Retail design and architecture refers to designing commercial spaces for selling products, services and/or a brand to consumers. It is trans-disciplinary in its intention to create a sensory interpretation of brand values, through physical or virtual media. A retail designer therefore tends to conceptualize the consumers’ needs and wants into a spatial program.
Retail design is often taken as a design discipline closely related to, or as a sub field of interior design. This is quite understandable since designing for retail spaces has always been a task carried out by architects and interior architects/designers. Today, however, as mentioned before, there is a growing need for a holistic approach embracing different design disciplines and social science disciplines.
Interactions between people and their environment are shaped by properties of the human being (user, consumer), varying from senses to capacities, and from personality characteristics to societal concerns, the product, embodying materials, shape, and technologies, as well as immaterial properties, and the context enclosing culture and situation.
One of the aims of designing retail environments is to develop
spaces/services/products that are consistent with the strategy, portfolio, and brand positioning of the firm, whilst offering a sustainable experience to customers. Stores are business resources of strategic importance.
The nature of visiting these retail spaces as an activity varies according to what someone is shopping for. The design of the space and the objects within - such as the architecture (both exterior and interior) of the building, furniture, lighting; the website with several built-in techniques – is relevant to meet basic requirements of the shopping function but at the same time tries to represent affordances to evoke feelings and emotions. New technologies (e.g. digitalization, sensors and ‘intelligence’) demand/allow for new ways of interacting and shift the boundaries of what retail spaces and products within are (physical/virtual), what they offer (functionality) and how they do it (usability/experience).