By Mallory Ertel
As mixed-use buildings reemerge as a popular building
type, quality exterior design becomes increasingly important. This is
particularly true of the ground floor shopfront. For the small businesses
often associated with the mixed-use building type, using the shopfront
to its fullest potential is the best way to advertise. There are very
simple design elements that make a significant difference in the impression
a shopfront makes.
The success of a shop, particularly when it is located in a commercial
area with a high quality pedestrian experience, relies on the effectiveness
of the shopfront as a whole. Its design should be in character with the
rest of the building as well as with the street in general. A shopfront
with Victorian details on the ground floor of a Georgian style rowhouse
will certainly look awkward and out of place. In addition, the elements
of the shopfront should be integral to the shopfront as a whole. The door,
window and signage should all be part of a single design for the building's
ground floor. In advertising the business it houses, the details of the
shopfront have three major tasks. They must attract the attention of passersby
(both in cars and on foot), advertise its goods to passersby, and draw
those passersby into the shop itself.
Signage usually accomplishes the first task most effectively. A key phrase
or simple illustration will grab a person's attention, so to be most effective,
signage should be clear and simple. A place of business should have one
major band sign fully integrated into the shopfront. The signage band
is often located on a portion of an entablature on the building. Secondary
signage can take the form of a two-sided blade sign or a painted window
sign, both of which should be small and unobtrusive to the pedestrian.
Four square feet is a good size standard to follow. Lighting also plays
an important part, as it makes the signage visible after hours and can
give a dramatic effect to the design of the shopfront. Lighting should
always be external, mounted to the building, and preferably incandescent
-- no glowing letters or neon script. In fact, nothing about a shopfront
should be lit from the inside except the shop itself.
Window displays most accurately advertise the goods of a business. For
this reason, windows should be given the opportunity to do their work
with adequate coverage across the width of the shopfront, around 75 percent.
They should also give a clear view into the shop, with clear glass and
a relatively unobstructed view through to the back of the store.
Shopfronts should extend the shop into the path of pedestrians in an effort
to draw them into the shop. This can be done with colonnades, or arcades,
and awnings. When used, colonnades (with square openings along the street)
and arcades (with arched openings along the street) should extend across
the entire width of the sidewalk and to the edge of the curb. Awnings
should overlap the sidewalk as much as possible, be straight across, and
have open ends. Blade signs hung over the sidewalk above the pedestrian's
head, an eye-catching window display, or outside displays of the business's
goods beyond the door can also draw pedestrians. Proper landscaping for
a garden shop or café can immediately tell passersby of the business located
within. It is important to remember that landscaping, both plants and
furniture, should be kept to a minimum. Landscaping should never interfere
with a window display by blocking its view or making it inaccessible to
the pedestrian. In addition, any landscaping elements or materials used
should be kept in top condition, giving passersby a good impression of
what they will find inside.