Mondrian Soda?

If you go into the cafeteria at the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business, you will come upon a rather extraordinary display in the soda case:

Mondrian Soda

It reminded me of a Mondrian painting, maybe “Broadway Boogie Woogie.”

As it turned out, the man responsible for the display was standing nearby, and we fell to chatting. His name is Derek (if I remember correctly). He is in late middle age, grew up in Hyde Park, and is himself an artist. When I mentioned Mondrian, he smiled, but said it was really Warhol that he was going for with the soda display.

It was fun to talk with someone who took such pride and interest in a work task that many people would not consider worthy of pride and interest. (Alas, Derek wasn’t interested in being photographed with his work.)

I know that the soda display drew me in, and made me buy a soda, which I hadn’t meant to do. On the other hand, I wonder if the Mondrian/Warhol extravaganza may be too chaotic for other customers, or even if some people may not want to buy a soda because they don’t want to disturb the display?

Bingwright T. Skudleton

The University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business cafe is cri de coeur of Hyde Park delis for stimulating lunchtime discourse. I learned more about the global economic reality at those brown bag discussions, sitting elbowside with Nobelians, than I ever did in any econometrics courses...


Were I a store manager/owner, my first question would be: Is there a way to use "display art" to increase sales of soda generally, or to maximize sales of a particular brand (color) of soda? If not, the next question would be: "Why is that employee wasting his time and my money?"


I'm sorry, but this looks nothing like a Mondrian.


I have to agree with Julia. No Mondrian here, especially not the one you mentioned. Interesting display though!

Vasari Giorgio

Years ago, I owned a produce store.Daily I would make up very beautiful, artistic displays in my bins and coolers of very large, very fresh fruits and vegetables. At the end of the day I found myself silently cursing my customers for ruining the layout by buying up large chunks of my "art".

Ian Selvarajah

Great job by the gentleman!

This reminds me of that old "I'm laying bricks." vs. "I'm building a cathedral." story about having pride in one's work!


I did something similar with the guy making the display for yogurt at my local grocery store. Right after he was done making it perfect I came along to get some and commented that I didn't want to mess up his work now. We then played a little game and he picked out a couple flavors for me and I went on my way. It was definitely the most fun I've had picking out food before.


Good things can happen when people enjoy their work and aren't micromanaged.


If you are a retailer, bringing excitement to a normally drab category is one the toughest challenges you face everyday. Cheers to this beverage guy for putting forth the effort and thanks for the photo.

Eugenio Garcia

Very interesting! You can find artists everywhere you look and in the most mundane things...


I've often wondered if futzing around with displays at the point of sale helps. To back up, my experience is that displays removed from the actual product do enhance the buying experience and generate higher sales. That is, if the futzing is abstracted from the point of sale in better maintenance, beautiful displays (like Harrod's at the high end), then you see higher sales. If that isn't true, then merchandising is built on the wrong foundation.

I've noticed anecdotally some chilling of actual sales if the POS display is super neat, too artistic, etc. but I don't know of any actual studies on this.


I don't get it. What makes this art? If the drinks had been arranged differently, would it not be art? Is there a normal, non-artistic way of laying out soda bottles? What does that look like?

Rich Wilson

#5 Bob

Were I a store manager/owner, I'd thank my lucky stars that my employee found a way to enjoy the job while doing it, and so long as some other task didn't get missed completely, I'd start comparing that worker's daily receipts with other less-happy employees. I suspect his enjoyment of the job would have a positive impact on sales.


I see and talk to Derek everyday. He is a man of many talents!

Josh Millard

If not, the next question would be: "Why is that employee wasting his time and my money?"

At the same time, you'd hope the store owner/manager would also wonder, "even if this doesn't affect sales, is he actually wasting my time and money?"

Small-scale retail tends to involve paying folks to work a full day for coverage, not volume—you need to have someone around and available from opening to closing, but that doesn't mean there's actually a full day's work to be done.

Letting an employee occupy the dead spots with non-harmful morale boosters seems like a smart move: nobody likes busywork.

grumpy gus

Yeah but the different colas are separated making things harder to find =(


reminds me of photography of andreas gursky... any one remember 99cent? the colorful pic of a dollar store. gursky edits his photos to bring out extra color, but you get the same effect.


I would be curious in an experiment:

Would the display generate more sales if there was a flyer/poster/random hand-written piece of paper next to it that read something to the effect: "If you like my design, please consider purchasing a soda. Derek, Soda Stocker."

Lenny Timons

After walking around the galleries in Chelsea and the meat packing district, I found myself in the Exxon station at the corner of 14th and 10th, looking at the glass doored soda refridgerators as wonderfully unrecognized artworks. Nice to see other people see that too.

Gene Shiau

#10 Dan
This is how I used to shelve bottles: by barcode numbers. I might as well shelve them by sweetener type, calory content, or alphanumeric order. What made my effort not art was the lack of je-ne-sais-quoi ... creative passion and intention?