Debenhams

For over five years I worked on long term freelance assignments with this leading retailer as a designer and creative artworker. Major projects included a visual merchandising manual for ‘home’ department, work with the brand manager on the Debenhams brand, ‘Designers at Debenhams’ and sub-brands, ticketing and the Christmas and Sale events.

My first major project for Debenham was for graphics and photographics in the home department. I created a typographic system simplifying new tickets. I then went on to design the ‘home’ visual merchandising manual – including guidance for colours with a subdued palette, typography and the photographic mood for in-store graphics.

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For my next long-term project I worked with Debenhams brand manager to update the visual identity of ‘Britain’s favourite department store’. The general principle of our work was to reduce the amount of visual clutter across all departments in stores. We chose a limited palette of colours, black (predominantly) and white, Red for sale, turquoise for offers, the Christmas event alone was allowed its own broader range of colours. We chose Myriad, a simple sans, as our new Debenhams font.

Tickets have always been very carefully considered as part of the Debenhams brand. They are much more informative than tickets seen in most other UK department stores. Price tickets, designer or brand names, infographics about products, store directories and information display panels all require templates. Debenhams Print Services, Taunton, has a bespoke software system so that custom tickets are ordered directly by staff in stores. These all had to take on the new Debenhams look, and with variable amounts of text I had to create a large number of templates.

I worked with the ticketing manager to design and write a manual for all stores and all departments to use when they order tickets. The purpose of the manual and templates was to automate the Debenhams ticket creation process as much as possible. I designed templates for all the most common sizes and varieties of tickets, and carefully adjusted them after review, re-designing or re-writing any special cases. Some bespoke infographics, eg. a guide to all kitchen knife shapes with descriptions of their uses, had to be custom-designed but since the manual/templates have been published/released the large bulk of tickets pass from order point to print, despatch and up in stores quickly and most of the process is automatic. Tickets have a common and consistent typographic structure with very few errors and very little waste.

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Oxford St ChristmasChristmas is the major event in retail. A large part of 2007 was, for me, spent working on Debenhams Christmas having previously been a member of the team working on the 2006 event. Window and interior displays, visual merchandising collateral and directional signs all take on the seasonal theme. I started out in early February working with the packaging team, then closely with the Christmas Visual Merchandising manager, working in-house with other members of Debenhams in-house design studio.

The store ‘sparkly’ Christmas theme required a huge amount of Photoshop work which we all, as a team, tackled. I then created a manual to keep a check on all items through their various stages of approval and artwork production before printing by Debenhams Print Services and by various external London and Far East printers right up until the stores put up their decorations. Even in November and December I was adding to and adapting display graphics whilst working also on the next big calendar event – January Sale.

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