Tuesday, November 24, 2009

That's All Folks!

1. What seminar readings, exercises, or assignments were most challenging, interesting, or rewarding for you? Why?

I think that the most challenging assignment for me in this class was the Wikipedia paper, which coincidentally was also the most rewarding and interesting. I've never had to write a paper like that before, using only encyclopedia-ish talk, and it was really good for me as a writer to use that style. Also it was interesting because we had control over the topic, and I picked something I was passionate about. It was good then to later do an argumentative thesis piece. The contrast of styles really stretched my ability as a writer.

What are the most important things you learned in this seminar?

In the future, I can see myself somewhere fancy with lots of important people, and we are going to be discussing many important things and I will think, taking that seminar freshman year was such a good decision! The most important skill I can take away from this class is all the discussion skills we have developed as a class. I had not had very much experience with large group discussions before and I realized they are a lot of fun. I was worried at first that we would all say nothing and that it would be really awkward, but it never really was! It also gave everyone a chance to really get to know one another and was a great learning tool.

How might you use this learning in the future?
This class is definitely going to affect how I study, think, and interact with groups in the future.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Architectural Design

1.Some architecture that I think is just really bad is my high school. It's architects failed. Epically. Basically the designer thought that it was a good idea to use the same design principles on my school as they would use on a prison. There were no windows! The building was designed so that over 50% of the classrooms had no contact with the outside world. Great for keeping in prisoners or protecting people from tornadoes, but not great for a good learning environment. The school's design gives its inhabitants the sense of being trapped. The halls where in a square shape and as a result were very disorienting. Y0u could walk around for ever without really finding what you were looking for.

2. Hicks Center is a really well designed building. It has a lot of visceral appeal in the form of its big windows and cool structures and functions well behaviorally, compartmentalizing the different areas to different floors. One thing I don't love is how the stairs are laid out, not being about to climb to the next level on both sides of the building.

3. The biggest problem with the design process is the lack of communication between the builder, designer and commissioner. For a design to be successful these 3 groups of people all have to be on the same page about how the project is going, and how it should look vs. how it can look.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Simplicity is Highly Overrated

1. Identify the thesis statement of this essay.

Because the people want the features. Because simplicity is a myth whose time has past, if it ever existed.

2. Identify at least three points the author makes to support this thesis statement.

Why such expensive toasters? Why all the buttons and controls on steering wheels and rear-view mirrors? Because they appear to add features that people want to have. They make a difference at the time of sale, which is when it matters most.

Marketing experts know that purchase decisions are influenced by feature lists, even if the buyers realize they will probably never use most of the features. Even if the features confuse more than they help.

Yes, we want simplicity, but we don’t want to give up any of those cool features. Simplicity is highly overrated.

3. If you were to write an essay on this same topic, but with an opposing argument, what would your thesis be?

Simplicity is the key to a commercially successful product.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Eggs and the City

1-To what extent do Whyte and Gibbs approach to city design from different perspectives? Do you find one more convincing than the other?

Gibbs and Whyte have similar yet distinct views when it comes to city design. The two both try to focus on the feel of an area, but for very different reasons. Gibbs focuses on the issue strictly commercially; what can I do here to make the customer spend the most money? I think this approach, while valid and in the short run more important to businesses, should not be the primary focus of a cities design. Like Whyte, I think that cities should be designed to feel good. If the feelin' is right, people are going to stay in the district, and almost always spend money. But the distinction is the goal. Gibbs gave me the impression that he couldn't even define what a good urban community was, his only criterion for success was amount of money made. Cities and urban areas are so much more than that however. I feel Whyte has got it right, focusing more on how cities make the pedestrians feel.

2-What elements of an urban area are particularly attractive to you? What elements repel you?

I love cities. I have loved cities since I was a little three-year-old living in Brooklyn NY. I love going to cites now. I am a city person all day. The main thing I like about cities is just the environment of it all. Walking around late at night with all the buildings lit up, still passing people walking along the sidewalks, that is what I love. Reading Whyte's chapter made me think of how even though vendors and street hustlers may seem like a detractant to cites, they actually help the overall vibe. I cannot imagine New York without the noise and shaddy characters on the streets.
Unfortunately, these same things that can make a city great can hurt in to large quantities. Cleanliness is good to a point, but to clean is weird. Conversely, dirtiness makes a city feel right, but to much is definitely a turn off. In the end its all about balance, weighing the pros and the cons and finding a happy medium.


