The Age of Collaboration: Mastering the Modern Retail Experience

Chicago, IL

This post has been contributed by Carson Smith, Art Director, Schawk, Chicago, IL.

Engaging consumers and influencing purchase has changed from a simple funnel to a dynamic journey - the “Age of Collaboration” references a new way of working within the Brand Production industry. Gone are the days of closing your studio door, shutting out the world, and working on deliverables until 3am the day they are due – artists can no longer afford to work in isolation.

Creatives are now challenged to work with financial and data partners, programmers, technology experts, other creatives, and a whole slew of additional team members to get the job done. It is well known that the retail industry is drastically changing and media outreach is far beyond where it began. In an article published by CNBC they stated “Half of all global advertising dollars will be spent online by 2020, matching the worldwide combined ‘offline’ ad spend, such as TV, print ads and billboard posters," and according to forecasts, "mobile platforms are experimenting with new ad formats all the time.” An artist now needs to be an informed creative, someone who can collaborate across a variety of markets.

It all starts with strategy.

Strategy is at the forefront of everything we do. With every shot, with every block of copy, our teams are helping create the voice and position of brands, and we want to ensure that a strategic foundation informs our content creation.

The ideal workflow is a content ecosystem – a supply chain, not just one image. Our team is thinking about how each image is representing the brand, living in a variety of media spaces, and how it can ultimately expand into the unknown.

Within our content ecosystem we strive to combine production, technology, analytics, image quality, cutting edge equipment, and real time client feedback to create an immersive and holistic experience for our collaborators. Our partnerships go beyond client relationships. We engage outside companies, understand best practices and study new strategies, which help to expand our capabilities. There is always plenty of new opportunities, plenty of people to utilize, and more than enough work to go around.

By forcing ourselves to be continually adapting we are opening ourselves up to opportunities that we may not have the capacity for.

Just like open source code, this industry is meant to share best practices and our clients are the ones that see the benefits. By collaborating with purposeful content, brands fuel communication efforts across a growing number of marketing channels. Consistent, well-positioned content creates engagement, retention and increases conversions.

Everybody wins.

The industry is not done changing and technology is not done expanding in the retail environment. In a recent article published by Forbes Mike Karanikolas from the online retailer Revolve Clothing stated that “[technological advancements are] a reactive science, not a predictive art.”

The article then goes on to claim “The investment being made in artificial intelligence now is staggering." According to a report recently issued by Stanford University, the number of active US startups developing AI systems has increased 14x since 2000. It then becomes our challenge to continue to embrace our partnerships and collaborate to meet the new demands of the industry.

It is our strategy to set new industry standards, to remain objective, and to continue to be good partners in a variety of spaces. Migrating the spaces between projects and mediums results in more content, more consistency, and more synergy. Arts and sciences have blended to form a new territory, and the possibilities are endless.


Carson Smith will be a panelist at The Age of Collaboration: A Retail Symposium hosted by The Fashion Group International of Chicago (FGI) — Tuesday, February 20, 2018.  

The event will engage the audience of fashion, retail entrepreneurs and corporate professionals alike. Speakers will share how the industry is interacting in unique, unexpected and surprising ways to master the modern retail experience. To thrive and stay relevant in retail, we must evolve in the social and mobile fields, and use data trends to engage in consumer’s lives, both online and offline.