Retail / Furniture Designer

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Lets exhibit - Weekly review 3

A little later this week, but for good reason! I've been waiting until today to write my week in review, because as previously mentioned, we are exhibiting at the Retail Design Expo. From Monday the 8th of May for two days, the best in the business come together at London Olympia for the annual event. Common talking points (for those who haven't visited before) include, the future of retail, this year's 'next big thing', stand of the year and competitor spying amongst many others, including the free exhibitors bar on the Monday night.

I enjoy the buzz of an exhibition. It's the collective meeting of like-minded professionals which really brings out the best in an industry. Just like Baselworld cites the most important developments in the horological calendar, and Apple's WWDC is a benchmark for the big announcements in handheld technology, RDE and Euroshop are the big events in the retail design world calendar.

Whilst I have attended the Retail Design Expo at Olympia, and Euroshop in Dusseldorf before, this is the first time I have been actively involved in the design, development, production, organisation and smooth running of a stand. It was definitely a big learning curve, my design skills probably don't stretch as far as developing a stand professional enough to pass the stringent exhibition and electrical regulations so it was incredibly eye opening working with people who specialise in this (it's surprisingly a lot more work / money than you would assume for a 2 day show). Getting the new system, its marketing material and our standard product range presentation ready, was enough to boost my workload and stress levels let alone with a stand design & construction looming over me.

Although we exhibited alongside our sister company on a stand which was dedicated to spreading the word in the industry about the acquisition of Peerless and its new status as Assings' sister company, our primary intentions for this exhibition were to launch our new fabric wall system. If you read last week's WIR #2 then you will have seen a glimpse of some of the marketing material I was working on. I'm happy to now be able to give full details about this, it's a project I'm really proud of and have been working a long time to get production ready. Gauging early responses from the show, it looks like a solution the industry could welcome with open arms.

Two standard 1200mm bays with additional edgelit panels

The system essentially works by utilising a standard Peerless single & double upright, where the extrusion has been modified to include a channel for a printed fabric panel with a rubber edging stitched all around. Unlike conventional vertical merchandising systems, this one is not constrained to the properties of the materials traditionally used in back panelling. Printed fabric panels offer retailers the freedom of choice, but perhaps more importantly the ability to tailor displays. The days of a generic store roll out are gone; shop displays can now be modified to suit the audiences they serve.

 A projected view of typical bicycle store utilising the system 

A projected view of typical bicycle store utilising the system 

Available as standard 600 / 1200mm bay kits the fabric wall system will thrive in a range of environments, from department stores, to boutique high street shops. Reducing the need for a shopfitter and traditional MDF back panels, the system is shipped in kit form, assembled in minutes and surface mounted using suitable wall fixings. It's the first major project we've undertaken since coming under new ownership and moving from London to Hertfordshire, and I am confident this will help push Peerless to the very forefront of the fixture design industry.

We've already had some fantastic returning and prospective clients visiting the stand, and I was fortunate enough to be directly involved in speaking to some of these people. After working on the fabric system for over 6 months now, I feel pretty confident when talking about it so it's nice to get some direct feedback from potential customers, which is an incredibly rare thing for designers sometimes. Next week i'll be able to update with finalised product datasheets.

Personal

Outside of work this week, I've been working on getting my website up to a point in which I feel comfortable releasing it. I mentioned before I was looking into changing the template because it felt quite restrictive when it came to publishing my design content. I guess if I were to create something myself then I would be able to get the exact look and feel I want, but currently that just isn't an option. I opted for the easy to modify, setup and maintain squarespace format because I'm not a web designer and learning the skills required for that would waste time that could be better spent on pushing myself elsewhere. Needless to say I was scouting around at other templates when i stumbled upon other designers using the same one as me. Maybe it was seeing somebody else's work in this format instead of my own, or just pure overthinking, but I've decided to focus on valuable content instead website aesthetics. This includes specific project pages too, it's hard to make my work look like a portfolio if I write too much context to support the images, it's better to let the images themselves do the talking. This is actually quite common, especially on professional often quite abstract architecture firm websites, where the deliberate lack of information aims to make them look all secretive and superior yet infact it just lacks context. Don't get me wrong, there's a very fine line between too much and too little, and portfolios like Form Us With Love's probably gets it just about spot on.

I use the Jasper theme on squarespace. It's a pretty basic minimalist theme, but it does the job and gives me an easy platform from which to upload the design content I'm frequently creating. If you haven't already heard of Evan McDougall, you should check out his portfolio. His work really stands out using this template, the way he displays his content has definitely inspired me a little. He's one of only a few product / industrial designers I've seen using Jasper.

Speaking of updating my website, I've been reevaluating recently and have decided one area in particular which is really letting me down and I'm finding hard to convey, is the 'display concepts' section. Essentially it's a section for all those ideas and concepts that have either a) yet to be developed upon, or b) aren't worthy of further developments. I've considered deleting the page as a whole but I am in two minds because it's important to show workings and ideation sketches in a portfolio. The only other two options are to have these ideas, sketches and renders on a separate portfolio site like Behance, or alternatively change the theme. Stay tuned in the next couple of weeks for more on this.

 A screenshot of the current index page which links the 'display concepts' section.

A screenshot of the current index page which links the 'display concepts' section.

If you read these week in reviews often then you'll know that they normally follow a pretty distinct pattern. This is fairly proportionate to the time I'm spending on each activity. Peerless (work ~ 60%), Personal work (20%) and then a little about industry trends. Recently though I've been looking at how I could improve the week in review, so in the near future this weekly feature may become more of a blog. The blog format wouldn't follow such a strict regime, but rather include more open design news, and other features such as my current favourite finds on Spotify. I'm also looking to switch this up from a standard article, some weeks could see podcasts or even videos introduced to replace these. 

I'll be updating my Instagram profile again soon with photos I took at RDE 2017 today plus additional content I've been meaning to post for a while so make sure you're following me here! In other minor news I've just ordered another sketchpad for ideas because my yearly lined diary was getting ridiculously full of notes (mostly of things to write in this review), if you're looking for a bargain portable sketchbook then you can't go far wrong with this Moleskine A5.

Don't forget you can always join my monthly mailing list here. Thanks for reading!