And if your store were a color, which one would it be?

And if your store were a color, which one would it be?

The design of sales spaces. Sergio Mannino - branding architect - tells us about his psychoanalytical approach to design.

From where does a shop design project start?


Designing a shop is a very complex task that takes place at different levels, all of the same importance and all interconnected: the most immediate level is the one related to the type of feelings we want to convey and therefore to the aesthetics of the space; the second level concerns the functional and distribution aspect, of which the so-called customer experience we hear so much about is also a part; finally, the technological level, that is, how the shop operates internally and how it interacts with all the other channels (website, social media, apps, etc.). Let’s not forget that today a shop is no longer simply a place to sell products, and I would even say that it almost isn't any more because sales take place through other channels, but rather a place where brand values are explained and it is the only place where physical contact between the customer and the brand takes place. From this point of view, its correct design is crucial for the success of a brand. 



What are the most important points and which should be given the most attention?


Perhaps the most complex aspect to develop is that of image, in the communicative sense. What are the feelings we experience when entering the space? I always tell my customers that a shop is experienced (willingly or unwillingly) on a sensory level in a similar way to wearing a jacket. From the touch, we immediately know whether the fabric is soft or not, whether the fabric is natural or technological, whether the cut is modern or classic, whether it is well finished, whether the details are cared for, and whether it is structured or wraps around our body in a soft way. In an instant we know what kind of feeling that jacket gives us. A shop works in the same way and it is essential to design it carefully to convey a clear and intuitive brand message.


Have we entered a luxury brand shop? Or an outlet store? Is the product eco-friendly? Do we perceive its values even without reading them on a wall? 



So, specifically which is the right way to start?


A space designed without the necessary care conveys an incorrect message and ruins the brand image. 


It is no coincidence that in the first stage of my work, when I start a project with a new client, it is precisely the analysis of the brand the starting point. We do this analysis through a series of questions created to get to understand the values of the brand and the direction to take for the design.


One of the questions we ask, for example, is: "If your brand were a car, what kind of car would it be?" or "If it were a fashion brand?", "If it were a colour?" etc. 


With these answers, we immediately understand in which direction we have to take our design. We can look for finishes that match the customer's answers. Marble has a very different effect than rustic wood or plastic laminate. Every material carries its meanings, emotions, stories that are both intrinsic in the material itself (solid wood is natural in itself), but it also has a cultural significance that evolves over time and varies between cultures. By combining different materials, we can make this linguistic process even more complex.


What happens if I combine wood with a polystyrene panel? Or with fluorescent coloured glass? Or if I put together gold with cardboard? The combinations are endless and give very different results that must be carefully controlled. 


Finally, colour has a fundamental importance in the design of a space that serves to interpret a brand. A red room has a totally different effect from a pure white or a black one: the former conveys passion, the latter two convey elegance, even though they are so different. Each of these colours works differently and their choice must be carefully considered.


Colours, like materials, have values and meanings that are partly universal and partly related to local cultures. Blue, for example, makes us think of the sea or the sky and is a restful colour with a strong sense of safety across all cultures; it is no coincidence that banks often use some blue in their logos, but different shades of blue can take on different meanings because they remind of events and situations that are culturally defined within a certain geographical area, for example the colour of another brand or that of a sports team such as the Azzurri in Italy.


These examples are just small hints of a very complex topic that would require much more time to discuss than we have available. The important thing is that anyone embarking on the design of a retail space is aware that every choice must be carefully assessed and all planning requires significant time and energy that should not be underestimated.