Designed to Sell: The Evolution of Modern Merchandising and Display, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Designed to Sell

The Evolution of Modern Merchandising and Display, 1st Edition

By Alessandra Wood


224 pages | 55 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781138344723
pub: 2020-04-02
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Designed to Sell presents an engaging account of mid-twentieth century department store design and display in America from the 1930s to the 1960s. It traces the development of post-war philosophies of retail design that embodied aesthetics and function and new modes of merchandise display, resulting in the emergence of a new type of industrial designer.

The evolution of aesthetics in department stores during this period reflected larger cultural shifts in consumer behaviour and lifestyle. Designed to Sell explores these changes using five key case studies and original archival sources to reveal the link between designers and consumption beyond the design of individual objects. It argues that design is not simply connected to retail consumption, but that it is capable of controlling how and where customers shop and what they are drawn to purchase.

This book contextualises this discussion and brings it up to date for students and scholars interested in design, retail and interior history.

Table of Contents


Scope and Thesis


Chapter Organization

Note on Sources

1 Setting the Stage: Design and Display at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

Merchandising at the Turn of the Century

Spectacle and the Museumification of Displays

Display Men, Window Dressers, and the First Merchandisers

Display Before Visual Merchandising: "Scientific Selling"

2 The Development of Visual Merchandising

Professionalization of Interior Display

The Introduction of "Visual Merchandising"

3 Downtown Remodeling: Implementing New Conversations

Selling Modernism

Raymond Loewy and The Foley Brothers Department Store

Gimbels Gets The Raymond Loewy "Magic Touch"

4 The Challenge of Efficiency in a Specialty Shop

Differences in Display: Merchandising in Upscale Specialty Stores

Neiman Marcus, 1941 and 1953


5 Seeing Change: The "Personality" of a Store

Early Suburban Branch Locations

"Informality" at Neiman Marcus, Preston Center

Raymond Loewy Associates’ "Community" Building

6 "Image Building" In the Shopping Center, the 1960s

From Small-Town Store to National Retailer: The J.C. Penney Company

Together Under One Roof: The NorthPark Mall


About the Author

Alessandra Wood is a design historian with an eye towards the future. She received her PhD in History of American Civilization at the University of Delaware, her M.A. in History of Design and Decorative Arts from Parsons, The New School for Design, and her B.A. in History of Art from Johns Hopkins University. A lover of design history & theory, she is obsessed with applying that knowledge to understand what makes products beautiful, useful, and successful, and what inspires people to love those products. With expertise in scaling design processes, she has a refined eye for style, and strives to make art and design accessible to all. Her current role as VP of Style at Modsy has allowed her work on the compelling challenge of reimagining the way we design our homes. In her free time Alessandra is an adjunct professor of design history and theory.

About the Series

Routledge Research in Interior Design

The Routledge Research in Interior Design series provides the reader with the latest scholarship in the field of interiors. The series publishes research from across the globe and covers areas as diverse as the history and theory of interiors, evidence-based case studies, technology, digital interior design, materials, details, monographs of interior designers, and much more. By making these studies available to the worldwide academic community, the series aims to promote quality interior design research.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ARCHITECTURE / Interior Design / General
ARCHITECTURE / Interior Design / Lighting
ARCHITECTURE / Buildings / Public, Commercial & Industrial