Checking Out: Miho Koshido-Downey

A JGA creative director talks about what designers need to do to push through
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Posted April 24, 2012

Your career includes posts at retail design firms (FRCH, Walker Group and JGA) as well as at Macy’s. How does working for a design firm and a retailer differ?
You need – and gain – different skill sets. As a consultant, you become a client analyst; you have to learn all about your clients and listen carefully to understand their goals and expectations, and then exceed them. Working internally, you see absolutely every aspect of the in-house operations, from groundbreaking and opening to promotions. You have to constantly reinvent and outdo yourself because you’re the client. I’ve found both experiences invaluable, and having worked in both capacities makes me much more versatile as a designer.

What’s the biggest challenge that retailers face in 2012, and how can store design address it?
It’s still a slow economic recovery, and 2012 being an electoral year makes it more difficult because people typically don’t spend as much while they’re waiting to see what happens politically. But I have been hearing that there’s been more activity in recent months, and I think clients are giving more attention to design now, in order to spur that growth. Retail design has to reflect that anticipation, but we still have to work very efficiently to create the greatest impact at minimal cost.

What do you expect from retail design five years from now?
Five years ago, who would have imagined all this technology being integrated into stores? More of that will surely happen, especially more integration of shoppers’ mobile devices and social media within the store. We’ll have to design environments that are challenging and engaging for the emerging millennial market, which is the biggest user of these technologies.

How do retailers themselves stay ahead of this game?
The best retailers are approaching consumers as individuals, speaking directly to their personal needs, either in the store or in a social-media setting. The company that can do that best wins.

As the retail landscape continues to evolve, how does your role as a creative director change?
I feel like I’m always on an educational journey. I’m always researching and learning something, whether it’s technology, fashion, environmental issues or general trends. Whatever moves the world is what drives my education.

Eyes Open

What to watch for:
I think retail is quickly going to become even more global, both in taking inspiration from around the world and in companies crossing borders.

What inspires me:
How about absolutely everything in the world? It can come from anywhere: a color, a TV ad, a song. But I have an industrial design background, so sometimes the smallest details seem to blossom into great design ideas.