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Not all Designers are the same!

Updated: Oct 25, 2019

Client is launching its brand new Product A. To get it out in the market, a few sales and marketing initiatives will need to take place. Print ads, brochures, leaflets, radio campaign, TV and then the on-the-ground stuff like roadshows and finally into the shelves.

Point of purchase (or POP for a quicker reference) is often used in these initiatives. In fact, research has shown that products on POP displays tend to sell more and faster. According to an article in the Journal of Academy of Marketing Science, retailers and manufacturers believe that POP displays lead to an increase in sales of products. No surprise there - when you have an attractive POP display, customers are instantly drawn to it and then to your product and if the price or promotion is right, chances are they are likely to pick up your product and purchase it.

There are many types of POPs - temporary displays used just for a couple of months to feature a promotion, discount or seasonal promotion; semi-permanent displays (also known as off-shelf displays or secondary displays) that are used longer in stores; and permanent displays, which are less common but nevertheless still used by some brands as a way to showcase their product permanently.

POP displays can be from a simple sign to an elaborate display. Retailers can use a wobbler (a sticker stuck to the end of the display shelf to draw attention as the customer walks down the aisle of the supermarket). Or they can go for a full standing display where their products are inside.

Whichever is used, one of the most important thing about POP is its design. In fact, design is the starting point of a POP project. Which is why it is important to get it right in the first place or there won't be a workable display.

The biggest problem I regularly face with design is this: Perception vs Reality. All POP displays start off with "visual" - what the client or the designer thinks it should look like. From there, the design work starts where the concept is put down on screen to create the artwork.

So a designer will perceive what the display will look like. Click here, click there, crop, extend, insert images - simple, right? Not quite. You see, designing for POP is not like your regular design job. It's not enough to just have this "visual"; it must actually work in real life.

What happens when you have a flawed design? A few scenarios:

1. The POP display cannot stand. Dimensions on the design simply cannot create an actual POP display that can stand - basically, the dimensions are all wrong and the POP display simply cannot be produced.

2. The POP display is totally distorted. Your design may look good - on screen. But in reality, when it is used for production, the end result is completely different, perhaps even distorted, from what you actually have in mind. Thought the display will be tall and sleek? Nope - your design is actually a short and stunted display.

3. The design is not practical. Without knowing exactly what is needed and how to make it work, your design for the POP display can be completely impractical. Plus, it may also be expensive to fabricate.

You could say that design is the starting point of the POP project. Which is why it is important to get it right in the first place or there won't be a workable display.


Here's how it's done when we create the POP design:

1. We work according to scale. What's a POP display's main objective? To hold the actual products securely, right? To do so, we have to design around the product. Meaning, we actually take into consideration the product dimension and weight, work with it to come up with something that we know will hold the products securely. Meaning, we come up with a design that serves its purpose - to hold and securely display the products on site.

2. We need to make sure there is ease of fabrication. You can come up with the fanciest, most attractive design for a POP display but when it comes to fabricating it, it is completely unrealistic or takes too much effort and time to do so. Then it is just that - a fancy design that doesn't work. So when designing for POP displays, we have to make sure that it meets all the requirements for ease of fabrication.

What are these requirements?

  • First, there is no wastage. Wastage equals to cost. Why would you want a design that lets you use only 1/3 of the material while wasting the rest? No, we need a design that maximises the material used.

  • Second, it is easy to assemble. POP displays are normally shipped out flat - much like your IKEA furniture. Imagine if the IKEA furniture you buy is difficult to set up? You probably wouldn't want to shop at IKEA anymore. Well - the same for the POP display. We need to ensure that the design creates a display that allows for self assembly so that when it is shipped to the site, it can be easily assembled by just about anyone as well as dismantled at the end of the promotional campaign.

  • Third, it strikes a fine balance between creativity and fabrication installation. Our design must not only make sure that it is easy to assemble, it needs to look good after the assembling process as well.

3. It needs to meet the client's budget. You can have a design that looks great using mixed materials and fancy structures. But it will remain just a concept if whatever is being proposed is way out of budget. Hence, when we do our POP design, cost and the client's budget is one of our main focus. We need to ensure that we use the least materials and yet still come up with exactly what our client has in mind. Knowing how to factor this into the design is not easy. You will need to understand how different materials will look and feel; what the production process is like for these display and essentially what solutions will derive at the desired outcome. All this comes with experience.

It is possible to meet all three requirements - budget, creativity and efficiency - to have a great POP display. But to do so, you need to acknowledge that designing for POP is not like any other design process.

So what am I recommending? Well, two ways - get the right training to truly understand that POP design process. Or work closely with your POP supplier. They are the ones who will be fabricating the end product so they know exactly what will work and what won't. Work with a reputable and experienced supplier who will guide and advice you every step of the way. You don't want to work with a supplier who will just take a flawed design, fabricate it and when everything goes wrong, simply says, "Well, you gave us the design. We just followed it."

With POP, there is no limit to creativity. Everything is possible... but only with the right design.

Ivan Lim is the co-founder of P.O.P Specialist. An engineer by qualification and with over 20 years of experience in the POP business, he's seen all sorts of designs and knows what works, what won't. If you have any questions or want to find out more about POP design, email .

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