Having worked in a wide variety of market sectors, there certainly are differences between traditional commercial design and retail design. Certain types of commercial projects are often focused on one project/one client and the longevity of that design and use (i.e., an office, mixed-use project, religious institutions, etc.). Retail design is focused on brand identity, flexibility, customer experience, and, more often than not, the expectation to get rebranded in 5-7 years.
Instead of having just one end-user as typical in commercial design, retail design has many “clients” of the brand, who are the diverse public who will be shopping the stores. Then multiply that by the number of retail stores that occur in a roll-out, where a brand opens in multiple places across the country or even internationally -each with their own unique set of requirements, climates, and local teams. Must add that when working worldwide, it is a fun and unique challenge to take a brand standard or prototype and adapt that brand identity to the various building code requirements across the globe, not to mention their retail developer requirements. On the other hand, commercial projects tend to stay more local, and while they also have varying degrees of complexity, they are not as fast-paced as Retail usually demands.
If we touch on another aspect that makes Retail Design much different from Commercial Design, Retail is always pushing the envelope in terms of design creativity. For example, Retail projects in Airports have their unique challenge than that of traditional prototype retail projects. A part of traditional retail branding includes the brick-and-mortar shopping experience, a ‘prototype’ that customers recognize no matter where they are shopping. While you will find this in Airports too, times have changed to be customized to that local destination experience. The traveler in itself is an ever-changing shopper with a limited amount of time to engage. It is critical to make a fast impression and customize the brand to be the most impactful and imaginative experience for all who walk through the space.
While also designed with creativity in mind, commercial projects, due to their larger square footage and longevity in mind, call for a more timeless design, with palettes of colors and fixtures that will be attractive and cost-efficient throughout the building’s life.
In summary, Retail Design and all its iterations is a fast and ever-changing branch of design compared to the more traditional Commercial Design.