The Value In A Storefront

Last year I wrote a post about branding at street level, and how much of an impact that has on the perception outsiders have of a place. We talk about placemaking a lot at Block Club, Buffalo being a city that has experienced tremendous levels of transformation the last 10 years. Businesses coming and going, branding rising, entire streetscapes completely overhauled from their previous form, sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a not-so-good way.

I was super excited when Tim shared a link with me from London-based studio Fieldwork Facility, who are participating in a program from the Waltham Forest Borough Council that explores, quite directly, this very idea. From the project case study: “Fieldwork Facility worked with ten businesses in Walthamstow’s Hoe Street to improve their retail frontages. … Our brief was to work closely with ten locally orientated businesses, understand their needs and see how shopfront improvements can increase opportunities for business.”

I won’t dive into the execution of rebranding 10 businesses at once here (some I think are very successful and conceptual and some less so) but I love this idea. This was a low-budget project considering the scope and at the end of the day, an entire neighborhood has been touched. I love a borough of London taking graphic design at this scale (a storefront design) seriously enough from a civic perspective to fund a project like this. And as a designer I can imagine how fun it would be to work on this: getting to know the individuals and families behind these businesses, their stories, and really running with it.

I’m interested to see what results this brings, and how this impact will be measured. What will this street look like next year, in five years? Will all 10 businesses survive? Hoe Street is only the first of nine local high streets to participate in the program so there will be a lot more to come.