The Threadless Store
The Threadless Store
The concept for the store was to translate the online experience of Threadless into a real-world setting, while also serving as a gallery for the newest two weeks' worth of the tees released on the website. Just as new tees are available online every week, new tees are introduced into the store every week. If you missed something you wanted from the store, you could simply buy it online (even while in the store).
The architect on the project was Joel Huffman of Vertu, and overall design was a collaborative effort between him, Jake Nickell, and myself. The 2-story, 1,700 sq ft. space was demo'd and rebuilt from the ground up. All details of the store including fixtures were custom designed and fabricated. The store opened in September 2007. The images below describe some of my design and ideas for the store.
This is the first thing that I designed for the store – custom-sized, printed Tyvek panels to let the neighborhood know that a Threadless store was on its way. We started generating buzz in the neighborhood and the press just by putting these up. That was pretty exciting.
I'm just gonna put this out there: the sign is kinda ridiculous. I swear I meant for it to be more tasteful. This was my first time designing the exterior of a building so I struggled with the size of the sign a bit. I settled on a 50" tall x 170" wide logo cut out of metal, and powder coated dark blue. When the sign guy talked about backlit LEDs that matched our light blue color, we were sold.
When I saw it for the first time at night I laughed in that "holy crap, what have we done?" sort of way. Don't get me wrong, the sign is awesome – I just suppose we should discussed how bright those LEDs would end up being. Photo: Jeff Woelker
Window display concept
This was the original 10-second illustration I used to explain having monitor heads on the tees in the front window. The idea was to have the store's local community be "modeling the tees" by taking a headshot in the store. All of the saved images are then displayed on the exterior monitors on a loop. You can sorta see them in action in image above this one.
Enormous props to Threadless' engineering team for making this, and and the rest of the custom-built technology for the store, actually function. It's an amazing experience working with people who can figure out how to build literally anything you can think of, online or off.
Exterior sticker panels
I was tasked with designing the entire exterior of the store. This leaves a lot of options. We were having a discussion about whether to replace the front windows with new ones, and along those lines, the topic came up of whether we wanted to add etch-resistent coating. I started thinking about normal vandalism that happens most to stores (stickers, tagging). and had an idea. If we covered the entire front of our store with stickers, it wouldn't look that bad if someone tagged over them or added their own stickers.
Everyone in the company pitched in to apply stickers to these huge metal panels that were ultimately installed as the entire facade of the store. Photo: iDanSimpson
This is the finished art work for what would become the front door mat. Obviously the "in" pointed into the store, so customers were "logging into" the store. I can't believe I'm explaining this as if it wasn't super obvious. What I love about this mat is that it's just like so many other things we did, because... why not? Having fun and joking around was on-brand.
Registers and product wall
The fact that this wall exists is kinda miraculous. Before we had even decided to take this space, Jake Nickell and I came up with the idea to have a giant wall of tees that used a library ladder. We lucked out finding a 2-story space that could suit the idea.
Our architect suggested we use our "wall of tees" idea for a wall of backstock because there was no room to store it in the back office. This also allowed us to maintain public floorspace by not having to create non-public space for backstock.
It's really fun to stand on the ladder and roll from one side to the other. Which, of course... I... never... did... Photo: Theadless Chicago
The customer computers were used for taking a photo of your head for use in the front window displays. We built a little Flash application that made it easy for people to take photos that worked well in the windows. I'm really happy that customers were into the idea of putting their face in the window. It's one of my favorite parts of the store. Photo: iDanSimpson
Tee display fixtures
The coolest thing about these displays, in my opinion, is the tech that runs them. If you think that Harper Reed is smart, I assure you I can prove that he's even smarter. Each display is individually controlled online via a custom-built CMS. All the store employees do is update the product on the shelves, and Threadless HQ handles updating the displays with new info and images.
One small detail I designed on the shirt shelves is that if a shelf is completely bare, there's a decal on the shelf that says to ask for your size or go to the website to purchase it. Even though people were in the store, the website is integrated everywhere it can be. We wanted the store was to get more people onto the website. Photo: Threadless Chicago
Display fixture monitor
This is one of the five display designs I did. There's New, Reprinted, Regular (2nd week), On Sale, and Exclusive. The monitor at the top of each product display acts like the tee's "product page", even scrolling comments from users about the design from the website across the bottom. Photo: Threadless Chicago
Since we joked around a lot on the site, I thought it was important to carry that through into the store as well. Shown above is an example of that with the bathroom on the left and the store's office on the right. Photo: Andy Simon
Online and offline store hours
Unlike traditional stores, we thought of the retail store as an extension of the website. For that reason, I felt it was important to put the website URL with the store hours. I was pretty sure at the time I designed the store hours decal that 99.9% of the people who came to the store wouldn't have any idea what "IRL" means, but that's OK. Photo: Mr. Toaster
Fitting room mat
The fitting room is in a tight spot around a corner with no available wall space for signage. I thought putting a bright-colored mat on the floor pointing to the changing room would do the trick.
The design is based off of the button style from the website at the time. Just like you'd "log in/out" at the front entrance, you "click" try or buy at the changing room. Yes, "buy" is a bit presumptuous, but I thought it was funny.
Threadless Lifestyle Gallery
I always liked to pay attention to what brands our online community liked and talked about. That lead to the idea to invite other brands that were in the Threadless "lifestyle" to have presence inside our store for a few weeks.
This flyer above is from when Timbuk2 did a pop-up shop in the store. At the time, we were working on a co-branded promotion where we chose 3 designs to print on both tees and bags. The timing made perfect sense to invite them to be the first guest in the Lifestyle Gallery. Flyer design by Timbuk2