Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Final Post

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

I really liked the exercise we did on the first day--when we had to use recyclable materials to make a chair. It forced us to get creative, and while some designs were more visceral than others, we all made something that was unique. I enjoyed the reading about Paco Underhill and Main Street because I never even thought about anything that the authors wrote about. I never thought to consider a store's layout, how customers interact with it, and how certain things really lead people away from going into certain stores. I think those readings were the most rewarding because they brought that to our attention, and the things that were discussed in those readings I'll always remember when I'm walking through a mall or driving down the highway. I also like the individual presentations on retail. Maybe it was just that I liked talking about Build-a-Bear, but I really enjoyed spending time in and analyzing that store.

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

I think I've just become very aware of the things around me through the different readings, through the retail analysis, and the different exercises we did in class. I learned to pay attention to my surroundings, and to take time to appreciate and look at the area I live in. Being so close to Chicago, there are so many things to see and I won't see the city the same way.

3. How might you use this learning in the future?

I think it's just important to be aware of your surroundings. To be active, and not just passive in everything that you do. It's nice to just experience something, an area where you live, but its nice to be able to appreciate something when you think about the process that went into it. If I'm ever in a position to design a product, or think of something I need to do for a large audience, I will definitely remember what I learned in this class.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Architectural Design

1. What are examples of architectural design that you consider to be epic failures?

A lot of the time, doors and handles of all sorts are epic failures. In regards to handles, many times there aren't any visual clues as to which way you turn the knob to get the desired outcome. For example, faucets. Some faucets are just epic failures because you have to turn it the wrong way before you turn in the way you wanted to in the first place. Any many times, you'll find yourself making these mistakes over and over because it's bad design that should be fixed. It's not the type of design that someone should get used to if other faucets all have a same general rule on how to turn to get hot or cold water. Doors can be frustrating as well if there aren't signs that say push or pull, so you end up pushing when you should pull and making a fool out of yourself. Some doors are clearly labeled, but there are also so many that are not. While many would disagree, I consider revolving doors to be epic failures, at least a lot of the time. I cannot remember how many times I have seen people get stuck trying to slip their way in, either because each segment isn't large enough or because people just push the inside walls so hard that you're forced to jump out so you don't get kicked in the foot by the door.

2. Good, Bad, and Ugly. Choose a building on K campus and analyze its behavioral and visceral usability.

Upjohn Library Commons--I think the library is a very well-designed building. I like the layout and how it just so happens that the higher up you go, the quieter the environment is. I don't know if that was what the designer had attempted to create. The library serves its purpose as a place to study, but it's also a place to socialize if that's what someone wants. On the first floor, you have Bigby's (which was a brilliant idea, for those students who need coffee to stay awake late hours), which really keeps in mind social aspects of architecture. It's a great place for people to meet and relax, and in that way the building serves its purpose as a place for social means. On the second floor, there's the reading room. It's always quiet in this room, and students know it's a place you can go if you want to concentrate. The room is very well-designed in everything from visceral appeal (green light fixtures, fireplaces, couches) and in the behavioral sense (the room is a place to study and really concentrate). The third floor is mainly tables and computers. It doesn't really have the sort of layout and environment for people to socialize, and it's not extremely visceral. But it serves its behavioral purpose as place to work, and I feel like that was what the designer was attempting to create.

3. What is the flaw in the current design process? How could this problem be fixed?

The major flaw, according to the reading, is that there really isn't a feedback stage in architectural design. The success of a building cannot really be determined until its been used and until people can experience the good and bad aspects of the design. Determining the social success of a building, and getting feedback about the social aspects, is something that takes a lot of time, and it may not be obvious if a building has succeeded for quite some time.

Emily's Wikipedia Article:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ads Fads and Consumer Culture

1. Select a brief passage from the reading and post it on your blog. Explain why you thought it was interesting.

The devaluation of the power of advertising by advertising agencies and by businesses that use advertising is generally an attempt to escape from regulation by governmental agencies, and to escape from criticisms of being manipulative and, in some cases, antisocial, by consumer groups and other interested parties.

