02 June 2010

Signage for Storefronts

The ongoing recession of 2007 has closed down many businesses. Consequently, many commercial storefronts have emptied their spaces with landlords seeking tenants to fill them on a temporary basis. Brooklyn developer Jed Walentas of Two Trees Development states, “Any sort of activity is better than no activity1.” One solution seeks out advertisers to bring their messages to street level. As a result, these storefronts generate revenue and temporarily provide a different form of merchandising. Vinyl coverings act as pedestrian billboards, adhering to windows and building facades [fig. 1].

fig. 1: A Nestea ad in the window of a vacant store in New York. (Photo by InWindow Outdoor. Courtesy of the New York Times)

    Ad placement on storefronts heightens brand awareness to pedestrians, while allowing commercial occupation of the space. Monster Media, a leader in storefront advertising, worked with MTV to bring awareness of their new show, “The Buried Life”, to the public2. Placed in busy midtown Manhattan, the ads engage pedestrians asking, “What do you want to do before you die?” Strangers can enter their responses on an interactive interface, where their responses can then be displayed on the one of the building windows [fig. 2].


fig. 2: MTV The Buried Life, 521 5th Ave, NY, NY (Photos courtesy of Ads of the World)

   Interactive storefront advertisers like Monster Media and InWindow provides different transactions between product and potential consumers. Text messages or holograms become tools to exchange information along a sidewalk. Vacant stores, once an eyesore, maintain the selling of products through ad marketing.  

    The opportunity to utilize light as an agent to reinforce a property’s commercial function suggests other options. Lighting certain aspects of the interior space can promote the space potential. Looking through the window, eyes would be drawn into the space, imagining its possibilities.

    Three storefronts for rent in Midtown Manhattan utilize light to promote their commercial attractiveness. One storefront retains the space decorated by the former tenant, while the others sit empty with white walls. “PRIME RETAIL SPACE FOR RENT” and slick architectural renderings front the windows, beckoning potential tenants to imagine their new business location [fig. 3].

fig. 3: Midtown Manhattan retail space (Photos by author)

 All three are lit differently. The unchanged space uses fluorescent-lit troffers. The space is carpeted with painted walls in a natural color palette. Its appearance resembles an office: a drop down ceiling, lit with lensed ceiling troffers typical of corporate America. Ceramic metal halide ceiling fixtures light the second space. The space is barren with white walls. Its light reminds one of factory floors and warehouses. The last storefront appears to be a former lobby foyer that has been walled off by painted white drywall. The space is lit with a utility strip of two 8’ T12 fluorescents. The strip has been mounted vertically, centered on the backwall.

    Regardless of their “For Rent” signage, the spaces draw in sidewalk glances by remaining lit throughout the day. For instance, the vertical, wall mounted fluorescent attracts attention due to its unusual placement. Its emanating glow within a barren space provokes questions of why it is lit and what is its significance. The barren walls and exposed wiring further suggests an empty canvas awaiting to be changed.

    The painted walls and troffers in the other storefront recall the space’s former identity. It echoes the possibility to remain in status quo. Despite this, the space does little to promote its future without the computer rendering placed in front of window. As a group, elements of the three storefronts work together to reimagine possible scenarios for business space types.  

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