The VM+SD 11th Annual International Visual Competition Winners

Apple's iPod mini in the window is winner of 2004 contest
Posted August 4, 2004

Praised for its execution in making "the product the hero," Apple's light show for the iPod mini window took Best of Show honors in this year's VM+SD International Visual Competition. "Its simplicity works," said one judge.

"It sells the product by offering a very focused message." The company's display also won First Place in the Windows/Product category.

VM+SD's yearly competition is designed to celebrate achievements in visual merchandising. Judges gathered in April at the Cincinnati offices of FRCH Design Worldwide for the 11th annual competition. This year's panel included: Niki Adrian, vp, creative director, graphic design, FRCH; Brian Akers, associate design director, Landor Associates; Brent Hodge, visual merchandiser, Arhaus; Robert Weber, senior designer, Federated Department Stores; and Jennifer Wilson, freelance designer, artist and former J.C. Penney visual merchandiser.

From a worldwide collection of entries, judges said they appreciated the different uses of materials and props -- from everyday Fruit Loops to original 17th Century flocked wallpaper; the use of layers in visual presentations; and superb execution of windows, some of which included live butterflies and LED acrylic light tubes.

First place and Award of Merit winners are featured on the following pages. For more information on next year's competition, contact Anne DiNardo at 513-263-9337 or at Also look for upcoming competition details at

Best of Show and First Place Windows/Product

iPod mini Window
Apple, Union Square, San Francisco

Apple's David Liddle, senior manager of visual merchandising, had been waiting for the perfect opportunity to use LED technology in a window display. That chance came last February when Apple's iPod mini finally hit stores and Apple sought to announce the petite product's arrival in a big way.

"This was the first time that we had color back in the [Apple] line since the iMacs and I really wanted to capitalize on that and generate excitement," said Liddle. "This is what our customers have been asking for for years."

Working with Element Labs (Austin, Texas) and Bender Brothers (San Francisco), designers created LEDs that matched the mini-song player's five new colors -- silver, gold, blue, pink and green. The LED lights are housed in custom 44-inch tubes and are programmed in a variety of sequences, from blinking and waving to filling each tube with color. Atop each tube sits the iPod in the corresponding color, while behind is a banner with oversized images and the tagline, "Little. The next big thing."

"I've got about three seconds to catch somebody's eye when they're walking by a store," says Liddle. "This managed to do that."

In fact, Liddle says, store managers from across the country sent him images of customers standing out in front of stores watching the mini light show.

The judges agreed. "It just catches your eye," said one.

Client: Apple, Cupertino, Calif. -- David Liddle, senior manager, visual merchandising; Hannah Robinson, visual coordinator; Tracey Finger, Gordon Rempel, regional managers

Suppliers: ColorEdge, New York (banners); Element Labs, Austin, Texas (LED technology); Bender Brothers, San Francisco (light tube fixture); B&N Industries, Burlingame, Calif. (track and cabling systems)

Dwight Eschliman, San Francisco