Retail Revolutionaries

VMSD unveils its 2019 class of Designer Dozen
Posted April 2, 2019

There’s no doubt that the only constant in the retail industry today is change. No longer is the “same old, same old” even remotely acceptable to a demanding consumer that has more options than ever at his or her fingertips. To ensure a flourishing future, retail designers, architects and visual merchandisers are called upon to reimagine, reinvent, dare we say, rise up against the old and familiar.

Enter VMSD’s annual Designer Dozen awards, now in its eighth year, which recognizes the industry’s rising stars, ages 35 and under, who we believe will help shape the future of retail.

The multidisciplinary designers, architects and visual merchandisers we’ve selected this year caught our eye not only because of their dedication to design excellence in every aspect, but also for their contributions to their respective organizations, leading key initiatives and inspiring fellow team members.

From young up-and-comers who juggle multiple roles, both creative and strategic, to focused specialists who push the envelope in their respective fields, our Designer Dozen honorees are working hard every day to further innovation in retail design and visual merchandising and help reimagine the in-store customer experience in the process.

It’s our honor to introduce the exceptional winners of VMSD’s 2019 Designer Dozen below.

Photography: Courtesy of FRCH Nelson, Cincinnati

Dina Campolito      

Age: 30 \ Senior Interior Designer

FRCH Nelson \ Cincinnati

Why her? 

Dina’s quick ideas and innate ability to bring a concept to life in a short time frame are immeasurable assets to her as a senior interior designer at FRCH Nelson. During her time at the firm, she has continued expanding her knowledge of 3-D rendering and visualization, taking it upon herself to hone her design development skills while exploring new technology for the studio. Most recently she worked with Levi’s to help create a new store concept, and also with American Girl to create a “Store of the Future” prototype that will debut this November in New York’s Rockefeller Center.

Photography: Courtesy of FRCH Nelson, Cincinnati

If budget were no object, I’d…

“…have a lot of fun! However, as freeing as a limitless budget sounds, I do feel that there are instances in which finding creative solutions for obstacles in design, whether they are based on budget, site conditions, brand guidelines, et cetera, can be a really fulfilling part of the design process.”

Photography: Luca Zamparo

Federico Fraternale 

Age: 27 \ Head of Design

Restore \ Bengaluru, India

Why him?

Federico leads a team of more than 20 architects, interior designers, product designers and visual merchandisers, inspiring, guiding and mentoring them. He personally designs key projects and is responsible for providing design and thought leadership for the studio. A product designer by training, he graduated cum laude from Politecnico Milano in Milan. Federico relocated from his native Italy to India two years ago to join Restore. He is currently working on a 30,000-square-foot banquet hall and bar, a 3000-square-foot restaurant, and a 2000-square-foot store for a denim brand.

Photography: Shamanth Patil, K Santhosh

What role do you see physical stores playing in the future?

“Physical stores are going nowhere. They’re here to stay. Trends will do the whole circle, but we will come back to focus on singularly creating experiences and telling stories effectively in stores. The media might change/evolve. The objective will remain. And customers seeking physical [and] interactive experiences will remain.”

Photography: Joanna Tejada, Los Angeles

Caroline Victoria Hagerty

Age: 30 \ Visual Merchandising Designer

Anastasia Beverly Hills \ Los Angeles

Why her?

Caroline creates 3-D renderings for fixtures and displays, including domestic and international seasonal launches, and designs visual collateral for specialty projects for cosmetics brand Anastasia Beverly Hills. Her background in fashion and graphic design serve her well when creating pop-ups and shop-in-shops for the brand. She began her career working as a costume designer in South Florida, and says her aesthetic, which includes a love of bold colors and textures, is heavily influenced by her Brazilian heritage and time spent in Florida. 

Photography: Courtesy of Anastasia Beverly Hills

Retail changes every day. What role do you see physical stores playing in the future?

“Physical stores are essential to retail and branding. Frankly, I never bought into the ‘brick and mortar is dying’ narrative. Online shopping only succeeds because all customers at some point have familiarized themselves with the products in the real world. For a brand to have long-term success, sensory experience is non-negotiable. Trends like pop-up shops and brand collaborations have opened doors for smaller brands to enter the market faster, cheaper and with smaller overheads.”

Photography: Courtesy of Bergmeyer Associates, Boston

Anna Kissell

Age: 31 \ Senior Designer

Bergmeyer Associates Inc. \ Boston

Why her?

Anna is an architect specializing in the design and management of branded experiential environments for national retailers. Having earned a recognition of Associate AIA and LEED Green Associate, her creative thinking, paired with a detail-oriented design sensibility and the ability to lead teams through stimulating, fast-paced design charrettes, help her guide some of the firm’s most unique clients and projects through the creative process. As a senior designer, she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty – testing multiple options and evaluating new partners and resources to meet extremely tight design and implementation timelines with creative, yet budget-conscious, solutions.

