Tuesday, November 23, 2010

1. The handouts and online readings were all interesting to me in some way or another. A lot of them taught me to look at design in a new way -- while I cared about design before, I feel I know have a much better understanding of technicalities with design and know how to apply a lot of new concepts to my own life. Writing about it was difficult but rewarding, because of how much it helped me to improve my writing as a whole just to write something short (but technical) 1-3 times a week.

2. I learned a lot about writing and my writing style and how to write about certain subjects from taking this class. I've always wanted to get better at analytical and technical writing, especially in condensing it; the resources and advice I've received in this seminar made a huge difference, I feel, in improving and polishing my technical writing.

3. All of this information will be of so much use in the future, both for writing papers for any class and for examining design in the real world (or perhaps also in classes!). This was a very valuable class for me, and I'm sure it will continue to be valuable in the future, both in classes and out.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Secret to Turning Consumers Green

1. The author's main points in the article that there are simple and very easy ways to influence consumers to act green in their consumption habits. The article lists a number of ways, mainly financial influence (showing how being green can save money, whether through conservation - smaller utility bills - or higher taxes on environmentally unfriendly products and services), that people can become more earth-friendly consumers. Statistics and social influences are also popular mechanisms for influencing consumers - using numbers and ideas to say "everyone else is doing it too" is a proven successful way to get consumers to do what companies and governments want them to. the article also lists the benefits both environmentally and fiscally of becoming a green consumer.

2. I think I would be less influenced by peer pressure advertisements than by green advertisements, especially after seeing this article. I am not necessarily a crazy rebel or anything like that, but knowing that companies specifically say "everyone else is doing it" to get you to do something too doesn't necessarily seem like a good thing to follow in every case. (In the case of being green, people should just be green because that's the right thing to do, not because everyone is doing it. But that is just my opinion.)

3. I bought a can of shaving cream because it was packaged in a can made of recycled materials. It is not very good shaving cream, but at least I can recycle it again and that makes me feel better about it.

4. A specific example of a product becoming environmentally friendly is the redesign of the bags for the snack food Sun Chips. The chip bags were remade out of a new material so they would be 100% biodegradable and more efficient to make than foil & plastic bags. If I remember correctly the bags were done away with because consumers hated them - the new material was extremely loud and obnoxious - but the idea was a solid one and I definitely appreciated it and bought into it. Many companies are also designing green cleaning products, with chemical-free formulas, recycled/recyclable packaging, and (in some cases) fractions of the cost donated to green causes. Other examples of green products include recycled paper products, paper products made out of materials other than trees (banana paper, anyone?), pesticides, toys, cars (hybrid/electric cars), energy-efficient devices like (microwaves, toasters and refrigerators) and, to use an example from the article (though this is more a service than a product), the method hotels are beginning to employ to use less energy, water, and detergent by allowing guests the option to keep towels more than a single day.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Specialty Clothing Retailers This Fall...

1. ''Today brands are built emotionally,'' Ms. Lastrina said. ''You have to get a message across and show what the brand ideology means to her life.''

I find this quotation to be very suitable to get across the whole point of the article. It definitely expresses the idea that reflective design is a powerful marketing tool in advertising - targeting the ideal consumer and expressing to them just why they would be interested in the product with reflective elements showing through the design of the advertisement.



The advertisement campaign I chose, which I feel is iconic, is the very strange and somewhat vintage aesthetic that the Marc by Marc Jacobs high fashion label has used as long as I can remember. The specific run of ads that are featured here are from a recent ad campaign featuring Victoria Beckham. Beckham is a style icon as well as a sex icon, so her modeling for Marc Jacobs combined with his naturally quirky style gives the brand both sex and unique appeal. The images of her popping out of shopping bags is unusual and definitely sparks a reaction in the viewer, whether one of inspiration or confusion; but most importantly, it is something that clearly echos the statement above which identifies reflective design as one of the most important parts in selling name-brand clothing that is found in boutiques or specialty stores as opposed to department stores.

3. Brand image has everything to do with which brands certain people will and will not buy. Brands specifically market to certain kinds of people, using music or sex appeal or classical fashion to appeal to tastes and needs of all different types (just, not at the same time). Some brand images cause me to steer clear of buying their clothes - I tend not to shop at departments stores because a lot of the clothing is all focused on the brand name, and not on any actual remarkable style or silhouette of fashion. I feel the people define the clothes, because people are the ones deciding what to buy; and just because you wear Hollister one day does not mean you can't wear Marc Jacobs the next, even though one is commonplace and one is crazy. The clothes may appear to define the person if a person finds a style that they feel comfortable and happy wearing all the time, but just because they dress in a certain way it does not necessarily indicate a certain thing about them (for example, I may wear an ugly Salvation Army sweater, but it is because I am cold and desperate not because I am poor or especially partial to ugly sweaters) (well okay I am both of those things but that is beside the point).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Biggest Mistakes in Web Design

1. This article relates very much to the design concepts we have learned about in class so far in that it highly emphasizes user-friendliness when it comes to designing a website. For almost each and every example, the author explains how very crucial it is that a website design be as user-friendly and clear to understand as possible. The functionality and simplicity of design that websites should ideally possess reflect the same ideas that apply to functionality of products, store layouts, and everyday utilities: they must make coherent sense immediately and not require too much thought, action, or direction to use. If a person cannot figure out a website within a few seconds, the website loses traffic to a website with a superior design and user-friendly interface.

2. I feel the most important point he makes is the idea that you must be able to tell what the company and their website are/are about immediately. The example of the philanthropic organizations who do not accurately express what exactly they do is a very clear example which definitely reflects upon how frustrating and distorted a website and its purpose can really be. I also think the websites with completely abhorrent designs are important to consider (animated rainbow backgrounds with running cats and cheap, 1990's clip art? Gag).

