Opinion: Evoke emotion

Paul Nathan, founder & creative director at Roar, explores how materials can evoke emotions in your customers.

With the rise of the internet, specifically giants such as Amazon, it is becoming harder to bring people into retail stores. With the struggles and even the going under of retailers such as Toys’R’Us and Mothercare only highlighting how difficult it is on the high street, stores now more than ever have to have an element of theatre or excitement to draw in the customers and to keep them entertained.

There are many stores out there, of brands we know and love, which evoke emotion within us. It is just the wrong emotion. Either by making it too crowded with far too many mid-floor units and making us feel claustrophobic, or with over bright lighting and loud music, and making us feel we are in DC10. Evoking emotion in your customers is just the first step. Evoking the emotion you want them to feel is the second part.

One way of creating an environment which evokes emotion is through the use of technology, and there are many stores, which are doing this, really well. This comes at a huge financial cost, so for smaller or independent retailers or those with many stores, this is unfeasible. In addition, because of the rapid rate of advancement, the technology you have now can look dated in under a year.

For over a decade we have been using textures and materials to evoke emotion in our client’s customers. If not using the exact material we have worked hard to mimic it. Whether this is in a POS or whole store design. When we say mimic a material we do not mean merely printing woodprint onto foam board. There are so many means and ways of creating something that not only looks like the real thing but feels like it as well.

When it comes to design, often textures and materials are overlooked and the last thing considered. The shapes and colours are carefully considered. Whether its concrete in various forms to evoke strength and stability or marble to evoke calmness, serenity and relaxation. Yet the exact same materials can make the customer feel something different still. Chipped and cracked concrete with graffiti makes us think of urban environments.

Materials aren’t just chosen for their physical qualities but also their emotive ones. The Taj Mahal was built from ivory-white marble, not merely for its physical strength. Marble radiates grandeur, nobility, extravagance and pleasure. This was not a coincidence. It was commissioned to house the tomb of the Emperor’s Wife, and he wanted it to reflect what she meant to him. If it were made from anything else it would not have the same emotive effect.
Materials are used to evoke different feelings and emotions in other industries; in fashion this is most obvious. Silk dresses makes us think of luxury and sexiness and denim creates images of rugged, hardiness and strength. The materials and textures should be part of the early consideration when it comes to designing a retail space or POS.

Depending on what you are trying to sell, think about how you want your customer to feel when they own it, wear it, use it. Do you want them to feel passionate or strong, relaxed or energised? The materials that are used around your products will help to create this feeling within them, when they purchase your products and also when they come back into your store.

Retailers and brands are often worried about who their customer audience is, and not who exactly they are. Brands, which have a definitive awareness of who they are and push this image through all platforms and designs, benefit from doing so. Using the materials and textures in store design that reflect and embody the brand and evoke the emotion that you want the customer to feel is more important than trying to pander to a certain demographic.

Designing a store is the same as doing any piece of design. Getting to the core of the brand or customer is the most important thing. This leads us to the question of ‘what emotion are we trying to evoke in the customer?’ Designing a store by making it aesthetically pleasing is easy, but creating great design which evokes emotion in the customer takes your store to the next level.


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