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More Than Just a Prop

Competition winners show mastery of visual tools to create the unexpected



How do you make flowers, bungee cords or neon signs into something more than just a flower, a cord, a sign? The answers can be found in the winners of VMSD’s 2011 International Visual Competition.

Our judges gathered in April to delve into this year’s entries from around the globe, from department stores and sporting goods retailers to luxury car showrooms. The projects that took home awards were lauded for making the product hero and creating powerful brand messages.

Niketown’s storewide promotion for the World Basketball Festival in New York, encompassing window displays, in-store shops, graphics and gigantic figurines of current basketball stars soaring inside a five-story atrium, was the hands-down Best in Show winner in the eyes of our judging panel. “I don’t even play basketball, but it makes me want to go dribble,” remarked one judge.

Damon Johnstun, creative director at LIT Workshop (Portland, Ore.), a retail marketing and manufacturing firm that collaborated with Nike on the project, says the goal was to create a space that was playful and fun. “Lots of places are so beige,” says Johnstun. “Let’s push it.”

This year’s winners make that task look easy – and even fun – in spite of the challenge of grabbing shoppers’ ever-distracted attention while relying on smaller staffs, fewer resources and minimal budgets. But when put to the test, that’s when they seem to shine.

Judges couldn’t help but assume that the visual crew at Holt Renfrew had a blast installing hundreds of bungee cords for its “Extreme” window campaign. And what about Mercedes-Benz’s luxury cars dressed up as Santa’s reindeer to attract the attention of passersby on one of London’s busiest motorways?


Paul Olszewski, director of windows at Macy’s Herald Square, says his favorite window campaigns are the ones where he has no budget. For a fall window theme, he found bundles of branches and sticks and painted them in unusual colors to keep the theme natural without being too obvious. “It enhances the merchandise and still speaks to fall,” he says. “It’s not just a prop.”

Ana Fernandes, creative design manager at The Bay, says it’s about making it memorable, “so shoppers look to see what’s new.”

That’s when that tree limb, that bungee cord, that neon sign become something more. They become powerful tools to push the mark forward.

For VMSD's exclusive report on trends in visual merchandising and a look at this year's competition winners, click here.





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