around power tools!

Materials to keep handy:  various pins for hanging lettering, double-stick tape, a variety of screws and nails, florist wire, fish wire (monofilament), thin metal wire, glue sticks.

These are just the basics to get you started if you freelance or do your own shop displays.  If you work for one of the major department stores they will most likely have all of the above and more on hand.

I wear cargo pants (those pockets really do come in handy), T-shirt, and comfortable shoes,; over this I sometimes have my carpenter’s apron or overalls.  The smaller tools are stuffed into my pockets and the rest go in a 5 gallon bucket that I carry with me to each display.

What tools/materials do you use daily?

Printed Graphics in display

Posted in Fashion 49, Window Lessons by Arcadia on March 28, 2011

Visual Merchandisers will spend a significant amount of time hanging banners, signs, and all kinds of graphic materials.  They create backdrops for mannequin + prop displays, designate a focal point in the display, and most of all give away information in the form of text or a photo.

Graphics are easy to use and help the retailer cut down on display costs.  It is easier to hang a huge banner for a campaign than to hire a team to create the same drama with a complicated display.  Some retailers have come to rely quite heavily on them: Banana Republic and the Gap.  No surprise since they are both owned by the same company; and usually the graphics in the windows are reinforcing the ad campaign you see in the magazines.

Case in point is this display in the Kate Spade stores, they basically took the ad, blew it up, and hung it their windows. It’s colorful, eye-catching, and already familiar to the shopper:

Another retailer that used graphics in their windows as a quick and easy display is Club Monaco.  This idea allowed the retailer the chance to show many different looks at the same time:

( I do wish the visual person, would’ve pulled the cloth on the floor tight, the wrinkles look really messy)


There is the fear, that with more and more use of graphics in windows and throughout the store there will be little need for the visual team.  Not so!  They won’t replace use, if anything they have become another tool in our toolkit, besides who’s going to climb the 10′ ladder in order to hang that banner – we are!

Window Display – New Visual Merchandising

Posted in Book Reviews, Inspiration, Nonpareil Windows, Window Lessons by Arcadia on October 31, 2010

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:

  • Theatre
  • Seasonal
  • Quirky
  • Trends

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!

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Blog Love: The Window Display Blog

Posted in Inspiration, Window Lessons by Arcadia on August 30, 2010

Being able to see what other window designer’s are doing is very important in our line of work.  Not for the sole purpose of being snarky and critical (although that does happen), but to see what techniques work, and what ideas have the most visual impact, not to mention if you truly love this line of work you can appreciate the efforts of the other talented designers out there.

Kaisa is a visual merchandiser in London, who does a great job of showcasing displays from her city.  I enjoy reading her blog as she always posts lots of photos.  This is so fantastic for those of us who can’t get to the fashion capital of London.  I highly recommend you check out The Window Display Blog.

A photo by Kaisa taken from her blog post Camouflage in Prada.

(image via: The Window Display Blog)

Christmas Window Planning

Posted in Window Lessons by Arcadia on August 19, 2010

One of the things that shock most of my new students is how early stores start planning Christmas windows.  When I tell them some start as soon as the current year’s window are installed (basically a year in advance) they don’t believe me.  It’s true!  In fact if you haven’t figured out what your Winter Holiday windows are going to look like, you might be too late.

When I worked for a big store our Christmas trucks (as we called them) would start arriving in October.  They held all the decorations we needed to decorate the store.  Management wanted our displays done by October.  So, in order to have trucks arrive by October filled with props and such; this meant the visual design team would have had to design what the look and theme was going to be months in advance, so all the materials could be ordered and delivered to the stores by October.

(oh by the way, we as the trimmers would agree: having Xmas displays up before Halloween is too much)

So take this as a gentle reminder to get on the ball and start planning your holiday windows so you’re not left just throwing anything in your windows like this:

With proper planning and time you could do this:

(image via: redbubble.com)

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Window Display Set-Up

Posted in Fashion 49, Window Lessons by Arcadia on March 1, 2010

Windows displays are a lot of fun, but they require a lot of planning!  A good display area will have a number of items to allow you install a variety of different concepts.  Here we will discuss some of the practical necessities you will need for installations:

  • Solid Walls
  • Floor panel if you wish to change the floor coverings
  • Ceiling grid for hanging items
  • Secure Door
  • Lighting Tracks
  • Electric Sockets (very important!)
  • Window Shades to pull down when working your magic!
  • Speakers so you can hear announcements going on in the store
  • Fire Sprinklers (obviously)

First make sure you have solid walls to form the backdrop together with the side walls. It should be a smooth, even surface that can be painted or covered with fabric.  Make sure the walls are strong enough to handle screws or nails:

If you wish to change out your floor coverings then having floor panels is a great idea.  They are typically made from MDF (medium density fiberboard), which is a very light weight wood material.  It can hold a  staple or nail which will allow you to change the floor by changing the fabric or painting it:

A sturdy metal ceiling grid painted the same color as the existing ceiling will allow you to hang banners, props, sometimes even mannequins (if it’s strong enough) from it.  Don’t install it too low where it is in the eye of the window, you want it high enough above where it can still do its job but be out of sight.

Good windows are made great with good lighting.  Lighting tracks are a must.  Plan before hand how you will light your window, it should never be an after thought:

(notice the ceiling grid on top as well)

Speaking of lighting, the location and number of electric sockets is super important.  You want them hidden on either side of the the window next to the glass, install a couple up in the ceiling as well.  Nothing is worse than having an ugly orange extension cord hanging from your display!  Are you the one responsible for installing electric sockets? No! This should be done by a qualified electrician:

By making sure you have at least these items in your window display area; you are free to just design and create, and that’s where the real fun begins!

Window Displays

Posted in Fashion 49, Window Lessons by Arcadia on March 1, 2010

Let’s talk about windows for the next few posts, especially since this blog is called I Do Windows, I figured I finally better get those lesson plans up here!

There are bad store windows:

and there are good store windows:

(these cakes are all made from paper!)

Stores use windows as a sales and advertising tool.  Whether they are large like a department store or simply small, a well dressed window display not only attracts shoppers but also enforces the retailer’s image.  This is the one marketing tool you don’t have to pay extra for, because they are a part of the store’s architecture.

Whatever reason you use to create your windows there are a number of things you have to consider:

  1. The type of window
  2. The best way to group merchandise
  3. The use of a theme
  4. The use of props, lighting, graphics, and signage

The size of the window you have to work with will affect what you can achieve.  There are two types of windows, closed windows and open back windows.

Closed Windows: You find these most often in department stores.  They resemble a room, with three solid walls and an entry door.  They are the most fun to dress!

You really need to sit down and plan these types of windows well as they can become “showstoppers”!  They often times require lots of merchandise and props to fill them up.

From the customer’s viewpoint you really only have to pay attention to the front because they can only be seen from that angle.

Open Back Windows: These windows have no back wall, but may have side walls.  Some retailers prefer them because they let in lots of natural light and they make the interior of the store visible from the outside.

You have to pay attention to all the angles when dressing this type of window because they can be seen from all sides, both inside and outside the store.

Customers also have access to this type of window (meaning they can walk up and touch the display), since it is not enclosed in a room.

Here are a few other windows you may come across: Angled Windows, Corner Windows, Arcade Windows, and Shadow Boxes

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