Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now

Eye-catching creation: The science behind festive Christmas windows

“To go with a minimal approach to Christmas would be lost in translation and scale.”

CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS ARE part and parcel of the festive season: a good display can spark extra spending, fuel a festive thought or lure you deeper into a store.

But what is behind the displays? Where do stores get their ideas, and how much of a difference can they make?

Damien Byrne, Head of Creative at Arnotts, is the man behind this Arnotts’ Christmas window display this year. He gave an insight into the practicalities of a window display, and says that there is no such thing as a science or perfection when it comes to creating window displays.

“What we do is so subjective that what one person loves might be what another person hates. We can only hope that whatever we do gets the attention of the passer by and that they will connect with it on some level.”

AO9Z6166 Source: Arnotts Dublin

Arnotts has one of this year’s biggest Christmas window displays, which tells the story of a reindeer, with a technological twist:

“This year’s Christmas window starts way up in the North Pole in Santa’s Lego testing workshop with Santa’s new reindeer, called Crackers, working away with his friends the elves.

“This scene is followed by Crackers being outside the reindeer stables dreaming of that day when he will fly Santa’s sleigh.

“Santa then explains to Crackers that the magic comes from all of the girls and boys as they play with their toys, and journeys on through [different toy villages until] he finally gets the power to fly.

“All along the windows the children are invited to help by placing their hands on the magic transfer handprint on each of the windows. As they do this the windows will magically come to life.”


He says that factors that influence the theme for the windows can come from any little everyday detail.

“Sometimes it’s commercial, sometimes it’s to profile and create awareness – but it is always visual, that’s the one constant influence.”

Details are also important:

“My team will tell you, I am quite particular. I obsess over lighting, positioning and proportions, if you have the elements right, the rest can be enhanced by the smoke and mirrors factor, if required.”

Christmas has a name for being the glittery, vibrant, and sometimes even a bit tacky – but does it have to be that way?

Making a difference

A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article.

Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can make sure we can keep reliable, meaningful news open to everyone regardless of their ability to pay.

“Arnotts is a building with many amazing and interesting architectural features – but Arnotts is also very big, so for us, to go with a minimal approach to Christmas would be lost in translation and scale.”

Christmas is a time to shine and I am a firm believer that this applies to retail as well as our homes.

shutterstock_493339819 Source: Shutterstock/FamVeld

Not only are shops vying for the public’s eye, but they’re also in competition with other retail stores to out-do their display.

Upon the closure of Clery’s department store, famed for their giant window displays,  the managing director said that staff used to tell each other not to mention the ‘A’ word showing the rivalry between the two historic department stores.

“You could say there is an unspoken “competition” with the Christmas windows over all other times of the year,” says Byrne. “However, Christmas is so subjective and the appreciation of how different retailers work their windows is in the eye of the beholder.”

As for commercial success, there isn’t much to that for Damien:

“For me, a successful Christmas window is a window that people young and old can connect with and enjoy. I want the windows to be part of the story of Christmas and ultimately help to form an emotional connection with the store.

As a retailer as well as a creative of course, yes is the answer to whether I hope it will increase sales as that is an important part of the industry we are in but it is not what defines how we do it.

“We have been working on the Christmas window theme and details for the past 12 months. We hope that both children and adults will take a moment to enjoy the magic of Christmas while enjoying these windows.”

Read: Ireland’s favourite books for 2016 have been announced

About the author:

Read next: