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Opinion: Pop-ups allow retailers and designers to try new process as well as strategy says Jonty Craig of BAT Studio

Designing retail interiors offers opportunities that are both creatively and professionally fulfilling. We work across a range of sectors, including a lot of work developing installation artworks and other experience-driven projects, and retail interiors can hold a lot of similarities.

The shop floor and window display is the spatial representation of a brand; an experiential interpretation of a company’s identity. Working with clients which are keen to explore the creative potential this offers makes retail a very exciting sector to work in.

Temporary shops offer even greater opportunity for experimentation. A ‘pop up’ shop can be a test bed for ideas; a conceptual space that allows a brand to explore its identity and gauge both public reaction and interaction. As designers, we are excited by the creative opportunity this presents. Where else would you be allowed to hang 10km of raffia from the ceiling, create colourful walls from thousands of test tubes, or assemble an entire shop out of a reconfigurable metal grid that encompasses and surrounds you? It is these opportunities to experiment that make retail space such an exciting environment.

But to create such unique designs within the constraints of budget and deadlines would often be impossible via traditional modes of procurement. As an architectural and design studio, we want the best quality design at a price that fits the client’s budget and, of course, to ensure that the project is delivered on time.

In the traditional architectural model drawings are produced for tender and a contractor appointed to build. Typically, either time, quality or cost has to give way to achieve the other two. This classic problem is exacerbated when the projects are truly experimental, often utilising innovative and original methods of assembly which are not within a traditional shop fitter’s remit.

What if this preconceived route was challenged?

In addition to strong design skills, our team has a wealth of knowledge and experience in actually building and delivering projects. We believe that to design something for others to build you must understand how to physically put it all together. We take this ethos seriously and we have our own workshop and fabrication space. On some of our projects this gives our clients an opportunity to appoint us not only as designers but also as lead contractors, drawing on our experience and skills as project managers, fabricators and installers.

Acting as both architect and contractor can lead to a conflict of interest; designers are seeking to ensure quality, and contractors to build projects with maximum efficiency, two aspects of a project that can occasionally pull in opposite directions.

However, we feel that rather than leading to conflict this model can increase efficacy and quality in parallel, on the proviso that the design and delivery processes are correctly managed. Working in this way has allowed us to produce high quality projects on much lower budgets than would have been required using traditional models of procurement.

This not only benefits us, since we get to produce work that excites us and that we can oversee from initial concept to project delivery but also benefits our clients as they maximise the impact of their retail environment. In short, we believe that working this way ensures everyone gets a bigger bang for their buck.

Jonty Craig is co-founder of BAT Studio