Photography: Gustav Hoiland

How did you get into retail design/visual merchandising?

“An internship at The Rockport Company kicked off my career in retail design. After graduating with an architectural degree in 2009, at the heart of the recession, I looked for a steady professional position beyond the traditional architectural path. For the next six years I worked within the adidas Group designing retail spaces around the world. The experience was unparalleled and fundamentally created the foundation of my career and design approach.”

Photography: Courtesy of Akash Kumar, Bengaluru, India

Akash Kumar           

Age: 34 \ VM head – Lifestyle

Lifestyle International Pvt. Ltd. \ Bengaluru, India

Why him?

Akash has worked for Lifestyle International for the past nine years, designing across various themes as well as promotional and seasonal highlights to establish the retailer as a youthful and fashionable department store. He’s responsible for creating new displays and visual merchandising elements that enhance customer interest, most notably a series of innovative kinetic displays implemented across multiple locations. His challenge is to consider the many product categories represented in store while making a cohesive pitch to the customer.

Photography: Courtesy of Akash Kumar, Bengaluru, India


Who or what has been the greatest influence on you in your work?

“Nature has had a great influence on my work. The best retail infrastructure and malls happen to be in the city. Combined with all the urbanization and hustle of life, we are alienated from nature and the elements that tend to heal us the most. However, there is a huge influence of seasons on the fashion cycle. The seasons are dependent on nature, and so is our mood. From the green grass to the blue skies to the [sea], I am amazed at the detail and diversity of nature’s elements. Embracing … nature helps me create displays that engage and rejuvenate the customer.”

Photography: Courtesy of CallisonRTKL

Laura Lewi    

Age: 26 \ Senior Designer

CallisonRTKL \ New York   

Why her?

In her role, Laura wears many hats: She is responsible for client presentations, retail experience platform and customer journey development, concept design, package production, design development drawings, shop drawing review and concept design coordination. She has also worked on brand guidelines for clients  as well as roll-outs and is driven by the idea that architecture can change lives and that humans are constantly guided into strong connections by their surroundings.

Photography: Martin Beck Peccoz, Milan

What experience or specific interest has shaped you as a designer?

“I’ve been exploring the comedy scene in New York City and have found inspiration in making people laugh. I love designing small playful moments in stores to make shopping less serious and more fun – like [incorporating] a dog’s paw print or cheeky hand-written message. Amusing experiences are more impressionable and will create positive memories associated with the brand.”

Photography: Courtesy of Gerardo Mellado

Gerardo Mellado         

Age: 28 \ Senior Project Manager

The Lionesque Group \ New York

Why him?

Thanks to a hybrid role as senior project manager, Gerardo is responsible for working closely with both the internal team and external clients to plan strategic activations. Also a contributor to the creative development of projects and strategic planning of retail activations, his position allows him to participate in not only designing spaces, but also implementing the strategy behind them. During his time at Lord & Taylor, Gerardo was involved in the three-year renovation of the retailer’s Manhasset, N.Y., store, where he created and produced an outdoor food truck park.

Photography: Richard Cadan, Fairfield, Conn.

Retail changes every day. What role do you see physical stores playing in the future?

“Stores will need to change as we know them; they need to be less about transactions and more about interaction with the products and brands. I think we will keep seeing the ‘use per square foot’ [model] continue to evolve … we use the term ‘experience per square foot’ to approach the design phase differently. The physical store that we’re going to see more of is about delivering that experience you cannot get online, but one that bridges the offline-online transaction.”

Photography: Courtesy of MN Teamsters Service Bureau Staff, Minneapolis

Natasia Moose          

Age: 35 \ Visual Design Manager

Mall of America \ Bloomington, Minn.

Why her?

Natasia has worked on more than 150 design and visual merchandising projects for Bloomington, Minn.’s Mall of America (MOA). Her duties include store design, visual merchandising and window displays for both temporary and permanent inline stores, carts, kiosks, Nickelodeon Universe and MOA internal construction and special projects, including holiday. Working with a vast number of distinct retailers, she monitors and assists tenants to tailor their presentations and merchandise mix, including displays, merchandising and image resources for a cohesive experience.

Photography: Adam Kennedy Photography, Minneapolis

What do you enjoy most about your job?

“Designing stores to showcase brands in a way that exceeds expectations and visions. Many tenants I work with have never had a store, or if they have, it’s been more of a temporary set-up. I love encouraging them to push the envelope by designing, planning and merchandising a space that draws the customer in, is really unique to their brand and is functional for ultimate success. I enjoy the challenge of creating an amazing space with any type of budget.”

