What story do your designs tell?
Retail giant Macy’s launched its STORY at Macy's installation with the goal of bringing a broad theme to life every couple of months. Experience-oriented design blends curated merchandise, community programming and interactive displays to bring STORY to life in 36 Macy’s stores.
Photography courtesy of Current by GE
The inaugural theme, Color, burst onto the scene in spring 2019 – and nowhere was the embrace of color more evident than the flagship store of the STORY project, Macy’s Herald Square in New York. Renowned designer David Stark created a multicolored playground with faux-fur columns and a huge, interactive pegboard reminiscent of the old Lite-Brite toy, as well as FLOR’s signature carpet tiles, which featured a custom pixelated pattern. The rainbow spectrum was brought to life by a color-friendly lighting design that designers can customize to suit the hues in any project.
“We think every day about how to enhance an environment with lighting and how to use technology in a broader way than simply just lighting,” explains Colleen Calhoun, chief marketing and business development officer at Current by GE. “For us to marry that up with someone who’s trying to articulate something broader than just illuminating a room, it’s a terrific place to be.”
Telling the STORY
Color STORY’s designers used two types of lighting to achieve Color STORY’s vibrant, Instagrammable environment, both from Current by GE.
Track lighting: Adjustable track lighting allowed Stark to customize the intensity and saturation of lighting in different areas of the store to best suit the colors and products displayed there. Increasing the wattage in certain places made the colors appear brighter and more vibrant – a useful feature for highlighting specific items.
The track lighting also has a high Color Rendering Index (CRI) rating, which means that the light it emits can show the color of objects realistically when compared to a reference source (usually incandescent lighting or daylight). Current’s track lighting is available with CRIs of 80 to 95 – anything above 80-85 on the 100-point scale is generally considered good.
Neon replacement lighting: STORY uses Current’s Tetra Contour, a flexible LED light engine combined with a rigid, extruded plastic light guide, to create art installations that are 40% more energy-efficient than traditional neon. The optically diffuse light guide can be heated and formed into any shape and custom cut to length. Tetra Contour became a rainbow tunnel leading guests to the retail space in Color STORY, while the new installation, Outdoor STORY, turns Tetra Contour into a greenhouse-like space angled at the top.
“A designer and artist can take [Tetra Contour] and manipulate it into a form that he found appealing,” Calhoun says of Stark’s larger-than-life rainbow tunnel. “David Stark’s ability to take something that’s used in more of an industrial application – somebody putting a sign up in front of their building or on top of it – and then using it in a different application was very clever.”
Creating Engaging Design
Retail – and to some extent, most other commercial space – is increasingly about creating an atmosphere or a destination. As Calhoun explains, “It’s not just about going and buying something, it’s having an experience.” STORY at Macy’s tied themed color areas together with their merchandise by putting seemingly unrelated merchandise together by color rather than by product type.
“Let’s say it was the purple area. There were water bottles, puzzles, keychains and all sorts of things that didn’t necessarily fit together, but their commonality was purple,” explains Calhoun. “I was walking through it and thinking ‘Oh, I would never have thought of these things together.’ If I was going to buy a present for someone, it’s an interesting way to put together a package.”
Good lighting should actively contribute to customers’ engagement with their surroundings by highlighting important areas, displaying color accurately and contributing to eye-catching visual displays. Lighting isn’t the star of the show on its own – the whole design package is – but it facilitates an environment where guests can freely interact with the space you’ve created. The bleak glow of older one-size-fits-all technologies is giving way to tunable, customizable white that shows off your design exactly how it was meant to look.
“Lighting has been around for 140 years, but it’s continuing to invent itself as an innovative application because of the advancements we’ve had in lighting quality and the digital innovations we’ve brought to market,” Calhoun says. “It’s not your grandfather’s lighting company anymore. It’s exciting to me to work with people like Macy’s who are thinking about the future and how to bring technology to bear and make people’s experience better.”
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