Nothing says 'open for business' like a crisp, trendy storefront

Take it from graphics veteran Nicole Roberts. She's the director of the Cincinnati-based design firm FRCH Design Worldwide, which works with clients including Target, Macy's, Disney, and more. Among companies large and small, the biggest design mistake she sees is not knowing when to say when. "The problem [with design] is usually figuring out how to simplify," she says. 

Most recently, Roberts partnered with the grocery chain Whole Foods on a graphics project, which was completed on Thursday. Whole Foods stores located in Columbia, Maryland, Dayton, Ohio and Ashburn, Virginia have been touched up to better reflect the local environment.

The idea, she explains, is to "take some of the corporate messaging and not have it feel so corporate." New details like hanging bike wheels, wine barrel strappings, hand-crafted illustrations, and reclaimed wood help to give the spaces a more natural feel--and that's something she's found almost universally appeals to shoppers.

Whole Foods, which reaps a staggering $14 billion in annual sales, and has 414 stores across the country, has been making a bigger effort to attract more (notably, younger) customers as of late. Consider that in May of this year, the business announced that it would be rolling out an off-shoot for Millennials--called 365 by Whole Foods--to include similar products but at cheaper price points. (It's worth noting that the reception, especially in the Los Angeles enclave, Silver Lake, has been less than warm. There, the upcoming store has been nicknamed "Half Foods.") 

Still, if market research serves, it's no secret that customers--and Millennials, especially--are attracted by visual imagery. Here are three things to keep in mind when crafting your own storefront:

1. Stay true to the local atmosphere.

These Whole Foods locations look very different from one another.

In Dayton, the store pays homage to the Wright Brothers, who are credited with inventing the first airplane. They were originally from Ohio's sixth-biggest city. The space includes illustrations of bicycles, as well as fruit and meat icons. "It subtly hearkens back to the local heritage," says Roberts. There, stencil-work is meant to evoke a "blueprint" for an airplane. 

The Ashburn store, nestled in Northern Virginia's horse country, has adopted "equestrian and vineyard" themed graphics. (Hence, the wine barrel strappings that hang from the ceiling.) The overall mood is rustic and hearty, Roberts says.

In Columbia, the team wanted to maintain the original architecture of the building itself, because it was designed by famed architect Frank Ghery. This store nods to his heritage of "deconstructionism." In other words, it's minimalist overall, but shoppers can enjoy sporadic dashes of color.

Roberts notes that she had to work within the constraints of the brand's larger emphasis--on simplicity, and organic eating--so her team kept signage "straight forward" and to the point.

2. Don't overdo it.

Nothing reads as less authentic than clashing colors and loud signs.  

"When you walk into a store, you can only perceive a certain amount of messages," Roberts explains. "It's all in the hierarchy of the communication. You need to know what you want your customer to visualize [first,] and design around that."

Roberts echoes the stream of Millennial voices, calling for authenticity in brand marketing. If something feels contrived--or unnecessarily gaudy--you're going to drive away your customers.

3. Involve your staff.

Atmosphere isn't just created by interior designers, it's created by your staffers, too. 

At these Whole Foods locations, workers are part of the ambiance. For example, workers are responsible for writing and updating the signage, and they post stories about individual farmers and vineyards where select items were sourced.

Of course, since the new storefronts just opened this week, it's difficult to say whether the re-design will have any major impact on the company's sales. Though, Roberts notes that the opening day celebrations were "hugely successful" in each location.