Karen S. Herman

Founder/Retail Design Strategist, Gustie Creative LLC

With more than 25 years of executive level experience in commercial design, planning, project management and strategic marketing, I am passionate about good design, retail design strategy and design innovation.

I’ve worked with architecture firms, retailers, advertising and marketing firms, corporations, real estate companies, property developers, and owners of small to medium size businesses, to design corporate, commercial, retail, hospitality, and mixed use interior spaces, destination experiences and collateral materials.

I enjoy beta testing new technologies (Google Glass, Project Tango) and writing articles on design and technology for trade publications. Also enjoy speaking to small and large groups on both topics. I believe in giving back to my community through mentoring and serving on non-profit boards.

Gustie Creative is a full service design firm specializing in commercial and retail design, retail design strategy, and design innovation. We are passionate about creating disruptive retail. Our exclusive and unique approach to disruptive retail consists of five Pillars of strategy and 30 Paths of design that take our clients’ brand or business into the marketplace when, where, and for as long as they desire. Our clients include Zimmerman Advertising, Warren Technology Inc., Wind2Share, FloSpine, Bagel Twins Bagelry and Restaurant and HelpedHope.

Gustie Creative is my second company. My first was Creative Direct Solutions, Inc., founded in Stamford, CT, in 1995. This company was in business for 13 years and focused on delivering a tailored design approach that integrated technology with a clear design aesthetic, project management and customer service. Clients included Calvin Klein, Inc., New York Athletic Club, New York Palace, MediaPost, GRS and The Ledges.

Prior to starting Creative Direct Solutions, Inc., I worked for ten years in senior interior design and project management positions with architecture firms including Mancini-Duffy Inc. and Gould Evans. I attended the University of Kansas where I completed studies in interior design and was a varsity member of the women’s golf team.

Other Links From Karen S. Herman
Karen’s Design Blog

  • Posted on: 08/31/2017

    Are fashion trends moving too fast for retail?

    Yes, the influence of digital marketing and social media on shopper decision making is tremendous. When you can shop with your smartphone 24/7, having to wait a month or two or six to get a desired product in your hands is asking a lot. While H&M and Zara benefit from constantly improving a fast fashion supply chain strategy, the in-season equivalent for fashion designers, "see now, buy now" has not worked so well for Tom Ford, Thakoon, Burberry and others. Smart retailers are reassessing their production methods and supply chains to determine what works best for their products and customers. Running after trends is not the answer.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2017

    Can vending units help Uniqlo achieve success in the U.S.?

    Mobile retail is a smart choice that provides convenience in a small footprint for on-the-go shoppers. In the past, we've mostly seen vending by box, such as Best Buy.Today I see forward thinking brands finding mobile vending a new channel to explore. Benefit Cosmetics is a great example with "Glam Up and Away" vending machine kiosks in major airports across the US. Uniqlo is on target to test this concept with design and packaging that is authentic to the brand. These six foot tall vending units are a great opportunity to introduce Uniqlo to a wide range of consumers, learn which products people want to buy and capture important analytics the entire time. Smart move.
  • Posted on: 05/24/2017

    Will Amazon’s use of data transform how retailers operate stores?

    Other retailers can learn from Amazon Books to present an exclusive and highly-curated selection of products, encourage shoppers to use their smartphone for information and education and provide the opportunity to touch and feel their most innovative products. Apple started this experiential retail model years ago. Many retailers have followed it.The difference here is data. What Amazon does with data, churned through machine learning algorithms and AI, is both daunting and brilliant. Few retailers can compete.It's the consumer who wins. Amazon Books provides a unique value for the shopper who wants a data-driven selection of books to choose from and doesn't want to wait for the delivery to her doorstep.
  • Posted on: 04/19/2017

    Will help PetSmart gobble up the online pet market?

    Wowza. So many interesting online and offline retail opportunities to consider with PetSmart's acquisition of Chewy. First, this pairing should continue to generate an attractive challenge to online pet product shopping with Amazon. I'm wondering if Amazon will roll out a dedicated pet products Pop Up Store in response. Secondly, bringing the Chewy brand in-store at PetSmart offers the opportunity to elevate the experience and delight and engage shoppers. From flash sales to interactive kiosks to branded fixtures or a Chewy Pop Up Shop, shopping the Chewy brand in-store should be a memorable experience that complements the culture Chewy has cultivated online.
  • Posted on: 03/10/2017

    Has proven that online sales are going to the dogs?

    Passion and pets go hand-in-hand. Pet owners love rewarding their precious dogs, cats, fish, birds, reptiles and horses. This is exactly what has tapped into with its online marketplace of pet supplies, food, treats and toys. Tremendous potential for growth exists as the U.S. pet specialty retail channel grows, with nutrition, aging, health and wellness and food safety as just a few emerging trends.We are advising our clients that sell pet food and other products in-store to apply to become an available brand on and to invest in disruptive retail solutions to reach and reward consumers offline.
  • Posted on: 03/07/2017

    Will the joking stop now that IKEA furniture can be assembled in minutes?

    IKEA's commitment to innovation continues with the wedge dowel. In addition to making furniture easier to assemble and disassemble, this is a sustainable design move that reduces the use of metals for fasteners and screws and gets rid of those hex wrenches, Allen keys, whatever you want to call them, and all the extra packaging that comes with each product purchased. Bravo IKEA!
  • Posted on: 01/17/2017

    What’s stalling the virtual reality consumer market?

