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Brilliance@Work: Retail Design Expert Maria Gustafson

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Photo: James Lee, Chester, NH, USA

Welcome to Brilliance@Work, a series of profiles about stellar people and their best practices at work. We’re kicking off 2017 by featuring brand, design and marketing strategy experts to help you “thrive in the new brand reality.”

Maria Gustafson

FUSE 2017 presenter Maria Gustafson is Senior Vice President of Global Creative at Kiehl’s, where she leads the creative vision of one of the world’s leading skin care companies.

Her expansive creative career bridging fashion, beauty and lifestyle began with Peter Arnell, Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal, and Lloyd & Co, where she created campaigns for Burberry Blue Label, The Standard Hotels, Club Monaco, Cole Haan, Gucci, and Samsung.

Maria also developed creative at MAC Cosmetics, Gap, and the L’Oreal luxury brands Giorgio Armani and Shu Uemera.

As a preview to her presentation, Maria shares her insights on how good retail design can increase brand engagement:

Peggy L. Bieniek, ABC: How did your experiences in design shape your character and career?
Maria Gustafson:
I was that lucky kid who was raised by two super creative, imaginative parents who nurtured my artistic curiosities. Every weekend my parents, brother and I were building something together, whether it was a tree house, a skateboard or a piece of furniture. And then we’d sleep in the tree house or ride the skateboard. My dad and I even started a business repairing vintage wicker furniture. He was building the skeletons, and I was building the architecture around them. That business eventually paid my way through college.

Design is a way to communicate, tell stories, build an audience, and evoke a feeling about what it is to be human. It’s a spirit, an essence of who you are; it shouldn’t feel like work. For me, it started as a connection, developed into an expression, and then became a passion that gives me a sense of accomplishment and immediate gratification. It’s even grown into a bit of an obsession – always an extension of everything I do.

PB: What role does retail design play in the performance of a brand?
Good retail design creates a theater for your brand’s DNA – a place where customers can discover your brand story and have a positive, memorable experience that makes them want to stay. In that sense, it functions as a salesperson; even if the staff is busy, the shop itself has the ability to engage customers and sell. You experience this when you’re in a space that’s done really well. You just get it, you escape into the brand’s story, and you want more.

PB: What are some of your most notable design projects?
To this day, my favorite projects are still the ones I create with my parents. But professionally, I’m very proud of the projects Kiehl’s does that give back to our community. We create partnerships with high-end artists such as Jeff Koons, Kenny Scharf, Kaws, Faile, and Norman Rockwell’s Foundation. They design packaging, patterns and objects that are true to their styles and also complement our Kiehl’s DNA. These unique items fly off the shelves, and they generate money and awareness for the charities that Kiehl’s support.

PB: What will people gain from attending your conference presentation?
An interesting, purposeful discussion of how to create engagement through the retail experience and some great visuals. You might even be able to touch a texture or two.

Want to hear more from Maria? Join us at FUSE 2017. Learn, network and share best practices with the most influential leaders in brand, design and marketing. Stay connected at #FUSEdesign.


Author: plbieniekabc

I'm dedicated to growing your business legacy through strategic planning, collaborative brand building, and multi-media content creation and marketing. Contact me to create masterpiece communications for lasting impressions.

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