Monday, November 22, 2010

Seminar Review

1) I felt that Norman's readings were by far the best. They provided a good fundamental basis to the rest of the course because all the different types of design can be evaluated through his work. The reading itself was very well written and provided a lot of detailed examples making it much easier to understand. I feel that the course would have been missing a lot had Norman not been read first. He provided a very conceptual understanding for the entire idea of design.

2) This seminar has really helped me to realize the importance of knowing the audience. No matter what form of communication, the audience is the main thing to keep in mind, as aphoristic as that is to say. It has helped me to know what to revise when making changes to presentations or papers. During my revision process, I found that I had to simply reword the information I had already presented in order to make it more accessible to the audience.

3) I am confident that this will help me in the future whenever I have to present information to somebody. I feel much more prepared for other classes in general because of this seminar. Especially after not having done any real work for a long time due to China, I am happy to have had this class to help me ease back into the groove of school. In terms of the actual course content, I feel much happier in that I see everything in another light now. I can look more deeply into what seem like everyday products. It amazes me how much attention designers must give to even the smallest details of the most trivial seeming objects. Overall, I am very happy with this seminar, and I would like to continue exploring economics and business.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"The Secret to Turning Consumers Green" by Stephanie Simon

1) Simon really focuses on the psychology of going green. Consumers respond best when they are peer pressured into making a decision. The article presents many interesting studies of how customers respond to different types of green advertisements. Advertisements that talk about what other people are doing to be green generally work better than advertisements such as "Go Green!" If people know that their neighbors are making green decisions, then they are more likely to follow suit. Thus, with this psychological nature of people kept in mind, green designers need to promote their products in such a way as to take advantage of this.

2) I definitely am more affected by peer pressuring advertisements even though that's probably not good. If I am at the store and plastic grocery bags are a choice, I would feel bad accepting them because of everybody else watching me. I generally do not care much if a product says that it is environmentally friendly for whatever reason. However, if I know that other people are being green, then I want to follow suit. Most of the time I try not to be a conformist, but it is hard to argue against being green. Saying that trying to help the environment is a bad thing generally does not hold well.

3) I bought a reusable shopping bag that I take to the store with me. This way, I do not need to use lots of plastic bags. People sometimes commend me on my choice of having a reusable shopping bag, which is a nice feeling. My bag also is much sturdier than the plastic bags, so I don't have to worry about heavy items ripping the bag.

4) A good example of products that have been made more environmentally friendly are the plastic water bottles. Most companies now advertise them as being made with 30% less plastic and being completely recyclable. There is less paper used to create the label too. Another product is the fluorescent light bulb. These bulbs are far more efficient than their incandescent counterparts. They not only use less energy but last much longer meaning they do not need to be replaced or produced as much.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

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

1) Quotation

"Translation: an advertisement that features a shirt, jacket, hat and pants shows that the store sells many interchangeable separates, and the fact that a woman is studying while wearing one Ann Taylor outfit and skipping about in a carefree manner in another shows that one can wear these clothes in all types of situations."

This quote from the top of the second page shows how the specialty cloth retailers are able to advertise themselves as a name brand in a casual, sleek way. The stores are advertising that their clothing works well and looks good in everyday situations, and this is appealing to consumers. This in turn improves the reputation of the brand because people see it in more situations. Wearing nice clothes is no longer an exclusive event but rather more common.

2) Many designer clothing companies have created icons that most people can recognize. Polo Ralph Lauren is one of these companies. Most people that see a shirt with a small polo player on a horse know that the shirt was made by Ralph Lauren.


Clothing from this company is generally seen as a bit classier. The image itself shows a polo player, and polo is a sport that people from the upper class in England used to play. It is a very posh icon, and this reflects on the clothing itself. The company is marketing to people that want to look nice but at the same time not too formal. Thus, they are selling not just clothing but also the posh feel of wearing a polo.

