Monday, January 12, 2009

Consumer Psychology 101: A Trip to Target

I rounded the back corner in Target today and was immediately sucked in by their newest home design campaign. Not to hate on the bullseye, because without it I don't know where I'd shop, but you know that a particular theme in design has reached the top of the arc and is on the way back down once Target pulls it in for their stores. I say that and yet, guilty as charged, I buy it too. Its the best place to find cute on a budget, even if the cute is a little past its prime.

I was amazed at how well this area was staged at first-- I think its something about seeing such a large retail area pull off such a cohesive sense of ambiance. They paper the back of the shelves with rich graphic shiny retaily wallpaper to create that tone, (see the rusty orange on orange plant silhouettes below) and then throw in products on top in groupings that pair well. All in all, its really smart branding at work-- and I've got to respect them for that. (Even if I can't respect them for charging $4 a potholder, sheesh)

Although as a sign maker, I get a lot of mixed emotions when I see this sort of thing:

My coworkers and I joke all the time that we have an antiquated job-- take a look around you the next time you're at the store and you'll notice that plan-o-gram style corporate signage is everywhere. Rather than designers finding employment on a store or area level, a small group of core designers do the work for the entire company and the artists... are running the registers, I guess. Corporations work this way to save money-- an in-house art department isn't cheap. It does boost sales though, and hopefully that idea is catching on. I'd like to think that as a part of this movement toward handmade goods, we'll start to see design activated on a local level again. Or we might just see more attempts at making corporate design look handmade.. PS target: your type is too small here.

For the record, IKEA employs interior designers on a store-by-store basis to create their rotating faux homes, no corporate mandated looks there. And plenty of local businesses hire visual merchandisers, along with a handful of department stores, particulary in high foot traffic areas.

In the meantime, I'm trying to buy more mindfully right now-- the less new goods you buy from the store, the less the manufacturer sends to that store, then less is produced from raw materials and so on. It seems to me like America is finally scaling back the Dollar-store, mass quantities, living-on-credit mentality, and getting back to the idea that its ok to buy something of high quality that you'll have forever-- the idea that you don't need a new fill-in-the-blank every year or five years.

Most of the shops I see on Etsy support that mission in one way or another. Not only are handmade items intrinsically more precious because you know they were made with care, but they often make excellent use out of second hand materials-- if for no other reason then because they're cheaper-- I definitely think of my bottom line when I use leftover wood for stretcher bars, secondhand carboard to back my prints, and thrift store frames.

I don't know where I'm getting with all of this-- like Target, this post sucked me in one direction and then left me feeling something entirely different.

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