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Upside Down Is The New Right Way Up

We have been thinking upside down about a few of our new store concepts. For example, have you ever thought of your floor as a light source?

Viktor and Rolf’s store in Milan is a store that provokes a double take. It is literally built upside down. Everything from the front door to the lighting has been flipped. The signs are upside down. In the front window a dress hangs from an inverted chair, which is seemingly glued to the ceiling- or the floor, as it’s finished in herringbone pattern parquetry. An upside down chandelier springs from the ceiling next to it- or the floor, depending on how you look at it. You can sit rather uneasily on the underside of an arch that curves down towards the floor and contemplate the clever but rather disturbing spectacle of the world’s most completely inverted store.

Others have imitated. The Gap turned a store partially upside down for a promotion in 2010, complete with an upended hot dog stand outside. And Peter Alexander in Sydney’s Mid City Centre sports an upside down bedroom setting that clings to the ceiling near the entrance.

I’m not saying that upside down is the new right way up. But in design it sometimes pays to turn the plan upside down .

We have been thinking upside down about a few of our new store concepts. For example, have you ever thought of your floor as a light source?

It’s worth thinking about in these energy conscious times. We all want to light our merchandise to its best effect. Often, we use dark or blacked out ceilings to achieve theatre and atmosphere. But combined a dark timber or carpet floor finish, or even a dark concrete finish, can soak up precious light. By going with, say, a white tile or epoxy finish, you get the benefit of reflected light- a secondary lighting source for your merchandise, which is rarely more then 1.5 metres off the floor. It’s effectively an upside down store design. We used this to create atmosphere in simple stores like Great Dane Furniture in Fitzroy, where your attention is drawn down to the floor where the merchandise is.

Upside down works for in store communications as well. We have recently created store signage hierarchies to eliminate distracting messages in the air and on walls above pelmet level. Traditionally, the trend used to be to fill all available air and wall space with messaging. More recently, we have been editing out high level messaging in order to place more relevant messages close to the customer’s eye level.

Instead of a myriad messages at high level and few at eye level we place a few essential, large, directional signs at high level and increased the information content closer to eye level where the customer is looking. When done in a disciplined manner, this gets the information you want to share with the customer into a position where they will not miss it but notice it and act upon it.

Looking at things in a different way is always interesting. Sometimes simply turning the plan upside down is a useful design tool. Or maybe you could just try standing on your head.


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