Hello there – been forever and a day since I last posted on these forums, but your question above piqued my interest as I have been working in POP for about 17+ years now and think I might be able to help.
First, understand that POP is divided into three general categories: Temporary, Permanent, and Fixture. Sometimes the lines between the three can get blurred and there are certainly other little offshoots that one can go into, but here is the gist of those three:
This is the packaging and paper/corrugated (aka “cardboard”) side of things. Designers are broken up into two main categories – Structural & Graphic. Structural designers use Artios (predominantly) and are responsible for the nitty gritty details of how a display or package folds up, what materials are used, and generally just designing towards manufacturability. Graphic Designers are sometimes folks with actual graphic design backgrounds and, like myself, people with ID backgrounds who focus more on the conceptual side of things. Graphic Designers are typically responsible for working with the structural designers to generate concepts and developing artwork based on client assets to fit on a package/display. Graphic Designers are also often the people who generate the 3D renderings (Strata 3D is one of the major softwares used) as well as conceptual hand sketches. Of course as with anything, there are all different shades between these two functions and it’s not too unusual to find a Structural Designer that can also generate renderings, artwork, and concept sketches. Similarly, it’s not uncommon to find a Graphic Designer that carries expertise about structure and manufacturing. It really all depends on the designer and the company. Major players in this field are:
WestRock, Menasha, Rapid Displays, IP, Vanguard Packaging, Great Northern, etc
These are the POP displays that you’ll see in the store that are constructed from wood, metal and plastic. These displays tend to stay out in store for a longer period of time than their temporary counterparts. Designers in this branch of POP are also broken out into two categories: Designers & Engineers. Designers are generally the concept people (also disparagingly referred to by engineers as “Pretty Picture People”). Software is Adobe PS, Adobe AI, Strata 3D, 3DS, Cinema4D, etc. I used to even use FormZ. Every company has different 3D rendering software, so that’s harder to nail down. Designers come up with concept sketches, 3D renderings, and are generally responsible for the creative of “Fun” side of the process. On the other side, Engineers do exactly what you would think they do – SPECS and other pre-manufacturing development. Solidworks, AutoCAD, and maybe Inventor are the big ones used. They are also responsible for letting the designers know how dumb they are at every opportunity. I kid. I kid… (kinda). Major players: WestRock, Rapid Displays, Frank Mayer, Design Phase
Fixtures are the racks or shelving that you’ll find in retail. They tend to be really heavy duty and can range anywhere from down and dirty gondola shelving all the way to high-end boutique displays. I’ve only touched on the fixture side of things a few times, so my knowledge is limited. But from what I’ve experienced, fixture is similar to Permanent in that you’ll have a Design team and an Engineering team – each with its own responsibilities, and each required to work with the other. Software for designers is probably the same as permanent (Strata3D, Cinema4D, 3DS, etc). For Engineers it’ll be Solidworks, AutoCAD, Inventor, etc. Major players in this field: Madix, Lozier, IDX, LA Darling.
Note that in each of these categories, the development is broken out between “design” and “engineering” (or in the case of temp/pkg “graphic” vs “structure”). There are plenty of people out there that can do both functions, but in my experience, they are ALWAYS much better at one than they are at the other. So if you have a foot in both, its totally okay (and frankly can be seen as a big plus) – but you’ll want to brace yourself for the divide between the two and you may find yourself needing to decide which you like more and go in that direction. Of course that can also depend on the company.
Anyway – hope this brief primer on POP was somewhat helpful to you. Good luck!
"See, how it works is, the train leaves and not the station"