This passage is interesting because I feel like advertising is manipulative, without a doubt. It's just a matter of looking at the right examples. Advertising agencies know the power they have over human thoughts and behavior, and in many instances, the effect is not a positive one. Take any sort of commercial with alcohol or sex--they always seem to encourage this idea that if you buy this product or that product, then you can look like this, have friends like this, or you'll be infinitely more desirable to the opposite sex. It's not a secret that sex sells, and advertising agencies use this knowledge to manipulate their viewers. They know their audience, and they know them very well; it's great for them when they want to market a product, and the impact they have on consumer culture is immense.

2. What do you think were the author's key points?

-Advertising agencies, and those who try to analyze the effects of advertising in consumer culture, all agree that it does have a powerful influence in the world. It can, at times, though not always, have an effect on human behavior.
-Advertising plays a critical, and not to mention huge, role in our economy--in more recent years it has greatly affected the political sphere.
-Advertising agencies usually attract people from the ages of 18 to 49, give or take a few years on each end. And it is used by nearly everyone: charities, labor unions, organizations. The Internet has become a popular way to market things as well.
-Advertising also has a reflective aspect to it. When we look at certain images, we recall certain events and times in our past. We react to what we see in certain ways, and in this way it's also visceral. That natural, instantaneous reaction to something we witness.
-Advertising is a social and cultural phenomenon. When we try to decipher its effect on individuals or small groups of people, we don't get the kind of result that we get when we try to decipher its effect on consumer culture, in a larger sense.

3. Why is it important to have a psychological understanding when it comes to advertising.

It's important to be aware of how advertising effects you on a personal level, and to just be aware that it often does have the power to effect human behavior in some capacity. It can play a role in our decision making, which we should recognize so as not to let ourselves be manipulated by advertisements. We let advertisement effect us in same ways, maybe subconsciously for the most part, in terms of how we think about things. It may change our perception of how we want others to perceive us, or how we perceive others who use or consume certain products.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fashion Design

1. Why is fashion so reflective, when it could be purely functional and behavioral? (Why do people feel an impulse to express and redefine themselves through their clothes?)
People have used fashion as a tool for self-expression for years. People use their clothes to convey to others things like status, ideals, and even political views in more recent years. The clothes people wear reflect a certain image of that person. Clothes play a huge role in first impressions as well, which shows how strong an impact the clothes one wears can have on others' perceptions. How many times are we told that when interviewing for an internship or job interview we should wear something professional? Employers are more likely to hire someone who comes in with a nice suit than someone who comes in with jeans and a t-shirt; in this way fashion plays a role other than just a means of personal expression.

2. Jones discusses the importance of time as it relates to fashion--why does fashion change and evolve, instead of remaining static and functional?
Fashion is constantly changing and evolving because designers are constantly coming up with new ideas, trying to reinvent current styles, develop new styles, and create the latest trend. Designers wouldn't be able to survive in the world of fashion if they didn't create new things and were up to pace with the changing world. If they stayed behind with the same old trends, they wouldn't be known for anything. People, while they want to be up to date with the latest trends, are also seeking fresh looks. This is why fashion is evolving. However, another reason for its constant evolution has to do with the people on our television screens-celebrities and other prominent figures. People mimic and want to dress the way their favorite celebrities dress. Celebrities have so much power in the sense that they are declaring new fashion trends left and right--and people willingly follow.

3. Based on the reading, make a checklist of principles to consider when designing a garment.
a. comfort
b. fit
c. quality of clothing
d. price (if it's reasonable considering the piece of clothing, or if you're just buying for the brand name)
e. style of the clothing

In works of art such as music, literature, and theatre, appealing to the intellect is not a guarantee of success.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Simplicity is Highly Overrated

"Simplicity Is Highly Overrated" by Donald Norman

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 3 points the author uses to support that thesis.
a. Something that looks so simple won't sell because when given the choice, people will take the item with more functions, the item that looks like it does more and is worth the money. People won't buy something that looks so simple when they can buy something for the same price with more functions.
b. When people ask for simplicity, they really mean to ask for something that looks expensive and looks complex but it easy to use.
c. Purchase decisions are influenced by feature lists. Norman means that even if people realize they won't use most of the functions on a given product, they will still choose it over something very simple.