3) I try my best not to buy too much expensive clothing because I think it is all the same in the end. A shirt is a shirt is a shirt to me. Brand image is not something I let factor into my decision when making purchases. I think it's a bit sad that clothing has come to define people sometime. People judge others based on their clothing, so many go looking to buy Armani, Versace, Burbery, etc. These brands are all associated with expense, so they are admired and coveted. Since most people do not actually buy clothes from these types of companies, anybody that does manage to have one is defined by them.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Cookie Cutter Housing: Wrong Mix for Subdivisions" by Rick Harrison

1) In this article, the author is critical of how subdivisions are built. He says that they all have the same feel making them boring and not innovative. There is a very set recipe on how to build subdivisions, and it irks him that nobody wishes to challenge this recipe. The ordinance, as he calls this recipe, tells builders that houses should be 10 feet apart from each other, that they should be 20 feet from the curb, etc. These very finite instructions is what the author thinks have led to boring subdivisions and thus need to be changed. Unfortunately, the costs of a failed recipe in this case are extremely high especially given the housing market these days. Despite this though, the author still advocates exploring new recipes and is happy that he has found a supporter of his ideas.

2) I agree with the article in that many subdivisions are very boring. There is never anything exciting going on that people can take part in. It is rare that there are ever neighborhood events. It also is sad to drive through subdivisions where all the houses look almost identical. Uniqueness and innovation in housing always is fun to see and admire, so it is a shame when neither of this happens. I never realized that there was such a strict ordinance that designers and builders follow, but I agree with the author in that new options need to be explored. Urban sprawl and the development of subdivisions is certainly not a negative thing, and this exploration can make it even more positive. I believe that subdivisions are necessary because they offer a much different environment than the city. It is generally much safer in subdivisions, and it offers more privacy and freedom for people to do what they want. In the city, everything can seem crowded and there is little room for people to do things with their houses.

3) I do live in a subdivision, but I do not think the author's viewpoints apply to my neighborhood. My neighborhood has a pretty good variety in housing styles and design. There are houses of all sizes and colors. The landscaping is all different because the yards all have different sizes and shapes. There is a big hill in part of my subdivision, so this has led to a lot of variety in the architecture. One thing that is pretty prominent in my neighborhood is that many people seem to have an in-ground pool. I would not be one to complain about this though.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Biggest Mistakes in Web Design 1995-2015 by Vincent Flanders

1) This article discusses the many mistakes that web page designers make while creating a web page. It addresses all the issues that makes web pages difficult for users. Thus, it naturally fits well with the concepts of a user-focused design that we have talked about in class. Flanders' stresses that web pages have to be designed for the user, not for the designer. Companies need to design their websites with only the customer in mind, but unforutnately most do not do this. A strong emphasis needs to be placed on the behavioral design. If the user cannot find what he or she wants easily, then the website is a failure. The user can simply go to another website and try again. Flanders says that the purpose of a website should be understood within the first four seconds of looking at it. This also ties into the visceral design of the website too. Flanders talks about how there has to be good contrast and color schemes because users do not want to have to strain their eyes to read the text. There should not be distracting images or animations. When a user first opens up a webpage, their eyes should be drawn to the focal point. A good visceral design helps to accomplish this. This article deals less with reflective design than visceral or behavioral, but one can infer what might make a webpage have good reflective design. There are many websites that are fun to search through and are good enough that people will come back to them. Flanders called this the "heroin content" of a webiste.

2) While all of Flanders points are important and must be taken into account when trying to design a good website, there are several that stand out. The first is his first point about how users do not care about the website. They simply want to get the information they need or accomplish what must be done and then be done. This is important for the designer to keep in mind because it will help them decide what information is pertinent and should be put on the webiste. It is frustrating when one has to spend a lot of time searching through a website to find what he or she needs. The entire website has to be designed with the user in mind and making it easy to use. This leads to Flanders seventh point of navigational failure. Users should be able to easily know where they are in a webiste. Links should be labeled and clearly indicate where they will take the user. If a user gets lost in a website, no matter how good the content is, he or she is likely to close the window and find another website. Another important point is Flanders' ninth about the need for heroin content. A website should make a user want to come back multiple times. There has to be an appeal to it that attracts many people to it. If a website can accomplish this, it can sometimes overcome other design problems. Flanders gives the example of Post Secret which has quite the bad visual design, but the content is good enough that users come back and back.

