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For Steve Kidwell, the best merchandising design starts with a passion for the brand being merchandised. And the vp of design for fixture-maker Chippenhook (Lewisville, Texas) really lights up when he talks about some of those brands that have elicited his passion, like the jewelry designer John Hardy and the higher-than-high-end William Henry pocket knives.

But he also loves the problem-solving – identifying issues that may not be front of mind.

He redesigned a ring displayer for John Hardy, creating an open slot in the bottom through which the price tag drops and hangs naturally rather than bunching up beneath the ring. He created a special sunglasses displayer for Maui Jim to accommodate that brand’s particular spring-hinged frame, which doesn’t fold around the industry’s customary bridge post.

“I don’t want just a different shape or form of whatever fixture is ‘next,’ ” Kidwell says. “My passion lies in coming up with a unique aspect or function that makes the client say ‘that’s cool’ or ‘that’s different.’ ”
Kidwell came into this industry at a time when designers were still doing hand drawings and sketches, and he feels this is still a key to success, today’s 3-D imaging notwithstanding.

“Most of the time, an idea starts with a sketch,” he says. “It’s more informal, easier to deconstruct or change than a four-color rendered prototype that feels more like a finished product.”

He says he’s inspired by different shapes and forms he sees in everyday life – architecture, furniture design, skylines. “I see a beautiful building, and I might make it into a small window element,” he says.

At the end of the day, it’s still all about problem-solving for Kidwell. For example, he created a mirrored bracelet cuff for John Hardy so customers could see the intricate designs on the insides of the bracelets. For William Henry, he designed a magnetic board so the extra-sharp pocket knives could be displayed open without threatening to slice the sales associate’s hand.

“I’m in love with magnets,” he admits. “They’re the coolest thing and have solved more display problems for me than anything else.”



MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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