How to create beautiful holiday window displays on a budget
October 23, 2015
I still remember magical holiday window displays from my childhood
If you’re as old as me (I’ll never tell), you remember going downtown to view store window displays during the holidays. For me, it was one of the highlights of the St. Louis Christmas shopping season. It was an event. We’d get all dressed up in preparation for our pictures with Santa. Before we went in though, we’d stand in awe with our noses pressed up against the window gazing at the magic that was taking place.
Why did we get away from that? Your shop’s branding begins on the street. From your signage to your entry to the look of your window display, you are conveying a message about who you are. Norbert Grüger, a visual merchandising professional, describes them as a store’s “calling card.” They are a 24-hour billboard. Make sure they’re gaze-worthy this holiday.
First things first: Where are You?
A store window should be designed for its surroundings. If your shop is on a busy street with a large number of drivers passing by, your window display should be big, bold and highly edited. Don’t have street traffic, but do have a large number of pedestrians strolling by? Your window can be more intimate, allowing for detail. If the neighborhood around your shop is filled with restaurants and event locations, make sure your window is lit well into the night so that it will be seen long after you’ve closed.
Pick a theme for your window displays
What is your purpose? Tell a story that immediately grabs attention and by all means, avoid the predictable. Just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean you have to design with reds and greens. This is your opportunity to make a statement, but make sure it’s within the context of your branding. Window designers today are stressing the need for one, big, eye-catching object that draws the eye. Add your holiday slogan on a chalkboard sign for your particular theme and you’ve just reinforced your overall marketing campaign.
Less is always more
This is a standard tenet in the world of advertising. Less is more. You’re taught to use white space to draw attention to the important message. That is also true when it comes to window displays. Don’t fill every ounce of space in your front window with merchandise. In fact, leaving open spaces draws more attention to a featured item.
Backdrop or no backdrop
There are pros and cons to both. Having a backdrop puts the emphasis on your window design and keeps the eye focused on the theme. No backdrop gives the viewer a chance to see more of your merchandise in the store, but means your window doesn’t have the impact you may be looking for. A partial backdrop such as strips of fabric or one piece of furniture that the viewer can see around is a good option as well.
3-D is the most visually appealing
Whenever possible, make sure your windows are taking advantage of a 3-D visual experience. Arrange items at different heights and angles; give perspective by putting different size objects in the back and use the ceiling and walls, not just the floor. Before designing your window, add a tape line at eye level on the outside (because store windows are rarely street level). This is the starting point for the viewer’s focus, but make sure they can enjoy the design from every angle not just looking straight on.
Lighting isn’t an afterthought
A key element to your window displays has to be how you choose to light them. Again, the lighting must complement your overall branding. Spotlights, sidelights and/or colored lights add a mood to convey what can be found inside.
With a little ingenuity and creativity, you can create fabulously fun windows for an investment in time without a high cost. If you don’t feel you have the talent, I’ll bet there’s a design student at a local university who would love to help out. Or, head to Pinterest for incredible ideas and do-it-yourself tips. While you’re at it, read How to make shoppers happy with simple resale-tainment.
I have been a writer for various forms of marketing for over 40 years. I've written my share of radio and TV scripts, magazine and newspaper ads as well as direct mail brochures and newsletters. Currently, as the Marketing Coordinator for Traxia, home of SimpleConsign software, I've moved into blog posts, eBooks and website text. It's been an ever changing and ever challenging journey but I've loved it all along the way.
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