Transform Magazine: Five minutes with Nicolas Wozniak – 2023

Nicolas Wozniak, who specializes in brand environment and retail design as president of Paris-based WIP Design, talks to Transform about the art of branding for retailers and how Customer tastes may change over time.

What does retail design represent for brand strategy?

For DIY brands, retail East the brand, while advertising, press communication and even brand platforms are only moments. Likewise for hotels and restaurants, commerce is where all the promises and guarantees come together and come to life.

For the automotive industry, retail is just one of the moments of brand expression, along with advertising, press articles and communications, events, etc. Moreover, new design “unveilings” are certainly the most inspiring, visionary and branding moments for this industry.

What does WIP do differently than other retail design agencies? How does this translate into your work?

WIPdesign and WIPbrands are made up of designers only, who work to understand the brand and who are committed to translating and transforming the essence of the brand. WIP stands for ‘work in progress’, our name expresses the truth that what was decided today will certainly evolve and change tomorrow.

Therefore, clients and designers should always be ready for the next step and embrace change, while understanding the bigger picture in order to stay in touch with audiences and brand identity.

We are loyal to customers; we do not judge their choices. We try to make the most of their situation, at a specific time.

What type of research will you undertake on a company in order to understand its brand?

If you give your measurements to a tailor, they will use an existing pattern and simply make a few adjustments. If you are looking for a bespoke approach, you will need to meet the tailor several times, they will get to know you, try to understand your habits and your specific needs for the suit. Only then can he provide you with a suitable design. We think it’s the same with brands. I don’t think we can have an informed understanding of a business without spending time with them or collaborating together.

We build long-term relationships with all our clients, in order to learn and understand their culture and their language. We translate the needs and emotions of customers. This means that in the competition phase, we illustrate our initial understanding, but ultimately we know that the design will need to be redeveloped with the client, for their audience.

Do you think there’s been an increase in brands worrying that their retail environment doesn’t reflect their identity?

The expression of commerce reflects our society, otherwise it disconnects from the public. For example, environmental messages are becoming increasingly important for communication purposes. But when it comes to acting on those words, embracing change by investing in it, it suddenly becomes harder to find resources.

Because retail is physical and uses material, we try to evolve our design by:

  1. Reduce quantities (less material)
  2. Reduce complexity and non-masonry non-recyclable elements
  3. Try to differentiate between structural design (sustainable) and communication design (embrace current trends or ergonomics)

You have noted periods of “liberal” and “conservative” commercial design in the past. Could you explain this phenomenon, and which of these two trends is currently driving the thinking within the industry?

If the distribution companies are in the image of society, their design obeys the same rules. The world is oppressed by different crises, there are tensions at all levels; economic, cultural, philosophical, etc.

The evolution of the commercial development concept represents an investment, a bet on the future of 5 to 10 years. Thus and despite very demanding briefs, most brands tend maintain the will to change. Suddenly, the answers become quite similar, and in terms of message, we lose enthusiasm and visionary proposals.

Sure, you might see pop-ups and crazy highlights here and there, but in the end, these are mostly communication niches. You will have very little chance as a customer to experience this for yourself. Additionally, most of these experiences will not commit the brand to their future, nor will they be developed for larger audiences or large roll-out programs.