Conestoga news

April 26, 2024 10:35 AM

Visual Merchandising Arts students transform space into underwater experience

The Cove transported visitors into an immersive underwater experience created by students in Conestoga’s Visual Merchandising Arts program.

The Cove.jpg
Meghana Mohan Kumar shows off the Cove retail store experience created by students in the Visual Merchandising Arts program.

The exhibit at the Kitchener - Doon campus on April 18 included several booths using interactive technology leading to the class capstone project - a retail space that embraced the underwater theme.

The winning idea came from student Meghana Mohan Kumar. All the students came up with a concept store, digitally designing the space and planning every detail, from the fixtures and colours to products stocked - all adding up to the overall experience.

Students then voted on one project to physically build and Mohan Kumar’s whimsical underwater design was chosen to recreate from the ground up.

“Everybody else’s ideas were amazing too,” Mohan Kumar said.

Professor and program co-ordinator Andrea Hein commended the students’ teamwork. “Each student was then given a physical portion of the store to build, whether that was corals out of foam, mannequin styling for the mermaids or seaweed fabrication for the walls. They all came together to build the Cove,” Hein said.

The time flew by quickly for the student team as they built the store from scratch, even doing final touch-ups the morning before the evening opening.

“We thought we would never be able to complete it,” Mohan Kumar said.

Then came the moment they all waited for: “We didn’t know it was awesome until we put on the lights.”

Everything inside was handmade, with the exception of merchandise stocking the shelves, such as notebooks, pens, backpacks and hoodies - all items students in the Visual Merchandising Arts program use daily.

The coral was made with spray foam and paint, then embellished with shells and other items. Translucent-looking jellyfish hung from the ceiling with delicate lights trailing below. A mermaid with a green and teal tail matching the store’s colour palette was outfitted in a hoodie emblazoned with the program name.

Of course, there were also technology issues for the students to overcome with the other displays made for the final retail merchandising course, focused on the use of interactive technology for a unique customer experience that can draw people away from online shopping.

Visitors were first greeted by an artificial intelligence talking mermaid who explained the program, followed by a digital waterfall, virtual reality booth, and an augmented-reality photobooth where a scanned code led to an Instagram filter to enhance the booth decorated like an aquarium.

Two awards were also given out at the event:

* The Excellence in Visionary Design award celebrates a student who demonstrates an exceptional creative approach in design. The recipient shows creativity above and beyond the expectations of faculty while inspiring other students to harness their own creativity.

Mohan Kumar won for her continuing creative excellence.

* The Outstanding Effort award recognizes a recipient who is both resilient and flexible with their ideas and shows the capability to adapt their creative vision to the needs of the task at hand. The student maintains a positive attitude throughout all tasks and happily accepts design challenges as new opportunities.

Joanna Sinajon won this award for her perpetual optimism and effort in all projects.

Both awards had a $1,000 prize.

The students’ creativity was also spotlighted for the entire community to see over the winter holidays when they installed a life-sized Candyland-themed holiday display at the Kitchener - Downtown campus.

The two-year Visual Merchandising Arts diploma program prepares students for the creative industry of retail design and development. The art of window displays, prop making, graphic design, event planning and photo styling is combined with the science of floor planning, planogramming, branding and marketing, and entrepreneurship to create an inviting and interactive environment for the consumer.

The program focuses on project-based, hands-on learning. It’s part of Conestoga’s School of Creative Industries, which offers dynamic programs spanning all aspects of media, communication and design.