3. If you were to write an essay on the same topic, but with an opposing argument, what would your thesis be?
People are less likely to buy overly complex-looking products that are, in reality, relatively simple.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Downtown Kalamazoo

1. Write a short evaluation of Downtown Kalamazoo's business area using specific examples from Friday's observations.
Downtown Kalamazoo is fairly modern looking, for the most part. It doesn't have the downtown feel that other cities have, like Chicago, New York, LA, etc. The area is clean, little trash lying on the ground, which is a great way to get people to want to walk through town. On Burdick Street, there was a combination of retail stores and restaurants and it gave the area a good mix. There was a lot of greenery (trees, flowers) and benches for people to sit on. However, it didn't seem like these things would be distracting when people walk by; someone's main focus would most likely be on the stores. The retail stores in the area were diverse; there was "Climb Kalamazoo," which looked from the outside like something akin to a sports goods store. One bad design aspect of the area is that one of the stores didn't have its store name on the exterior of the building. If someone were to walk by, they would only know something about the store if they looked through the window (however, that might be this store's strategy, who knows). Other stores had similar problems; they would have the store name on the outside, but it was hard to read (often it was because the font was too small). There are several generators in the area like the state theatre, the art hop, the Kalamazoo Public Library, and the Radisson. These are important business that keep the area busy. In regards to the transportation in Kalamazoo, I would understand how people driving would get frustrated having to navigate through the one-way streets. While it seems safe for pedestrians to cross the street, there aren't any walk or don't walk buttons that you find in other cities. The area feels safe, especially in the day time, and at night, there are definitely areas that are dark but many areas are well lit. Another positive design aspect is parking-they seemed to have a good amount of parking (compared to cities like Chicago who don't offer much street parking).

2. Give at least three recommendations to improve the downtown.
1. I think something that would make the area more appealing, viscerally, is more greenery. On the sidewalks, along the main street (I think it was Michigan Ave), I didn't see many trees, flowers, things like that. It would make the area look nicer, and therefore make the shopping experience more enjoyable, but not distracting.
2. They didn't have many benches on the main street, and I don't think I saw any drinking fountains. Some sidewalks are less spacious than others, so I don't think the area can afford to put benches in these small spaces. However, in the areas that do have the space, more seating would benefit the area and probably bring more people in and keep them there.
3. Something that surprised me when I was looking at the crosswalks is that Kalamazoo doesn't have any of those buttons that pedestrians can press for the "walk" or "don't walk" across the street. Since the area wasn't as hectic and crowded as a larger city, it didn't seem like crossing the streets safely was an issue. However, it's always good to be extra safe, and I think this would be a good addition. I also think these buttons would give the area a more modern feel and progressive feel, because of the new technology they would be bringing to the area.

3. Select a brief passage from the article about Robert Gibbs ("What Main Street Can Learn from the Mall" by Steven Langerfeld) or the reading on public spaces (from City by William Whyte) and relate it to Kalamazoo's downtown. Use specific observations from Kalamazoo to illustrate the point.

The shade trees and planter boxes? Lovely, he says, but they block shoppers' view of shop windows and signs. Those handsome groupings of benches and tables? They seem inviting until Gibbs points out that they often attract teenagers and other loiterers, who scare off shoppers. The elegant Victorian street lamps, the expensive trash cans, and the distinctive granite paving stones--"so beautiful that people will stare at them as they walk by the storefronts.