3. Websites must be clean, clear, and easy to read. The user must be able to tell what it is for immediately and have no problems navigating among the different pages. The layout should be instinctual and easily functional: the links should match up with the page the user is trying to get to, and there should be all expected pages available. Colors should not clash and contrast should be high enough to create emphasis on the elements on the site that matter (the text, links, and images). There shouldn't be any unnecessary, distracting elements (like excessive ads), and the typeface above all should be clean, standard, and of a legible size.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Future of Retail

1. The thesis of Negroponte's article is not very explicitly stated, which makes it confusing initially. If I were to give it a thesis, I would say "Stores have become mere showrooms for products; in order to obtain maximum benefits from a shopping experience, people can now shop online instead."

2. This article definitely discusses ideas similar to Norman's theories on user-focused design. As Negroponte examines different types of stores, he focuses heavily on the effect shopping in a physical store has on a person. For example, he explicitly believes bookstores are not for buying books, but rather for the social experience of seeing other people shop for books, to meet in a cafe, and to visualize oneself "bumping into the unexpected." Visiting a store makes you feel a certain way that you don't feel sitting at home on a website. Shopping in and of itself is an experience, one that would be lost if shopping were totally converted to a digital phenomenon.

3. His ideas are certainly still relevant today, as many websites for shopping are crucial to certain  shopping activities we can't do in stores (if there are certain stores products don't sell or don't have in stock, or for certain sites that don't have a physical counterpart, like Amazon, Etsy, eBay, and so on). However, his prediction was that stores would die out in favor of digital shopping, and I don't find this to be true at all. I believe the two coexist, because each serves a necessary purpose that the other may not be able to serve -- the stock and convenience of the internet versus the physical and emotional experience of shopping in a store. Plus, buying groceries online just sounds dumb. How do you know if anything is fresh before it gets to your house?? How do you know if a shoe fits if you can't try it on on a website? Some products just make more sense to buy in a store.

4. I would imagine a lot of things would remain the same with the dynamics of shopping between the internet and physical stores. As previously stated, and as stated in the article, each serves a variety of important purposes and neither can be done without. So I feel, unless there is a revolution in the methods of shopping one way or another, the two shall continue to coexist and be similarly necessary for quite some time.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Evaluating downtown Kzoo

1. The first thing I notice about downtown Kalamazoo is the architecture. It is a strange mix of older, more "typical" business buildings (brick, stone, iron, and window-shopping-friendly store fronts) and more contemporary buildings (like the huge, modern-looking mostly-windowed Radisson hotel or the Epic arts centre, constructed of metal and glass panels). The first place we explored, the mall on Burdick, is a one-way street (north to south) paved with brick both in the street and on the sidewalk. It is a very pretty street, focusing more on walking space with minimal parking along the edges of the driveway; it is not very functional for cars (as Mike memorably put it: "It looks like someone made a mistake"). The street is lined with businesses and storefronts, each one quite different looking to suit the style of the store or service inside. Along the thick, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, there are benches and plenty of plants and trash cans/ashtrays and cigarette receptacles. In some areas along the mall, you can find sculptures or advertisements.

2. The driving in the downtown area is very difficult for people unfamiliar to the area, and can be frustrating even if you know the layout of the one-ways. Downtown also doesn't feel particularly safe, since there is no real security that can be consistently seen. The parks are much less attractive when the fountains don't work and there is graffiti on the ampitheatres.

3. The section I selected is the entire section about window shopping in Whyte's "City." It was interesting to me to look at the windows in downtown Kalamazoo, which are very conducive to window shopping in both older and newer buildings. Whyte claims that window shopping seems to be a dying phenomena, but in Kalamazoo I don't find this applicable. In NYC, according to Whyte's studies, windows and doors are becoming smaller, difficult to see through, or completely unnecessary. However, in Kalamazoo I found both old and new stores to be window-shopper-friendly; there is a huge bank of windows at the main entrance for the mall which shows off women's clothing etc., and the newest buildings - again, the Radisson and the Epic - contain stores and restaurants whose insides are clearly visible through windows (Most notably the mess of toys and games available at the Nature Connection in the Epic Center). I feel this has been maintained in Kalamazoo because of its desire to be a largely pedestrian area.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

1. The main purpose of each of Whyte and Gibbs's writing is fairly fundamentally different, owing for the fundamental differences in their writing and approaches. Gibbs focuses on main streets, and their ability to act like places of commerce and shopping. Whyte, on the other hand, analyzes cities as a whole - so while he mentions commerce and shopping heavily, he focuses more on the aspects that cities have that you would not find on a main street in a small town. Gibbs tends to mention a lot of what is pleasing or detrimental about a main street - mostly in visuals and expenses - and while Whyte mentions these, he also explores a lot further into the other senses and sensory cues as well as space, time, and the accomodation and manipulation of masses of people in city streets. Gibbs writes with an enthusiasm that Whyte lacks in his technicality; but because of the depth of exploration Whyte uses in his writing, I find his writings a lot more useful to the topic.

2. Probably what I love the most about an urban area is the architecture and the lights. (Whyte is perfectly correct when he states that lights attract.) The atmosphere of a city, especially a large one like New York, is one that you can't find elsewhere due to the nature of a place that needs to accommodate so many people. Plus, seeing how theory behind retail works in action in big cities is fascinating. However, at times, other sensory cues - especially sound and smell - can be revolting and repelling out on the streets. And, cities are dirty and crowded. However, something about the life and vibrance of cities - which both authors take care to examine properly - is fascinating to this small-town girl.