Q&A with CIP Retail’s Creative Director

Published on October 25, 2021

Specializing in creating permanent and semi-permanent retail store signage and décor means that Matthew Valerius, Creative Director at CIP Retail, is particularly mindful of the role scale and proportion play in design. If not executed correctly in his business, what a designer envisioned as a transportive retail backdrop could end up making shoppers feel out of sorts.

1. How long have you been with CIP Retail?

Matthew: I started designing here in 2013, so eight and a half years. I now manage a team of half a dozen designers. Some projects we create from start to finish, and others come from third-party design firms. Regardless, we touch every project in some way, shape, or form. Whether it is our design or an outside firm, we are responsible for executing the design intent and ensure each project is correctly translated from paper to production.

2. What is a transportive design?

Matthew: A transportive design makes you feel like you are someplace else. This is common in theme parks and theater set design, and it’s also important in supermarket store design to create an “experience” that draws customers in and invites them to stay awhile.

3. What are scale and proportion, and why are they so important in creating a transportive design?

Matthew: Scale and proportion are both design elements that have to do with size. With scale, I’m thinking about how an object designed on paper will look when manufactured into a two-dimensional or three-dimensional piece. For example, if a design plan calls for a simulated wood background, but the wood grains are drawn too large, it will look cartoonish when printed.

Proportion has to do with how an element is going to relate to other features in a space. For example, in a retail store, there are many different shapes, colors, textures, architecture, signage, fixtures, etc., competing for space. Therefore, it’s important to consider how each element will interact with the features around it.

4. What’s a common issue you see when taking a design from initial concept to final production?

Matthew: The most common issue has to do with material choices. We have the luxury of working alongside CIP’s production and manufacturing teams bringing designs to life. As a result, we are very aware of the yield of materials and the cost of materials when creating permanent and semi-permanent retail décor.

We may review design plans that call for genuine wood planking on walls 10 feet or more above the shoppers’ heads. It’s a beautiful look, but the choice of materials is often overkill. Instead, we might recommend printing a faux wood background on a vinyl wallcovering or a rigid PVC substrate to exude the same look and feel for a fraction of the price. When the material is that high above a shopper’s head it is much harder to discern real material from faux.

5. What’s an example of a décor package you’ve designed that you’ve been proud of?

Matthew: We redesigned the interior décor at Strack & Van Til food market in St. John, Indiana. I think this project is a good example of what we do well at CIP Retail. We changed the store’s look radically and affected significant changes to the space, but we did it with a light touch. A clean, edited décor package made the area feel much lighter, more inviting, and friendly. We also used a lot of faux wood grain and stone features that looked beautiful, will last for years but are easy to install, and much less expensive to manufacture.

Q&A with CIP Retail’s Creative Director