My first impression of Downtown Kalamazoo, way back in May, was that it's a fairly busy area. It didn't have that really "downtowny" feel that other cities have. However, for the size of the city, and the population, it seems to be a good-sized downtown. I think the one thing I liked least about the area is that on Michigan Ave, the main street that draws the most traffic, there really wasn't much greenery along the sidewalks. I saw few tress, no flowers, there weren't a lot of places with benches or water fountains. In a place like Chicago, on Lake Shore Drive, the sidewalks are full of greenery. Along the lake there's grass, trees, everything. It's certainly distracting because it's so beautiful, but at that point there aren't any storefronts to ignore. Once you get into the real downtown with all of the retail stores, there's obviously less of this because you're not alongside the lake anymore. But there's still a fair amount of trees which makes the area feel more fresh and clean. In Kalamazoo, while the area is pretty clean, the absence of things like this make the area seem old and outdated, there's no life going on in the city other than the cars that are driving by. Gibbs says that groupings of benches and tables will attract lots of teenagers and other loiterers, but Kalamazoo doesn't seem to attract any at all, and it might be because it doesn't offer a lot of seating in all parts of the area. I wouldn't call the area elegant, but I think adding little things here at there would benefit the area without creating too many distractions that keep people out of the stores.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Whyte vs. Gibbs

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

In Gibbs' approach to city design, his whole focus was how to design a shopping area that will draw in the most amount of people and the most sales. Everything about an area's design should be geared towards getting people to buy what's in the store. Whyte, on the other hand, was focused on the overall look and feel of the downtown area. He looked at the area as a whole, and didn't so much focus on what specific things designers should do to make a lot of sales. While making sales and drawing crowds in is important, because it sustains an urban neighborhood, he wasn't focused on commercializing the area to the extend that Gibbs talks about. Gibbs was very focused on the retail aspects of design, definitely more so than Whyte. Again, Whyte focuses more on the overall feel of the environment, not just the retail; he doesn't just focus on stores, how they can draw people in. He places an emphasis on environment, and how to create that urban feel. Whyte's argument is more convincing because an area that has great stores doesn't necessarily have what people want. People want a comfortable environment where they can spend several hours of their day at, not some commercial area that only wants to get them to buy stuff.

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

Since I'm from Chicago, I am completely biased towards the city, but I do think it's a perfect example of a well-rounded urban area. You have plenty of greenery (trees, grass, etc.) and you have Lake Michigan which is always busy with people who love to run, walk, ride their bikes, rollerblade, and whatnot. It's a place everyone can enjoy, young and old, and there's something for everyone. One of the things I love most about the city is the parks because first of all they are beautiful, but they are a great place to socialize and hang out when there's nothing to do. In the summer in particular the parks host free events as well. The city is a great place to live because there's always something to do, and even if there's not an event you like taking place somewhere, just being in the area is an event in itself. There are tons of restaurants to choose from, upscale and more affordable. There are movie theaters, concerts all the time, broadway plays. The element about Chicago that I hate the most is the traffic, the one way streets, and just driving in that area in general. There are always a lot of pedestrians, which isn't always a bad thing. I like that the city is lively, however it tends to get really crowded in certain areas like the train stations.

Egg Design:
The process of designing an egg container was frustrating at times and definitely took a lot of patience. However in the end we were happy with our design, and thought it had a good chance at protecting the egg. We kept throwing different ideas out in the open about what might work, and most of the time we had to abandon our ideas. When we thought we came up with a good design, we actually tested it and threw it off a three story building to see if it would hold up. We thought it would definitely keep the egg safe, but we were wrong. Testing it was a good indicator of what we really needed to do, so we knew what didn't work and built up from there. Building the container didn't take as long as I had expected it would because once we thought of a good idea and had a vision of what it would look like, it was pretty easy to design. We just cut open a beach ball, stuffed it with a bunch of scarves (which we thought would be more than sufficient padding) and then put the container with the egg all padded inside in there as well. I wasn't there to test the egg, but Mayra told me that it had failed so I think that about sums it up! Here's the link to Mayra's blog: