Windows 1.0: No, Not Microsoft

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In 1952 Robert Kretschmer, former Display Manager of the Wilber Rogers and Ann Lewis Department Stores, wrote a book on “Window and Interior Display: The Principles of Visual Merchandizing.” Funnily, little has changed since then, even in this digital age. Window display design (and window dressers), or as he called them “the displayman,” is still highly valued in the marketing arena.

He noted that “The artistry of the displayman is not unlike that of the theatrical producer. Behind the drawn curtains of his store windows he sets his stage carefully . . . The skill of the professional displayman has brought about the recognition of window display as one of the most forceful media for sales promotion today.”

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All of us marvel at the windows at the high-end stores (particularly around Christmastime). In fact, check out New York Storied Stories for more coverage on the contemporary windows scene (and seen). It was the everyday windows that Kretschmer focused on along with the simple tools and techniques during the early days of TV, when strolling along main street was how people became aware of what’s new and consumable, store window and interior design were integral to the success of retail business.

Kretschmer leaves no stone unturned in the quest for the best windows or the craftspersons to make them. One of his various rules and suggestions was always be good to “Construction men.”

Display construction men are jacks-of-all-trades and are necessarily familiar with the many phases of display construction. They build, paint, maintain, repair and revise props. They are adept at printing, carpentry, painting and electrical work.

Sounds like someone (male and female) who would even be useful today. Below are some of the essentials of windowing, including stencil maker, small printing press for flyers and the classic mannequin parts.

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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →