What do you think retail and experience design will look like in 2024?
In 2024 my hope and expectation is that we will see many smaller, independent retail concepts experiment with sustainable interior design. They will be at the forefront of a new design aesthetic that will be born out of finding ways to limit the impact their shop has on the environment. This new design aesthetic will, in the following years, be assimilated by the big brands and chains. Sustainability will no longer be seen as a ‘conditio sine qua non’ we must deal with but instead become a driving force for new concepts and design language. The results will be diverse, like the repurposing of construction materials in Judo Espresso Dojo in Chendu, China and the new Veja store in Madrid or using recycled coffee cups in 3D printed columns as a substrate for mycelium to grow, like in one of our recent projects Op ‘t Oog.
Also, a defining element in retail in 2024 – and the years after that for that matter – is the coming of age of Gen Z. In 2024 Gen Z ages will range from 12 to 27, so they are taking centre stage in the retail show. And while the importance of IRL retail experiences had dropped for Millennials, GenZ is turning to brick and mortar as an escape from their continuous online presence. They will appreciate retail concepts that offer them a well curated selection of products, often endorsed by the brand or influencer or (online) celebrity. The level of service and personal approach they will receive will be the major reason why they’ll choose the IRL experience over the online one. Another pull away from the screen(s) and towards the store will be the possibility of testing products in-store. A beautiful and well executed – both in terms of service and design – example of this and one I recently visited as part of our research for an ongoing project is Glossier. Glossier is a cosmetics brand and their stores, in the very first place, are testing places for all their products. Glossier staff members help you in the process, note down your selection on their iPad and after a short wait your purchase is brought to you in a small bag, complete with a personal message. Fully GenZ proof.
Another, rather harsh trigger to turn to retail IRL is that retail has the ability to offer an escape from the hectic and often grim reality. Concepts that create aesthetically strong and outspoken universes will attract customers to enter and stay for a considerate amount of time.
What was your favourite retail and experience design project of 2023, and why?
Glossier is undeniably a favourite because it is a beauty brand with a unique approach to retail design. Unlike other stores packed with a multitude of products and overwhelming packaging, Glossier opts for a refreshingly minimalistic design aesthetic. This deliberate choice creates an atmosphere of intrigue, an implicit invitation to linger, and an inherent desire to explore and engage with the staff members. Glossier’s dedication to their brand aesthetic ensures that every interaction inside is elevated beyond the transactional.
Banner and featured image from Bath & Barley beer spa in Bruges, designed by WeWantMore