3) A webpage should be concise and clear. It should not take long at all to figure out how to navigate the page. This is the most important point, and all other things revolve around promoting this. The color scheme, use of flash, images, and everything else has to make it easier for the user. If the color scheme makes text difficult to read, then it should not be used. Any pictures or videos that are not pertinent to the information being presented should also be excluded from the website. Information should also be categorized in a convenient, understandable way. For example, all of the contact information for a company should be placed in one area. Pages should also not be too long because it is annoying to have to scroll down for a long time. If a page is too long, it means that a link could probably be used. It is also really convenient when webpages have "Printer-Friendly" pages. This not only makes it easier to print the page, it is far easier to search the information. "Printer friendly" pages exclude all of the advertisements and extra information.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Future of Retail by Nicholas Negroponte

1) In this article, Negroponte does not have an explicit thesis. An appropriate thesis might be, "Over time, online shopping will become increasingly important but social factors such as the experience of going to a store will keep retailers alive."

2) Norman is a strong advocate of products being designed with the user in mind. There should be a certain natural design to everything that makes it so that the user does not need to consult an extensive manual or be confused as to what to do. Negroponte's description of online shopping surely would go along with these principles. Shopping online can be extremely simple and eliminates a lot of the frustration of shopping at stores that can come from long lines, no availability, unhelpful clerks, etc. On the internet, one can compare products from different companies and read previous customers' reviews of the product. The internet provides so much more information at so much more ease that it is no wonder it has become a very popular medium of purchasing goods.

3) Negroponte's ideas are still very relevant, possibly even more than when he wrote the article. Online shopping has continued to grow, and the types of things people can buy are increasing in variety. Some of the things one can find on eBay or Craig's List these days simply amaze me. Stores such as Amazon have continued to have great success over the years, as people use them to find information about their products before making a purchase. The success of online shopping has led to different marketing techniques too. Companies trying to sell online know that the shopper could simply google what they are looking for and find hundreds of competitors. Thus, this has forced companies to refine their methods. Negroponte was also right in that retail stores have not disappeared too. They are still very popular too. People enjoy having a shopping experience at a store they like, and many times there are sales at stores that one cannot find online. Retailers have also integrated the internet into their marketing strategy by creating websites to attract shoppers to the store.

4) I do not think retail will change significantly from what it is now. Maybe clerks will start to be more helpful and maybe more cashiers will be added to shorten lines, but overall things will remain about the same. There are some things that people usually do not buy online such as cars, groceries, furniture, etc. Many of these products are things that people like to see and feel before they make the actual purchase. Most of the products I buy on the internet are those that I already know exactly what they will be like such as books. People will always enjoy going to stores to wander and waste time. Browsing for things through a store is far more intriguing than browsing on the internet. Thus, there will always be a need for retail stores.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Downtown Kalamazoo

1. Downtown Kalamazoo is a cute little town filled with stores of all types. There is lots of natural scenery throughout the sidewalks, and many of the sidewalks have been made with bricks forming a design. There are benches and tables for pedestrians to sit at and soak in the surroundings too. The myriad of stores includes restaurants, art galleries, insurance companies, home design, clothing, and more. All the stores have good window displays too that follow most of the principles that we have studied. Most stores on average are on the smaller side too, so it creates a warm, homely environment.

2. While Downtown Kalamazoo is nice as it is, there certainly could be some improvement. One of the major improvements that could be made is the street system. To explain it from personal experience, I break on average two to three traffic laws every time I drive downtown. There are so many confusing one-way roads, and the signs are unclear. Given the natural curve of the main road, a lot of awkward turns can be found too that only further complicate driving. This is not good given that the downtown area is repelling people that have to drive. Another improvement that can be made is reducing the amount of natural scenery. While the flowers and trees are beautiful and good for the environment, there are so many that they can sometimes distract pedestrians from the stores. They also increase the costs of maintenance of the downtown area. Lastly, the downtown area could benefit by trying to be more accessible to college students. Many of the stores, aside from the restaurants, are not places a college student would shop. On average, stores are a bit on the pricier side, and they do not sell things a young student would want.

3. The following passage is from chapter 6 of Whyte’s book, City:

a. “One of the virtues of street trees is the way they channel the walkway and moderate the scale of the right-of-way. A very wide sidewalk without trees is not a comfortable space.”

b. This is pertinent to Downtown Kalamazoo because the sidewalks are quite wide and they do have trees and other plants. Especially along Burdick Street, it would feel very strange to have such a large empty path to walk along. The single, narrow road in the middle and an empty sidewalk would combine to make a very ominous path. Thus, the city does a good job in preventing this by placing trees and plants strategically. The beds of plants also serve as a place to sit and for all the things that Whyte says a trash can be used.