Imperial War Museum London – Retail Design

In the spring of 2013 the Imperial War Museum London commissioned Drinkall Dean to design 3 new stores as part of the major new development by Foster + Partners. This followed a tender process and following over a year of development the shops have opened within the re-launched museum.

Drinkall Dean’s scope was to develop a design concept that would embody the spirit and values of the IWM brand and would create a retail identity that had the strength of character to help project IWM retail as a global brand. One of the key principles behind our thinking was to dispel the notion of a ‘museum shop’. Working closely with the IWM retail team we set out to create a shop capable of standing alone without the strong arm of the museum around it.

A key element of Drinkall Dean’s design has been to create environments that are crafted and well made. We also wanted to create three shops that although part of a family of fixtures they have individual personalities. This means that each store has a different look and feel. We also created a dedicated bookshop although the inherent flexibility of the design means that as with each of the stores the layout can evolve with the product ranges.

Supporting excellent service and expertise was also key to the concept. IWM wanted to convey their authority in the subject through the store design. We developed various platforms for enhanced service, and along with well trained staff, there are online facilities within the stores for further ‘digging deeper’, and seating within the bookshop for those staying to browse the collection.

Drinkall Dean also set out to create a very flexible solution to the many and varied stories that IWM need to tell through the product ranges. Our aim was to create total flexibility whilst not allowing the ‘shop fitting’ to overwhelm the design concept. We wanted to create an ‘ease’ to the displays, a light touch that would allow the products to shine through.


Working closely with the IWM team we organised a number of workshops throughout the design process. This allowed the team to work with us on the concept development ensuring a more successful and cohesive delivery.

The largest of the stores is in the new main atrium and is a bright neutral space reflecting the scale of the new public areas and supporting the large varied range of products. This store feels fresh, bright and lively. On the upper floor are two further stores, a dedicated book shop and a shop more aligned to the second world war galleries adjacent to it. These shops are warmer and darker in tone, and have a ‘slower pace’ to them.

The palette is a combination of neutral tones and natural timbers, and the mix subtly changes in each store to allow a gentle pace change to each environment.

The shops incorporate online technology for print on demand, or home delivery and it is proposed to extend this technology to further link the product stories with the museum content to enhance the customer experience and appreciation.


David Fenton, Head of Retail and Admissions added, “The development of our new retail offer at IWM London was a huge opportunity for us to re-define the overall retail experience, and the appointment of Drinkall Dean as our shop designers has been a key factor in how these have been executed. Establishing a retail brand led template that is aligned closely to the ideals of the museum was something that we worked very closely with them to define. The process of working with Drinkall Dean has been truly collaborative and one that has ensured that we have ended up with three fantastic new shops that have re defined the future of retail at IWM”

Drinkall Dean works in both the museum and private sectors creating commercial retail environments and engaging exhibitions and displays for varied clients and organisations.


Design and development team:

Retail Design Drinkall Dean [Angela Drinkall]
Architecture Foster + Partners
Lighting Design George Sexton Associates
Main contractor Concept Display
Metal work Peerless

Photography on this feature is courtesy of IWM