Window View at Penn Book Center

The windows at Penn Book Center in Philadelphia, PA, have bothered owner Ashley Montague for a long time. “They are vast,” she told me. “In the bookstore, we have pretty interesting displays. The books sort of talk to each other. Our windows are very large, but not that deep. They were intriguing intellectually, but visually didn’t fill the space.”

After attending an ABA meeting last spring, she decided to explore one of the ideas presented: collaboration with non-profits. Penn Book Center is located near both Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania. Montague wanted to seek the help of visual thinkers and discovered a visual merchandising program at Drexel. She learned that the students create window displays for businesses all over Philadelphia, so she got the bookstore on the list for the next semester.

Montague worked with store personnel to determine the theme for two windows. They decided on gardening and children’s books for the visual impact and because they were more open-ended. The visual merchandising class was divided into 4 different groups, and they presented two proposals for each window. With the help of their professor, the students gained practical experience by delivering a pitch, presenting a contract, working within a $50 budget for each window, and adhering to a timeline.

Penn Book Center | Philadelphia, PA

Penn Book Center | Philadelphia, PA

For the children’s book window, the students printed large images and affixed them to cardboard. They tried to create a sense of depth by layering the images. Some characters are attached directly to the glass while others are suspended.

The group wanted to explore texture in the gardening window, so they used tissue paper, mesh fabric, flowers made from newspaper, paper bags and vegetables made from cardboard. They enlarged book covers and incorporated the images into large seed packets.

Penn Book Center | Philadelphia, PA

Penn Book Center | Philadelphia, PA

The displays were installed the last week of February, and Montague has already seen an increase in children’s book sales. “The life-size characters seem to suck the children in,” she says. She plans to keep the window displays up at least a month. Although window display now falls back to the responsibility of the bookstore, Montague is already thinking about them differently.

The children’s book display from Penn Book Store was the winner of the February Window Display Contest. To see this and other displays, visit our gallery.

Beth Golay

Beth is a reader, writer, marketer and Books & Whatnot founder. Even though she knows better, she's a sucker for a good book cover and will positively swoon if a book is set in appropriate type. @BethGolay