Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Seminar Review/Final Blog Post

1.  What seminar readings, exercises, or assignments were most challenging, interesting, or rewarding for you? Why?
            The readings that I found most interesting were The Design of Everyday Things and Emotional Design, both by Donald Norman. They were particularly interesting because Norman introduced me to concepts that I had known about previously, but not had a specific term or definition of – i.e. visceral, behavioral, and reflective design. I also really enjoyed “The Science of Shopping” by Malcolm Gladwell, which is most likely because I take so much pleasure in shopping but have never thought about the thought and effort retailers and people like Paco Underhill put into the design of stores. The most challenging reading was probably “Know It All” by Stacy Schiff. Although the information was interesting, I found this article to be too long-winded. It also lacked substantial structure, which made reading it tedious.
            Regarding other assignments, I found the egg drop experiment and retail analysis presentation to be most interesting. With the egg drop experiment, it was a nice change to be able to use our hands to put our knowledge to use rather than just reading an article and answering questions. I enjoyed the retail analysis presentation because after reading about Paco Underhill and others who are professional retail analyzers, it was interesting to be able to try that out for ourselves. I also liked hearing what stores my classmates chose and what they concluded from their analyses. The most challenging assignment was undoubtedly the final Week 9 group presentation. Working with a semi-large group made it quite difficult – at least for our group – to work out times to meet or to even agree on certain ideas. However, this assignment was also the most rewarding because the end result took a lot of effort to get to and ended up turning out quite well!
            Additionally, other than class assignments, projects, presentations, and readings, one of my favorite parts of the class was the in-class discussions. Although sometimes it took a little prompting to get the discussion going, it was always both interesting and rewarding to hear everyone’s opinion on the previous night’s reading and to share my opinion with them in return.

2.  What are the most important things you learned in this semester?
            The most important thing I learned this semester was probably how to lead and participate in a completely student-run discussion. Before this class, I do not think I ever had to do such a thing in a classroom. Discussions almost always heavily featured the teacher adding information or asking questions. I think having to become accustomed to student-run discussions helped me learn to cover all aspects of contributing to a conversation – such as gatekeeping, initiating, orienting, and many more. Our discussions also helped me become better at explaining my thoughts/opinions more concisely.

3.  How might you use this learning in the future?
            I could not have asked for a better seminar class – and I’m not just saying that. Over the past ten weeks, I learned more from the class material, my classmates, and our professor than I would have ever thought possible. Because of all we learned about regarding design, I will never look at everyday objects, retail stores, city design, etc. the same way again. This class has taught me to pay more attention to detail, which I am positive will help me in the future, especially as I hope to attend medical school and become a physician – which is a career path in which attention to detail is extremely important. Presentations and discussions with my professor and classmates unquestionably improved my public speaking skills as well as my ability to, as I mentioned earlier, express myself more concisely and sensibly. These are obviously skills that I will be able to utilize in many areas of my life for the rest of my life.

            In conclusion, I honestly thoroughly enjoyed this seminar. It may be one of my favorite classes that I have ever taken. Thank you all for everything! Farewell :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

"The Secret to Turning Consumers Green" by Stephanie Simon

1.  What are the author's main points in the article?
Simon's main points in this article regard producers wanting to turn consumers green and the best way to do that - which researchers have found to be peer pressure. Although consumers like to believe that many, if not most - or even all - of their purchases are made due to "higher-mind" reasons, such as quality or cost, they are affected by what their fellow consumers are doing much more often than they'd like to think.

2.  Do you think you would be more affected by peer pressuring advertisements than advertisements promoting green?
My default answer would probably be "no," but to be absolutely honest, I would probably be more convinced by peer pressure advertisements because they would make me feel assured that what the producers are claiming is true, since it's good enough for "everyone else" to use.

3.  Give a personal story of you buying a product because of its environmental design.
I bought a SIGG water bottle about two or three years ago. SIGG bottles are made out of aluminum and come in many fun and creative designs and colors. They run a little on the expensive side, especially for just a water bottle (around $20-$25), but in the long run - because SIGGs are very viscerally appealing and quite durable - I use mine pretty often, and it has probably saved me plenty of money that I would have otherwise spent on bottled water!

