Upcoming Design Trends in 2024

How c-stores can apply the seven mentioned design principles.

March 28, 2024

Commercial printing company The Imagine Group released seven in-store marketing and retail design trends for 2024. They were: textures and patterns; layers; organic shapes; larger-than-life elements; color and light; fabric; and flexible and structural shelving.

According to Terry Monday, the chief strategy officer at the Imagine Group, those trends very much apply to the convenience store industry. “In many ways, (c-stores are) a wonderful space because they think about things in such a variety of ways,” she said. “What happens inside those stores is really kind of our jam.”

The Imagine Group works with a number of c-store retailers, and Monday said the partnership between the company and c-store begins with the retailer’s visual and marketing team to see how design can be used to drive the c-store’s message.

“For us, it’s really about how we make how we make things interesting and different in very small spaces,” Monday said. “These are very small spaces. And because they are very small spaces and because the person who’s behind the cash register is also the person who has to set all these up, what happens is (the design) becomes an awful lot about what the layout of the store is. And then, how do we help the retailer determine what that little itty bitty sign ought to look like and where it ought to be? What it should be made up of, and how it should be packed so that when the person who’s running the register gets a chance to open the box, the box is laid out?”

As mentioned in The Imagine Group’s trend report, there are other factors to consider, as well.

In terms of textures and patterns, think about what message you’re trying to convey: If you want to seem sleek, use smooth surfaces such as marble or steel; if you want to seem rugged, use materials such as wood. In terms of layering, try to figure out how your displays can look more interactive and three-dimensional—multiple layers to a window display can add a special touch, but Monday said c-stores have to be careful not to make things feel crowded or to cover up product. In terms of organic shapes, think about whether your space might benefit from softer curves instead of harsh lines.

Larger-than-life elements, another trend the Imagine Group’s report mentioned, can be used outside the c-store to make an impact on shoppers before they step foot inside the store. Advertisements can be interactive, and going big outside the store doesn’t overpower things like it might inside in a much smaller space.

Monday said color and light can play a huge role in c-store design, too—they “drive interest.”

“Where does color drive the eye? And how do you promote product with color and texture?” she said. “And how do you so how do you promote product with those (elements) without those elements being product, because (whatever product is being advertised) has to be the hero? So as you think about that, how do you surround (an item) so that a product has an experience?”

Flexible and structural shelving is crucial in c-stores because of the shifting nature of the industry—which also sees tons of foot traffic. Because c-stores often occupy a smaller space, shelving needs to be multifunctional and easily moveable. But the material also needs to meet longevity concerns “because there’s a lot of hands in a c-store,” Monday said.

Overall, Monday said, c-stores need to think about how they can pack a visual punch in a smaller space without overwhelming customers. Still, design elements are a must.

“Design is really about attracting consumers, and consumers are frequently expecting more,” Monday said. “People don’t have to go into a store. So the expectation in the retail space more broadly is that you create a space so that when people go in there, their expectations are elevated. So (c-stores should) think about what that ought to be and how it ought to align with their brand.”