At the beginning of our design journey to completely “reboot” the existing Welcome to Las Vegas souvenir and novelty store at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, Andrea and I set out to visit the Neon Boneyard for inspiration. It sounds a bit eerie, but it was one of the coolest places we have ever visited in Las Vegas. It is part of the Neon Museum and if you haven’t been there yet, put it on the list for your next visit. The Neon Museum is a non-profit dedicated to collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs for educational, historic, arts and cultural enrichment. The Boneyard is an outdoor exhibition space consisting of a collection of signs that chronicles changes and trends in sign design and technology through pieces ranging from the 1930s to the present day. It is a living, ever-changing montage made of sign elements and fragments. It is impossible to take a bad or boring picture because every view is a work of art. We walked along the gravel paths; each step deeper into the maze filled us more and more with inspiration. We texted pictures back to Corey in our home office–who wasn’t able to make the quickly planned trip due to previous commitments, but would be managing the project–so that the inspirational imagery could be shared in real time and the design wheels could start turning.

The Boneyard is made up of old signs, yet it feels new and cool. That was also an inspiration. There is a rough, raw industrial feel to the Neon Boneyard. The placing of the signs looks haphazard and accidental, but is intentional. It is a rusty, messy and beautiful collection. The signs that once loomed so large above the strip are literally brought down to earth and make you feel small while you are being mesmerized by their scale.

We used the Boneyard as a point of departure, but in contrast to its gritty nature our client, MRG, wanted this store to feel clean, modern, and chic. It needed to nod to the past, but be of the moment. We also knew that the hero of the store would be a smaller scale version of the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign and that needed to be front and center.MRG’s products and visual merchandising are top notch, so we had to give them a befitting setting. We started by looking at the plan and creating “experience zones” in the store that would guide the products, graphics, signage and messaging. We developed different design possibilities to present–this part of the process is intensely collaborative with our client. There are so many considerations, from merchandising to security to budget, and working sessions are well-attended. The process doesn’t stop until we all feel we hit the mark.

The new design extracts and abstracts the most iconic aspects of vintage Las Vegas, reinterpreting them in a chic, modern fashion. It is a montage of fragments, patterns and representations of the past and present that draws inspiration from the Neon Boneyard. The red entry portal frames the store and the Welcome sign is front and center. The entry portal also has a back lit pattern on each side that echoes the famous signage from the Dune resort. Within the store, there is a fragment of the Sands casino sign with its signature egg crate structure and a neon “E” on a corrugated background representing the original Caesars sign. The photos of iconic Vegas legends are made from a collage of the “Vegas Alphabet”, which is composed of letters from memorable Vegas signs. The backdrop materials, such as the textured yellow in the display boxes, and the well-known Vegas stars also reference materials and elements found throughout the old Vegas strip that now rest at the Neon Boneyard.

The store has a hip, nostalgic, yet contemporary feel overlaid with a dash of glitz and glamour. It hints at the rich history of Las Vegas and the merchandise sold there symbolizes the new memories the customer will take home.

Shopping in the store is an experience that envelopes you in the past, present and future of Las Vegas while providing a euphoric sense of discovery.
We are happy to report that since the store opened a few months ago, sales are not only stellar, but it has also been nominated Best Novelty Shop in the 2018 Best of Las Vegas!

The phrase “Welcome to Las Vegas” resonates on so many levels. It is a place where, as one person said it, “I’m weird, but in Vegas I’m normal.” And another states, “Las Vegas is my ‘over the rainbow’ where everything is in color not black and white.” It’s clear that no matter who you are or where you come from, in Las Vegas there is a something for everyone and you will always feel welcome.

A DEDICATION:
Normally, announcing the opening of one of the retail stores we designed for MRG is a celebration. This time, we would also like it to be a dedication. At the beginning of the design journey for this store, Andrea and I were in Las Vegas during the Route 91 Harvest Festival Shootings. It was a harrowing experience for us…and we were five resorts away. We can’t imagine the fear and terror that those who were in the direct line of fire experienced. We can’t imagine the sadness and heart ache of losing loved ones in such a senseless tragedy. We can’t talk about this new store without acknowledging the circumstances that surrounded its beginnings. Without celebrating the resiliency of the city and its people. Without acknowledging the lives lost and those injured.

We will say that we were touched by the humanity that we experienced during that time: from an off-duty cop helping bring order to the chaos, to those who provided a place for us to rest during the resort lock-down, to the receptionist at MRG who comforted each employee and visitor through misty eyes the next morning. As is always the case in times when the worst of humanity reveals itself, the best of humanity is right there to answer to it. We will continue to send our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their friends and family. We dedicate this design to all of them. #VegasStrong

Below is a URL to the Las Vegas Victim’s Fund website. The fund is closed, but they provide donation links for those who would like to be part of the ongoing healing and rebuilding efforts in the community: https://lasvegasvictimsfund.org/