The atmosphere inside grocery stores can greatly affect the shopping experience. While most stores may have bland, white walls, Trader Joe’s is the exception. Funky artwork decorates the walls and creative signs enliven the produce shelves. Although shopping may seem boring, it is a fun adventure for Trader Joe’s customers.
Grace Letherer, sophomore art education major, loves Trader Joe’s because the cheerful artwork and friendly workers make shopping a relaxing activity.
“The overall style and vibe of Trader Joe’s is very summery and it helps you to take a load off and enjoy shopping,” Letherer said. “I feel like a lot of other grocery stores have gray walls and basic shelves, but all of the little signs Trader Joe’s has are decorated and the employees are so fun.”
This theme extends to the helpful product signs on the shelves. Colorful signs point out the price or name of the product and are decorated with personalized artwork. A team of artists does this at each store location.
Daniel Kaufman is the lead sign person at Trader Joe’s in Riverside, along with two more trained sign artists on his team. He majored in fine art in college and always loved shopping at Trader Joe’s. He has worked at three different Trader Joe’s locations in the last 16 years and has been making sign art at the Riverside Plaza location for the last year and a half.
“Every day, we are making more signs,” Kaufman said. “Usually the first thing we do in the morning is walk through the store sections and make sure all products have their proper sign. The store products constantly shift, so signs will get lost or just go missing. It is our job to either find the missing signs or make a new one.”
Each product in the store requires an accurate hand-drawn sign with a large, discernible price listed.
However, Trader Joe’s designers will reuse templates and boards for the bigger signs.
“Signs for these displays are drawn, displayed, then erased when they come down so we can reuse the same boards for the next display,” Kaufman said. “It is best that we do not get emotionally attached to the display signs we create because they are all temporary.”
The quick turn around can add pressure to store designers, however. This job requires flexibility around time constraints and a limited workspace, so organization is crucial. Despite these stressors, creating sign art can be relaxing.
“There is a bit of monotony to doing signs that I find comforting,” Kaufman said. “The job requires a good eye for detail and the ability to come up with innovative solutions for signing products.”
There is a tremendous amount of effort put into making Trader Joes’ atmosphere special. The imaginative artwork of the design team ensures that each store stands out.
“Traders Joe’s loves the hand-drawn style of signs,” Kaufman said. “In this day and age when computers have taken over, that is a rare thing indeed. I hope they never get rid of that unique element.”
Allie Stoner, freshman psychology major, said she prefers shopping at Trader Joe’s because of its lively atmosphere, which other stores do not have.
“There is a community that shops at Trader Joe’s,” Stoner said. “It is a specific community like you have the Walmart community, you have the Target community, you have Vons and then you have Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s feels more personal. The art is just very unique to them.”
All Trader Joe’s stores have a similar theme, but each adds personal flair that reflects the creativity of its store designers.