What were you thinking?

I would like you to study the three images (with a variety of loght swtiches) below.

The question is: Will you know what to do with each particular switch pictured below?

Will you press it, turn it or slide it?



I hazard a guess that you have figured it – without any further instructions. Now you may argue that is because you have ‘learned’ to do it.

But this did not apply the first time you saw a particular switch. For instance, I doubt anyone has a switch like the third example in their homes – but if you were confronted with it, you would instinctively know what to do.

This is not learned behaviour, it is superior design. The angle that demands you flick it, the inviting curve that invites you to press it – and so forth.

Now consider this ‘average’ shopfront. It is not particularly good nor is it particularly bad. I am sure you see many of them every day.



Is what is expected of the browser (pre-shopper) self-evident?


Compare the above to this store:



Can you see that the path to purchase and the invitation the browser are clearly communicated? It practically shouts to the passerby to ‘come to the light’.

This is not a comparison between a minimalist and cluttered design – this is a comparison between a design that does its job and one that doesn’t. (And, yes, stacking pile of rubbish out front becomes part of your ‘design’ – even if it was not originally intended.)

Apple is quite rightly lauded for taking the design of consumer electronics to a consistently new level. But they weren’t first. Google images of retro record players and you will see many examples of powerful, simple design language.

The moral of this story is that a shopfront has one task: to get the customer to take notice and be interested enough to enter the store. It is usually not appropriate to use it as ‘selling space’.

If you attempt to ‘sell’ before the customer is ‘interested’ – you have lost the opportunity to make your design work for you. (AIDA: Awareness >> Interest >> Desire >> Action.)

And as Apple has proven, design thinking’ is a powerful point of difference with significant commercial benefits.


Dr Dennis Price is a consultant, trainer and speaker working with the retailers and the supply chain to effectively implement their brands on the consumer frontline with the right skills, strategies and systems.

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