on the fly, so clients can experiment, evaluate, and test their designs.
Using a lower-tech approach, Gruskin
is experimenting with a mobile app
that can be used anywhere to create a
3D “walkthrough” on tablet devices.
Computer-created models with geolocation
information or embedded AR targets can
be output to files and emailed to clients.
The client can print out the AR targets or
markers, place them on the floor in the
appropriate locations, and holding up an
iPad or other tablet, walk around and “see”
the space, whether it’s an entire building or
a single element.
The app came in handy during a recent
visit to a client’s store to discuss the size
of a new fixture. “We printed out a marker
and placed it on the floor where the fixture
would be. Using the iPad, everyone could
walk around the virtual fixture to see how
it would look right there in the real space,”
Gruskin says. While not as effective as a
physical prototype, this method is quick,
easy, and surprisingly compelling, especially for smaller-scale pieces such as fixtures and furniture, he notes.
It may seem counterintuitive, but build-
ing a physical prototype may be faster in
some cases than creating a virtual one. On
some projects, working directly with the
fixture fabricator to hash out details in real
time rather than creating detailed drawings
can cut a month or two of preproduction
and production time from the schedule.
“With the extra pieces involved in devel-
oping a virtual world, it’s generally easier
to go to a fixture manufacturer and tell
them what we’re thinking, hammer out the
details, and test it live,” explains Boulden.
Shapleigh agrees, noting that having
a store mockup nearby makes it easy to
test and evaluate new ideas. “If we wonder
whether a table might be better than the
current display fixture, we can go in and, a
few minutes later, we’re looking at the new
scenario,” says Shapleigh.
4 | Location
Do you need a dedicated location for a store
mockup? Some brands and retailers keep
working lab environments in their own
facilities for this purpose. Some may be
used for customer walkthroughs and focus
groups; others may be highly restricted. The
principal fixture vendor for a project often
houses temporary large-scale mockups.
Some design firms also offer warehousing
space for this purpose.
In other situations, when testing may be
focused on a single new display or fixture
grouping, off-hours testing at a real store
location may be ideal. Several DREAM
Team member firms have taken physical fixture prototypes to an existing store
in the middle of the night for testing and
review. “Sometimes a lab environment can
be too ideal or too sterile, and a real environment is more appropriate,” Gruskin
explains. “We’ve done testing in real stores
with both the retailer’s team and with
5 | Stakeholders
Retailers find the most benefit when they
involve a broad range of departments in
the process. “It’s an opportunity to bring
in everyone from safety to IT, even those
who will train the staff how to use the new
space,” says Gruskin. The more prototypes
are used to predict what can happen in
the store, the more designers and retailers
can mitigate what shouldn’t happen, he
Morresi agrees that stakeholder input
has value, but cautions that things can get
out of hand. “A camel is a horse designed
by committee,” he says. He suggests documenting all comments, responding to
them, and banking lessons learned for
future iterations of the concept.
“Any retailer that isn’t constantly testing at least a small portion of what they
are doing is in a state of entropy,” Morresi
says. “The smartest and most successful
organizations that I’ve worked with in
the past few years have had experimentation as part of their DNA. They are always
testing 5%, whether of their store, their
assortments, their practices, their communications, or programs that they’re running.” Successful experiments can then be
rolled out across the organization and others edited out.
DCI-Artform’s CAVE gives clients a virtual tour of new designs and allows for changes on the fly.
Tracy Dillon, former editor
of Retail Environments, has
covered retail design issues
for over a decade.