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Carly Hagedon

VMSD 2020 International Visual Competition: Best in Show

From captivating windows to impressive pop-ups, the winners of 2020’s International Visual Competition proved visual merchandising remains a treasured art form.




VMSD 2020 International Visual Competition: Best in Show; Holiday Window Displays; “Factory of Gifts”; Submitted by: TSUM Kyiv, Kiev, Ukraine

HOLIDAY WINDOWS CAPTIVATE all ages and people from various walks of life, drawing them into stores during the coveted winter holiday shopping months. VMSD’s Visual Competition highlights projects of limited shelf-life, from storewide campaigns to apparel merchandising. Now in its 26th year, windows and temporary/pop-up retail environments were top of mind based on our submissions, and this year’s Best in Show exemplifies the continuing importance of windows for both retailers and shoppers alike.

Not all windows are created equal, however. Take for example “Factory of Gifts,” our Best in Show winner of the 2020 International Visual Competition.

Each individual display in TSUM Kyiv’s (Kiev, Ukraine) seven 2019 holiday windows followed a factory theme, showcasing designs dubbed the Design Workshop, Laboratory, Cutting Complex, Paint Shop, Assembly Shop and Warehouse, as well as one window housing a mechanized conveyor belt.

Designers hoped to create windows with a Christmas feel without going the “traditional” route in terms of color or theme. This is exemplified by the Paint Shop window that appears to have rows of bottles on a shelf, amplified by optical illusions: The design team utilized rotating mechanisms to create movement, as well as neon lighting and lava lamps. The end result is a trippy vintage-vibe moment.

The journey begins in the Design Workshop window, where a snow globe houses a miniature version of the department store’s façade. In the Laboratory window, “scientists” work with chemicals (i.e., glitter powder and crystals) to create the perfect gift. The subsequent Cutting Complex window features evening dresses on a stylized carousel. Next comes the aforementioned Paint Shop, and after, the Assembly Shop window that includes mechanized assistants grabbing various components. A conveyor belt in window number six leads to the final Warehouse window which uses an infinity mirror to create the illusion of never-ending depth.

“The windows were a real eye magnet. We used many different types of lighting and reflective textures in the design,” says Krystyna Yura, Senior Creative Department Specialist, TSUM Kyiv, and a member of VMSD’s 2020 Designer Dozen. “In my opinion, the main purpose of windows now is to demonstrate the brand concept, its direction and strategy … it is a channel for communication with the client, and not just the presentation of goods.”

The judges were enamored with the Best in Show winner, noting that the emotional response windows elicit is an effective way for retailers to connect with customers. “Retail is having a tough time,” 2020 Visual Competition judge Michael Brindley, Big Red Rooster, says. “We have to remember it’s about storytelling and making an emotional connection.”