    What I've learned through many tech meetups and beta testing smart glasses, AR and VR is that consumer adaption to technology is a very personal journey that will continue to grow highly customized.I see adaption to VR mostly in gaming and entertainment. Within gaming, consumers will use what they are comfortable with, whether it is a smartphone tucked into a VR viewer or the full Oculus headset. Consumers will watch movies, explore new online communities such as The SoulKeeper and engage in personal experiences in custom built environments such as The Void (which is now branded as "Hyper Reality.")Educating consumers on VR is an important aspect of adaption and I'm pleased that Facebook chose pop-ups as a path to discovery in malls and airports over the holidays.
  • Posted on: 01/09/2017

    What do Millennials want in store design?

    A tidy, organized shopping experience that is easy to navigate sounds like something every consumer would desire, not only Millennials. Our research at Gustie strongly indicates that Millennials are looking for consumer-centered brand experiences, with elevated in-store shopping opportunities that inform, entertain and build trust. The KITH store in Miami is one good example.The fact that digital components like interactive touchscreens and videos were not included in this study, as Tom pointed out, is disappointing. Retailers have a real advantage with Millennials to incorporate digital components and move to a small footprint, as they redesign.
  • Posted on: 12/15/2016

    Will test show Amazon’s drone program is ready to take off?

    Drones are already used for agricultural monitoring, data collection, surveillance, and security as part of the Smart Cities movement across the US. Retail and medical drone deliveries here in the States are only a matter of time and politics.The U.K. is taking an aggressive step in innovation by actively planning to safely integrate drone deliveries into their aviation program. Working with Amazon to establish best practices for safely deploying these retail drones is brilliant.I see retail drone deliveries occurring in congested urban areas, the spacious suburbs and certainly rural areas. The logistics are already underway here, with fulfillment centers being built or negotiated in strategic locations.
  • Posted on: 12/12/2016

    Is appreciation the best gift retailers can give workers this Christmas?

    I'm in agreement with Al's comments and believe that recognition for a job well done goes a long way in motivating seasonal front-line employees. Gift exchanges and office parties may have some benefits but carry the risk of backfiring. Best to keep the sales floor humming with warm words of recognition, and for added appreciation, a small gift of an item or an experience to be enjoyed individually by each employee, creates a lasting memory. Save the party for a mid-winter recap of holiday sales.
  • Posted on: 11/14/2016

    American Express doubles down on ‘Shop Small’

    The best way for any local retailer to support Small Business Saturday is to go all-in and take advantage of the materials and programs provided by #ShopSmall. This year, in particular, the scope of marketing materials available and support given online are impressive. From a bandana for the store mascot, to balloons, pennants, selfie hearts, and unique experiences to mark the day, this movement is all about giving and sharing love for local business and having a good time while you participate.Honestly, it just feels good to know you're supporting your local economy and helping small business owners survive and thrive. So go ahead ... #ShopSmall on November 26th. Chances are that you'll enjoy every minute.
  • Posted on: 10/13/2016

    HSN and QVC shop for retail store space

    As QVC and HSN look to create an offline retail presence, I would like to see them leverage concept stores with shoppable walls in urban areas and mobile retail, such as fashion trucks, for urban and rural areas. These specific offline retail formats complement the mobile apps and AR the networks are developing and would give a cool, techie edge to bolster brand recognition.Brands and businesses have many other options than pop up stores and I'd like to see these networks double down on creative and digitally integrated offline retail. Cool and connected is the way to go here.
  • Posted on: 09/23/2016

    Will retailers be treated to a record-setting Halloween?

    Halloween gives shoppers the chance to celebrate their individual creativity and is truly a DIY holiday. Not surprised that shoppers are eager to celebrate and "eight in 10 Americans will shop by mid-October." Who wouldn't, given the fun and festivities to enjoy before the extra effort that comes with shopping in November and deciding between Singles Day, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday ... then December, with the barrage of sales, specials, GWPs and BOGOs? Now THAT'S scary!
  • Posted on: 09/19/2016

    Amazon’s Prime Now delivers beauty in a hurry

    I see this as an excellent way to support certain types of SMBs, such as Merz Apothecary, and give them a unique advantage over their competition, in this case, the ubiquitous CVS and Walgreens stores that dominate street corners.Love the fact that an established, 141 year old brand is partnering with an online retailer and gaining a new revenue stream with on-demand delivery. I think it will be successful in urban areas and is a service certain demographics will utilize.
  • Posted on: 09/15/2016

    When will AR and VR become “realities” at retail?

    Brands and businesses need to integrate AR and VR strategically and holistically into their omnichannel strategies for a successful adaption by customers and clients.I see IKEA doing this well with the AR catalog app they introduced in 2013. I also see the NFL integrating VR nicely with more than a dozen teams using VR to better train players and improve performance.Lowe's is rolling out Holoroom with Oculus and time will tell how shoppers adapt. What is cool in this case is that the design developed in-store can be uploaded to YouTube and viewed at home on Google Cardboard with the shoppers smartphone.AR and VR are already transforming the shopping experience, online and offline. In certain respects, they are paving the way for MR — Mixed Reality.

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