4.  Give specific examples of products becoming environmentally-friendly.

  • Many brands of bottled water (Dasani, Ice Mountain, Poland Springs, etc.) developing more eco-friendly plastic bottles that use less plastic, more recycled materials, etc.
  • Sun Chips now come in a new type of bag that is 100% biodegradable.
  • Certain light bulbs now use much less energy than before but still function just as well.
  • Clothing companies and paper manufacturers, along with many other industries, are making their products with a much higher - if not 100% - amount of recycled materials.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

“Specialty clothing retailers this fall want to let shoppers know that they, too, are a brand” by Jennifer Steinhauer

1.  Select a quote from this article and explain how it relates to clothing advertising and brand identity.
            ''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.''
            This quote shows how important it is for businesses to portray the right image for a clothing brand. Nowadays, most people seem to stick to their favorite brands – and these brands are their favorites because they project images that the customers already do or want to represent. For example, Steinhauer describes how Talbots recently spent $13 million on a new campaign in order emphasize their clothing’s classic, traditional, and effortless image. The author also mentions a Nine West advertisement campaign that focuses on depicting the brand’s image as sexy and über-trendy. One of the ads includes a woman wearing Nine West sandals and sitting at an African-themed bar while three attractive men stare at her feet. Furthermore, the hazy lighting and brown/wine-colored color scheme, among other elements, contribute to the image of the brand. This ad is meant to make women believe – consciously or subconsciously – that if they wear Nine West, they too can be sexy and desireable.

2.  What are some examples of clothing companies that have iconic advertisements? Include an image of one of your examples and explain what it says about the brand. Who are they marketing to? What are they selling (both physically and reflectively)?
            Examples of clothing companies that have iconic advertisements are Ralph Lauren, GAP, Calvin Klein, Burberry, and Levi’s.

            For instance, Ralph Lauren’s advertisements (as can be seen above) give the brand a timeless, classy, preppy, wealthy, British image. They are definitely marketing to those who are quite wealthy, but most likely the younger set, which can be deducted from the youthfulness of their models. They are trying to sell their clothing, of course, but also the image of their brand as described above – these advertisements show how the company wants their brand to be seen.

3.  How has brand image influenced your decision to buy or not buy clothing? Do the clothes define the people, or do the people define the clothes?
            Although I do favor several brands consistently, regardless of their advertisements and such, brand image has certainly influenced my decision to buy or not buy clothing on many occasions. For instance, although I think Talbot’s has nice clothing, at my age, I would probably never buy anything from there, simply because their image is more traditional, conservative, and mature than the image I, personally, would like to portray.

Monday, November 15, 2010

“Cookie Cutter Housing: Wrong Mix For Subdivisions” by Rick Harrison

1.  What are the author’s main points with this article?
            In this article, Harrison’s main points regard overcoming the ordinances set forth to regulate the design of subdivisions. Because the ordinances set forth minimum requirements, developers tend to stick to just these bare minimums and then reproduce these designs over and over again – hence the term “cookie cutter housing.”

2.  How do you feel about subdivisions after reading this article? Are they a positive addition to city layouts or is urban sprawl a negative phenomenon? Why do you feel this way?
             This article did not change the way I feel about subdivisions. On one hand, I think that subdivisions are rather boring and redundant. Many (most!) of the houses look very similar, and the design of the homes and the neighborhoods overall is very “square.” However, I also believe that they are a necessary and hard-to-avoid result of urban sprawl. Because the developers are prompted by ordinances to just meet the minimum requirements, subdivisions are more efficient and cost-effective to develop.

3. Do you live in or near a subdivision? What about the author’s viewpoints are true or false, in your view (how is this article relevant to what you know?)
            I do live in a subdivision, but the author’s viewpoints do not really apply to my neighborhood. Although the houses in my neighborhood are pretty evenly spaced out, their designs/styles (and, in turn, colors, sizes, etc.) are all quite different. However, this may be because my neighborhood is relatively new, having been developed only 13 or 14 years ago. Personally, I would not like living in a neighborhood where all of the houses look the same. I think that this gives the area a generic, almost sterile feel. It is much more attractive and appealing when the houses in a neighborhood are different and unique.

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Biggest Mistakes in Web Design" by Vincent Flanders

 1.  How does this reading relate to the concept of user-focused design that we have discussed in class?
            In this article, Flanders emphasizes most strongly the importance of user-focused design. He even says, “Too many organizations believe that a web site is about opening a new marketing channel or getting donations or to promote a brand or to increase company sales by 15%. No. It's about solving your customers' problems.” Most of his points stress just how important it is for website designers to keep the user in mind, including Point #2 – which states that anyone who stumbles upon a website should be able to figure out who/what it is about within four seconds – and Point #4 – which berates designers for using design features that “get in the way of the visitors.”

2.  What points do you feel are most important?
            Although I feel that all of Flanders’ points are extremely relevant, I believe that Points #4 and #7 are the most important. Point #4 says that website designers should never, ever use design elements that get in the way of their visitors. This can mean, for instance, simply trying to purchase an item on a website, only to find that you must encounter many unnecessary pages before you are permitted to pay. Point #7 is entitled, simply, “Navigational Failure.” Flanders highlights the most important things to note regarding navigation. He states that navigation should always be simply and consistent and consist of links that function properly and make sense.

