Theory Studies: Archetypical Retail Practices In Contemporary Interior Design

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This thesis is written in contribution to the ongoing Intypes (Interior Archetypes) Research and Teaching Project, established at Cornell University in 1997. Intypes are derived from historical interior design practices that are reiterative and represent design ideals that span time, style and culture. This study identifies, classifies, and names archetypical interior design practices in professionally designed contemporary retail interiors. Intypes offer an interior design-specific vocabulary for the analysis and criticism of the creative dimension of design. Prior to the Intypes Project, established archetypes had not formally been identified in interior design as in the architecture discipline. Associating names with interior archetypes provides a tool for the study and practice of interior design. Generating a body of knowledge and placing contemporary interior design practice within a historical context affords credibility to the profession. The methodology is one of typology, or classification. Images of retail interiors were gathered and sorted based on common design traits and potential archetypes were proposed to the greater research group. The strongest and most far-reaching traits were deemed intypes, given intuitive names, and put forth for further examination. Retail is an important practice type to study through the lens of design typologies because of its societal and cultural impact. Shopping is a popular leisure activity, and stores, as semi-public spaces, contribute significantly to the urban fabric and sense of place. Retail interiors also experience a high turnover rate due to the nature of selling and therefore generate a quick pulse on current design practice. Nine retail intypes in total were identified and researched. Five existing intypes that were previously found in other interior practice types were also found to occur in retail environments: Salon, Showcase Stair, Marching Order, Light Seam and White Out. Four intypes were newly identified and named: Vitrine, Split Column, Bilateral and Then Now. The retail intypes are diverse in strategy and application, ranging from overall spatial treatments or qualities to individual design elements, such as light or a stair. Most, however, ultimately serve the greater purpose of product display as a fundamental component of retail design. The majority of the archetypical practices have been in use for at least fifty years, many of them even longer. Retail also presents several intypes clusters, or archetypical practices that frequently appear together. Each of the intypes is supported by a visual argument constituted by a chronological sequence of the intype's use through time. The images are supplemented with discussion of effect where the design practices are placed within historical context. The research behind the retail intypes presented here will also be made available on the Intypes Project's The free website provides students, academics and professionals with access to a wealth of knowledge and research that gives name to archetypical interior design practices and illuminates how contemporary interior design practice is informed by historical precedent.
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interior design; retail; intypes
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Gibson, Kathleen Joan
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Lewis, Van Dyke
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M.A., Design
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Master of Arts
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Government Document
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dissertation or thesis
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