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What is the Role of a Retail Interior Designer in a Construction Project?

What is a retail interior designer and what benefits do they have for your retail project? Do you need a retail design consultant on your project?

This is a crucial element of the initial talks we have with potential customers so that they fully grasp the function of a retail interior designer in the project process.

Some people associate “interior designer” with “decorator,” while others associate it with “project organizer,” although the genuine function is generally more comprehensive and complicated than that.

This article was made to clear up any misconceptions for anyone else who may be wondering what a retail interior designer performs and how they may add value to a project.

Let’s begin with a basic definition:

“A retail interior designer is a professional that specializes in the design and building of retail environments.” They collaborate with architects, engineers, constructors, and other experts to create branded retail environments, combining a wide variety of creative and technical talents.”

That’s a really wide statement. An interior designer can contribute to a project on a variety of levels. However, it’s an excellent starting point, and we’ll fill in the gaps with more particular facts in each of the parts below.

Why should you engage a retail design consultant for your interior design project?

To produce unified, effective designs for their customers, each industry-specific interior designer has their own set of tools.

That may be a functional programming document for corporate office designers. It may be a working understanding of proper health and safety regulations for designers specialized in healthcare. Expert understanding of how people interact with spaces in a retail shopping environment, as well as how to transform a brand into a three-dimensional experience that helps clients sell items, is essential for retail interior designers.

A professional retail interior designer would include additional brand-specific components of a space (signage, navigation, and fixture design) into the overall design to create a unified brand statement, an impactful customer experience, and drive overall retail performance.


View Case Study: Fjallraven Toronto

A brief word on retail design initiatives and store settings

The term “Retail” encompasses far more than just businesses that sell goods (such as fashion & electronics). Businesses that sell services and experiences are also included. The concepts of retail experience design play an important part in any form of place where customers interact with a product or brand, from fitness to food, wellness, travel, and any type of space where customers connect with a product or brand.

Many retail venues now double as showrooms, allowing brands to engage with potential customers. It’s less about selling the customer anything right now and more about exposing them to the brand so that when they make a future purchase (in store, online, or elsewhere), they already have a favourable association with that brand.

retail interior design consultant may improve any commercial environment in which a company want to engage with and influence their target client. 

What is the role of a retail interior designer in a retail building project?

Throughout the course of a project, retail interior designers might wear numerous hats. How engaged you want a designer to be in your project is likely to be determined by your industry experience and how much work will be done in-house.

GTA General Contractors is frequently involved from conception to end, managing and supervising complete projects. However, this is not always the case. Our level of commitment varies greatly.

Retail Clients and Projects of Various Types

At GTA General Contractors we specialize in designing one-of-a-kind customer-facing brick-and-mortar retail spaces that accurately represent our clients’ brands. Some of our clients require assistance with brand creation, while others just need to apply current brand design principles to a new location.

Here are two examples of the various sorts of clients and projects that we commonly see in our industry to demonstrate the variable possibilities for scope:


Ex. 1: Brands in Need of a Refresh

Some of our clients are independent merchants that want a comprehensive rebranding package, which may include: 

  • brand new logo design
  • generating new essential operational and design principles
  • putting up a brand guidelines bundle
  • … and eventually, putting those technologies to use in an actual brick-and-mortar facility. All while maintaining inside the financial constraints. 

This is followed by:

  • design of special fixtures
  • design of furniture
  • design of signs
  • management of change
  • programming
  • merchandising
  • marketing
  • as well as final staging

Example #2: Big Box Stores with Pre-Established Brand Guidelines

On the other side, we deal with major national or international retailers that have already gone through the process of defining brand standards (whether internally or externally) and are trying to roll out stores across North America.

We may not be engaged in the development of the branding package or the design of shop fixtures for these sorts of customers, but we can aid in applying the design standards to a specific bricks and mortar retail location:

  • project administration
  • finishing technical drawings
  • acquiring permissions
  • locating and managing contractors and other required consultants
  • coordinating with city, municipality, or landlord officials
  • …as well as determining how, if at all, the branding rules should be altered to fit a certain neighbourhood.

What unique value can a retail interior designer add at each stage of a project?

retail design project is divided into six parts, each of which explains how or why an interior designer specializing in retail design might bring value to your project.

1. Perform Due Diligence

The preliminary retail design phase is, according to most interior designers, the initial phase of design for a new project. However, retail design varies in that it is beneficial to bring in an interior designer during the Due Diligence process to weigh in on the possibilities of a certain site or to aid in examining leases to safeguard the store.

When clients are searching for new premises, we frequently collaborate with commercial real estate brokers early in the project to assist establish what sort of spaces to seek for (based on brand design criteria). Is the brand more appropriate for a newly constructed CRU on the main floor of a huge residential complex with good visibility? Or would an apartment in a Heritage building with distinguishing features be more brand-appropriate?

Interior designers who specialize in retail design can help you make this selection.

2. Initial Retail Design Conceptualization

Despite the benefits of having an interior designer involved in the location scouting and lease negotiations process, the majority of our customers join us at the conceptual design phase. The lease has been completed at this time, and design or drawing production must commence in order to keep the project on track.

During the preliminary design process, the designer would often undertake a site survey and gather information about the building and surrounding area. For retail projects, the interior designer will create a design programme based on these facts, as well as, more crucially, your brand standards and shop goals.


3. Design of Schematics

When it comes to schematic design, the real fun begins! This procedure is generally consistent across all forms of interior design. The designer spends time expanding on the conceptual design solutions generated during the Preliminary Design phase.

During this phase, the retail designer would also create a rough project plan and budget to ensure that all stakeholders are on the same page.


4. Design Creation

When designers deal with clients who have never gone through this process before, this stage can be intimidating because numerous decisions must be made in a short amount of time. During this step, your retail interior designer will bring the design idea full circle, ironing out even the tiniest aspects to guarantee a unified retail design.

For most retail interior designers, this process comprises completing the space plan, selecting finishes, and selecting furniture. These goods are crucial since they are what communicate your brand to your clients.


5. Building Documentation

Most projects require permits, which demands the creation of a precise set of construction drawings depicting the specific specifications of how your business will be created.

The retail interior designer generally coordinates the other professionals working on the project (engineers, architects) and liaises with the proper local officials throughout the Construction Documentation phase to ensure the permit application procedure is smooth and swift.

Administration of Contracts

The design work should be completed before building begins, but the duty of the store interior designer is not yet complete. Because the interior designer is familiar with all parts of the project, they are usually the primary point of contact with the contractor during construction. The interior designer is in charge of collaborating with the retail general contractor, answering any issues that emerge on the job site, and frequently acting as a liaison between the General Contractor and the client, as well as other experts on the project.


As you can see, when it comes to the design and construction of retail spaces, an interior designer provides a wide variety of services and skills. They can offer everything from creative creation, branding, and retail strategy to more technical services like design drawings, construction paperwork, and contract administration. At GTA General Contractors, we provide a complete full-service construction solutions from Architecture & Design, General Contracting, Project Management and Design & Build construction for all of your commercial construction needs.

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