3.  Create your own list of important design factors for a webpage.
  • Visually appealing
  • Easy to figure out
  • Easy to use
  • Amount of things that distract the user from what he/she needs to do = none
  • Heroin content?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"The Future of Retail" by Nicholas Negroponte

1.  Does Negroponte explicitly state his thesis? If so, identify it. If not, write your own thesis statement for his essay.
            Negroponte does not explicitly state his thesis in this article. An appropriate thesis could be: “In the very near future, it is likely that online shopping will dominate over ‘traditional shopping.’ However, social factors and the ‘experience’ of shopping will keep retailers relevant.”

2.  How does this reading relate to Norman’s concepts of user-focused design?
            Negroponte agrees with Norman’s concepts of user-focused design. Norman emphasizes the importance of designing objects that are easy and convenient for consumers to use. For example, Norman mentions that the user should not have to read the instruction manual for a device every time he or she uses the product. Similarly, Negroponte states that “in the digital world, consumers hold almost all the power, which is a nice change.” With this, he is referring to how, when shopping online, customers are able to browse, shop, check out, and more – all at their own convenience and pace. While doing actual retail shopping, a customer often has to face issues such as difficulty finding a parking spot, annoying and/or rude staff, long checkout lines. None of these problems exist with online shopping. Thus, Negroponte feels the same way as Norman, concluding that design should indeed be quite focused on the user.

3.  Negroponte published this in 1998; to what extent do his ideas remain relevant today?
            I feel that Negroponte’s ideas are somewhat relevant, but only in that user-focused design is incredibly important. Additionally, some of his ideas about the importance and relevance of online shopping continue to be relevant today. However, I believe that Negroponte’s viewpoint was a bit too extreme. While internet shopping is quite popular today, I do not think that it has in any way begun to completely wipe out traditional shopping.

4. What predictions would you make about the Future of Retail?
            I do not think retail will change terribly much in the near (or not-so-near future). While certain items may be more convenient to buy online – DVDs, books, etc. – there will always be those items that just have to be touched/felt/tried on before they can be purchased, such as furniture, clothing, shoes, and groceries.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Downtown Kalamazoo

1.  Write a short evaluation of Downtown Kalamazoo’s business area using specific examples from Friday’s observations.
            Downtown Kalamazoo’s business area is, overall, quite a pleasant place to be. For example, Burdick Street – which is part of the Kalamazoo Mall – has nice, decorative brick sidewalks that are definitely wide enough for pedestrians to walk comfortably, even when the area is busy. The majority of storefronts and displays are attractive, and many planters, flowers, trees, bushes, benches, and trashcans line the sidewalks and street. There are also old-fashioned styled street lamps, and almost no litter at all could be found on the ground. Furthermore, there are a large variety of stores, including thrift shops, retail clothing stores, banks, pharmacies, salons, gift shops, cafés, and restaurants – and even Climb Kalamazoo, an indoor rock climbing gym.

2.  Give at least three recommendations to improve the downtown.
            While the downtown business area in Kalamazoo left a positive impression on me, there are certainly aspects of it that could be improved. To begin with, the sidewalks are wide and convenient, but many of the streets are too narrow and/or have confusing signs regarding whether they were one-way or two-way. This may be beneficial in that it discourages automobile traffic in a mostly pedestrian area or forces drivers to pass by stores more slowly, but it is certainly detrimental in that confusing directions can be dangerous and parallel parking is often difficult to achieve on such narrow streets.
            I also found that although the planters, trees, bushes, and flowers lining the sidewalks are pleasant and attractive, there are a bit too many of them. In some places, the small bushes are simply not needed and only serve to clutter up the sidewalk. Getting rid of some of those would clear up the area and be less distracting as well, forcing shoppers to look at the storefront displays rather than the plants on the sidewalk.
            Lastly, I would suggest adding more of certain stores to the downtown business area – particularly more generators and more stores targeted toward college students, given that there are two college campuses nearby. During our exploration of downtown Kalamazoo on Friday, we found Climb Kalamazoo to be the only real generator. Furthermore, we were able to enter and browse a few retail stores, and we quickly realized that most of their products were much too expensive for us to even consider.

3.  Select a brief passage from “What Main Street Can Learn from the Mall” by Steven Lagerfeld or from Chapter 6 of City by William Whyte, and relate it to Kalamazoo’s downtown. Use specific observations from Kalamazoo to illustrate the point.
At the corner of Clematis and Dixie Highway, one of the main intersections in town, a new gym has opened, its large plate-glass windows displaying its clientele to passing pedestrians and motorists. The gym is what Gibbs calls a "generator": the traffic it draws will help attract related businesses, such as restaurants, fast-food outlets, perhaps a sporting-goods store, to the empty storefronts nearby.
            This passage from “What Main Street Can Learn from the Mall” by Steven Lagerfeld relates directly to the business area in downtown Kalamazoo. Like I previously mentioned, I believe that the downtown business area – particularly around Burdick Street – needs more generators. The only major generator we observed in that area was Climb Kalamazoo. Conversely, at the intersection of Portage Street and East South Street, there is quite an obvious generator there – the Rave, a very large, impressive, and popular movie theater – but an obvious lack of other stores.