Photography: Keith Taylor, Stratham, N.H.

Ann Moretuzzo     

Age: 31 \ Global Store Planning & Design Manager

Timberland \ Stratham, N.H.

Why her?

Ann is tasked with creating solutions for high-profile retail stores, tailoring global store design programs to fit regional markets, value engineering fixtures and construction methods, managing rollouts and testing new retail methods in pop-up store formats. Colleagues say her creative aptitude, willing spirit and pragmatic approach are invaluable in fulfilling a role that demands excellence in cross-functional collaboration, ideation and execution. Most recently, Ann was part of the team responsible for the brand’s 5th Avenue, New York, flex space that received VMSD’s Excellence in Design and Visual Merchandising award.

Photography: Courtesy of Timberland, Stratham, N.H.

What experience or specific interest has shaped you as a designer?

“Lately, surfing has been the greatest experience. The best surf days happen when the mind is completely present, clear, relaxed and ready to take on the unexpected – same with the best work days. Every wave comes with its own personality, just like every meeting, colleague and project. It has been my way to practice mindfulness in all situations.”

Photography: Courtesy of McDonald's Creative Services, Chicago

Emily Peckhart         

Age: 30 \ Manager - Global Development

McDonald’s \ Chicago

Why her?

Emily is responsible for the design management and development of the new global portfolio of decor packages for all McDonald’s U.S. restaurant interiors. She has been a key contributor since she joined the McDonald’s retail design team in 2014, and in the last two years alone, she has led development of three decor packages and was responsible for piloting and implementing them in the U.S. Her attention to detail, sense of urgency and commitment to the brand design intent put her in a good positon to help McDonald’s achieve its goal of modernizing its entire U.S. restaurant fleet (14,000-plus locations) by 2020.

Photography: Todd Crawford/Copyright McDonald’s Corp., 2018

What do you enjoy most about your job?

“I enjoy the variety of projects our team gets the chance to work on. My focus is on creating an exceptional customer experience, and at McDonald’s we have so many different customers who want different things out of their experience. A customer in an airport may be looking for a quiet bite during a tight connection, whereas a customer at a rural site off a highway may be looking to take a break from a long road trip. Whether it’s a restaurant within an airport, a flagship in a big city or a rural site off a highway, it’s my job to capture customer desires and take on the unique challenge of creating a design that connects with them all.”

Photography: Courtesy of Fitch

James Pendergrast  

Age: 31 \ Design Director

Fitch \ New York

Why him?

Based out of Fitch’s Manhattan studio, James is responsible for leading a team of digital, graphic and interior designers focused on innovating brand experiences at retail. Colleagues describe him as a true “omnicreative,” as he is 100-percent ambidextrous with regards to design and creative disciplines. His coworkers say he has the unusual ability to respond to a design brief through a broad contextual lens, giving careful consideration to the entirety of a store’s design or campaign. He views retail as “one of the few places you can make a genuine connection directly with a consumer.”

Photography: Courtesy of Fitch


Describe a recent project. What is it about that project you’re most proud of?

“I recently spent a few months prototyping consumer electronics with one of the big tech firms, exploring all sorts of future technologies – LIDAR, sentiment analysis, computer vision, AIML (Artificial Intelligence Markup Language). It was equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. I’m also really proud of the work [we] did with Lynk & Co – we created and launched an entirely new car brand from the ground up. It was the perfect blend of good quality work and good quality chaos.”

Photography: Jezzika Chung, New York

Tina Marie Prybula

Age: 28 \ Store Designer – Project Manager

L’Oréal Luxe – Lancôme \ New York

Why her?

In her role, Tina Marie manages Lancôme’s flagship and retail store design, planning, execution, initiation, monitoring and control of retail projects. Most recently, she designed a pop-up experience for the brand’s Absolue skincare line. Early in her career, she discovered her aptitude for retail design, even when working on projects that focused on environmental, exhibition or high-end hospitality design. “My best projects were those that included a retail component,” she remembers.

Photography: Emanuel Hahn Photography, New York

Who or what has been the greatest influence on your work?

“My experience studying for my master’s [degree] in Milan taught me to approach design from an entirely new perspective. I had always admired certain Italian designers whose work seemed simple, yet functional, romantic, beautiful and ephemeral. I am a designer, not a sketch artist. It made sense to me that being in Milan was the best way to learn this kind of design that excited me, by really understanding the culture and reasoning it comes from.” 

If you're interested in nominating a peer or colleague for the 2020 Designer Dozen awards, please check throughout the month of December 2019 for the submission form, or email the VMSD editors at