Karl and I had lots of good ideas, however with limited resources and lack of transportation, we could not follow up on them. Instead we somehow decided to build a springy thing that was almost guaranteed not to work. Some of our good ideas were using a substance that absorbs a lot of shock such as peanut butter, or packing the egg in something like mini marshmellos as to take force off the egg. Our design may have worked had it fallen in the intended direction, straight down, however due to whatever it maybe, it landed directly on its side destroying the egg. Oh well. We'll get 'em next time?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Design and the City

1. What do you feel were the author's key points in this chapter?

The author's main points in this chapter were mostly about how cities (primarily main streets) should flow. Whyte thinks that the design of cities should be more in the manner of the old city streets, with crowded sidewalks, loud street vendors, big storefront windows, and stores all along the road. This creates an environment for walkers that makes them look at things and sometimes even go into stores.

2. Compare Whyte's ideas on design to Norman's concepts that we studied earlier. What's similar? What's different?

Whyte touched on a lot of the same principles and ideas that Norman has laid out. Cities should function on several levels including visceral, behavioral and reflective. When a person walks down Lexington, they should instantly have a visceral overload. All the sites and smell, noises and other stimuli attract attract attention right away. All these help move the customer along and guide them into stores. Behaviorally, streets have to work. People need to be able to move, but not necessarily as fast as possible, a slowed pace provides for the best shopping experience. Reflective design plays a lesser role, but still factors into the whole shopping experience. Especially with the street vendors, walking down these avenues and purchasing from the bootleg stands give the buyer a thrill.

3. Create a checklist, based on Whyte's chapter, that could be used to analyze an urban area.

-Street Width: Consumers must be able to walk down sidewalk, but flow should be slow.
-Windows: Stores should have big windows with bold displays that attract everyone's attention.
-Store Variety: Homogenized areas are boring; there should be a wide array of businesses.
-Objects: People want things to use, even as simple as a water fountain, trash can or bench.
-Vendors: Vendors are good. Businesses should take the vendor approach and set up an extension of their store outside.

Isn't it Iconic?

1. To what extent is packaging important in marketing a product? Give an example of how a package influenced your decision to buy (or not buy) something.

Packaging is extremely important to the marketing of products. I think that in a lot of cases, packaging is actually more important than the product itself. Unless a product is already know by the consumer, the packaging is the only piece of evidence they have on whether or not to buy. Water bottles are a good example of this. All bottled water is basically the same, even if some say they have electrolytes or other fancy additives in them. When I'm looking at various bottled waters, I realize all of the brands are going to be giving me basically the same tasting H2O. All I can make my decision on is what the bottles look like. My favorite is the Smart Water, because it looks like it has a goldfish inside of it.

2. What other products have iconic packaging?

Iconic packaging is hard to define, and even harder to create. For packaging be truly iconic, the packaging has to be as much a part of the brand as the product it contains. I think that alcohol, specifically expensive hard liquor, bottles do a really good job of making the package just as important to the product. The good ones catch the eye with sleek, elegant design and remind the consumer of the product, increasing their desire to buy.

3. What usability issues exist for packaging? Give examples of particularly good or bad packaging from a usability perspective.

A product with really quite terrible design is the CD case. CDs are something people put a lot of time and money into collecting, but the jewel cases are so fragile they break at the slightest touch. On the flip side, DVD cases, which hold an identical product in terms of size, shape and weight, do a really good job being usable. They are unbreakable and protect it's contents extremely well. Both hold a lot of value to the consumer, both monetarily and in terms of sentimental value, but the packaging of DVD cases is far superior.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Retail Analysis

The store I observed was the Hollister at the Crossroads mall. Their target demographic is teenagers to college students.
Hollister goes for the surf shop/on the beach type appeal. They have lots of plants, and tiki hut-ish wooden structures. Semi-clothed mannequins flank the entrances. They play music that is both too loud (for me) and not very good (also my opinion but seriously). The layout of the merchandise is actually good. When you walk in the helpful "Dudes" and "Bettys" sign tells the Dudes and Bettys which way to walk. They have basic fashion groupings so the consumers get basic tips, without being told what to buy. One interesting thing was that the only guy's jeans that were actually reachable where the ones smaller than a 32 waist. I'm 6'1 and I had to do work to reach the 33s and forget about the 36s. I guess we know how Hollister feels about fatties. Besides some on the floor, the store basically had no lighting. It was weird because you couldn't actually see the clothes. I noticed one customer, finding a shirt of interest, try it on in a mirror, but there is no way she could actually know what it looks like! The cashier area was pretty standard, way back in the 4th zone. There were some conveniently located chairs for me to chill in for a while. The store was quite potent throughout, but there wasn't much of a change in scent from the Dudes to the Bettys. That was a little odd.
The shop reflects a laid back, casual image; who cares, its only fashion could be their motto. There was live feed from a beach in California, which to me, is a little creepy. The dark shopping environment is reflective of the who cares? appeal Hollister has done so well.
The customers seemed basically to just wander aimlessly, usually walking to the back of the store, then working their way back, to make sure they didn't miss any particularly "nice" clothes. My favorite part of the stores design was the very clear gender lines. Men's and women's clothes were completely separated, leaving no confusion.