Complete Transformation Revitalizes An Underutilized Gift


After finishing our successful renovation of the Treasure Cove gift shop at the NC Aquarium’s Fort Fisher location, they asked us once again to help transform their Jennette’s Pier location’s gift shop, aptly named the “Pier Shop”. This project would include a lot of visuals meant not only to bring visitors in, but to separate and distinguish the gift shop from the rest of Jennette’s fishing and research facilities.

THE NEED: A thematic, bright gift shop to increase foot traffic and sales. THE GOAL: Utilize bright colors, visuals of local fish species, and an underwater theme to distinguish the gift shop from its pier counterpart.

“Increase of 16% following the renovation”

I just completed our gift shop 2019 stats and we have had a tremendous year! Jennette’s Pier Shop
has experienced a dramatic transformation following the renovation with an increase of 16% over
the previous year!

Opportunity & Challenge

Jennette’s Pier presented a unique challenge because unlike the other NC Aquarium locations, Jennette’s Pier is a research facility, educational program hub, public fishing pier, and award-winning wedding venue. Because of the varied uses and purposes of the location, we knew we would need to visually separate the gift shop from the other business operations and to design it to be a stand-alone experience for visitors.

“Thank you for your creative spirit”

“Thank you for your creative spirit and enthusiasm with transforming our gift shop into an oceanic
wonder world! Immediately, the Pier Shop captures the attention of our guests, in every direction
from floor to ceiling. It is bright, colorful, playful and impossible to pass by!”

The Plan

Our goal was to create a gift shop that would serve as its own unique experience while still enhancing and complimenting the pier’s other operational spaces. To do so we would entice, immerse, and educate visitors via wall, floor, and ceiling graphics that would mimic the gift shop’s immediate environment – the pier itself and the sea life teaming in its waters below. So, in addition to designing and branding The Pier Shop’s new logo and signage, we created thematic scenes featuring crashing waves, bubbles, native fish species, underwater panoramas, sand bottoms, and pier pilings inspired by the surrounding natural habitats to bring the outside in, a continuation to what visitors experience as they explore the pier.

To accomplish the transformation, we started at the entrance, directly across from the bait and tackle sales counter in the main pier lobby. The shop’s old, grey drywall exterior wall was turned into an underwater crashing wave with round bubble portholes allowing viewers a peek inside. This movement toward the main entrance was mimicked on the right-side wall where the continuation of the wave graphic extended. A bright, translucent acrylic sign of the newly designed Pier Shop logo was suspended above the entrance as if floating in water.

We then created interpretive graphics of the local fish species anglers could expect to find along the wall soffit, which ran overhead through the lobby entrance into the gift shop interior leading curious visitor eyes through its doors. Staff have since commented that while guests are at the bait and tackle desk, the most frequently asked question is “what’s being caught today?”. Staff say all they have to do is look up and point toward the soffit to identify and educate visitors as to what species is frequenting the pier’s waters that day.

Once inside the shop, we went for total immersion from floor to ceiling. We disguised structural columns as underwater pier pilings to show the perspective of the animals swimming beneath the pier, something most visitors will never experience. A floor mural running around the inside walls uses an optical illusion to appear as if that part of the floor has been removed to give the vantage point of peeking through to the ocean waves below. We included fish, rays, and a sea turtle to captivate visitors, but the floor mural also served to hide previous floor damage. More wave graphics were used to minimize the impact of industrial appliances in the food and beverage area so that they would blend seamlessly into the surrounding underwater scene. Finally, we also included silhouettes of fish that swim above visitors’ heads on the ceiling to truly immerse them in the underwater environment.


Our primary deliverables for the project were the visual creatives such as wraps, signage, interpretive graphics, and a new Pier Shop logo.

  • Designed their “Pier Shop” logo• Designed and fabricated the “Pier Shop” sign

  • Designed and fabricated the “Pier Shop” sign

  • Design and installation of “see through” floor wrap

  • Created schooling fish ceiling silhouettes
  • Created bold graphics for the kitchen area
  • Designed exterior wall wraps with cut out bubble port holes

  • Designed column pier piling graphics
  • Designed the fish ID wrap for the soffit
  • Designed graphics to camouflage the drink cooler

What we learned

We quickly learned that using the Pier Shop space to educate was a key to the success of the project. The soffit’s fish identification graphics were meant to show visitors which fish live in the waters around the pier. An unintended consequence was how useful this would become for the staff by providing a tool to help educate the public about native fish species.

Additionally, including elements of wonder and surprise, like the optical illusion floor graphic, create a point of interest that generates conversation. Which leads to visitors to say, “Hey, come check this out!”. Which is great, because they’ll have walk through the Pier Shop’s front doors to follow the graphic that weaves throughout the store.

Also, having a view of the ocean as your temporary office is a perk very few jobs can offer!

Let’s support each other

We wholeheartedly believe in supporting the conservation of our oceans. You can help by donating time and money so that the NC Aquariums can continue to provide top notch education, protect our aquatic treasures and inspire future generations.

Have a project in mind?
Lets make something great together!