Friday, November 20, 2009


Despite the things that I love about our library, what would be the single most used door in the entire building has a sign on it saying please do not use me. This is a problem.

The Hicks center is a reasonably good looking building, it has a somewhat larger than life feel, and yet it fits our campus beautifully. The really incredible thing about the Hicks center, however, is the amount of things we expect it to be able to accomplish, and the success with which it does that.

As it stands currently, architectural design looks more like a diktat, either from the architect or the owner/planner, than a collaborative process involving both parties.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Adverts ahead

"In my opinion, television is the most powerful socializing ad enculturating force in society. It not only entertains us but also instructs us. even when is not trying to do so. Thus, it has usurped the roles formerly played by other actors who used to be dominant figures in the socialization process." When taken with the subsequent point, Berger here makes the case that we are raised by the television, and even more so, by the advertising industry. Personally I cannot think of many industries which have our best interests as a society less in mind, a profoundly disturbing idea.

I think the dominant idea in this chapter was simply that advertising is no longer a superego tuned sales pitch, but a loose association through the subconscious id.

Advertising is far more than simply what it says in this day and age; as a result, thinking about advertising in terms of a rational argument for a course of action or purchase will lead to a failure to connect with the customer, purchases have become fundamentally psychological, therefore it is necessary to understand the consumer in a psychological manner.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


While it is true that fashion, in many ways, has outgrown it's classification as purely behavioral, the reflective aspects of fashion are strongly rooted in those same aspects of clothing that are most behavioral. A prime example of this is the trend towards brands like Nike and Puma as streetwear, as the labels seemingly portray a level of athleticism, which even when not directly utilitarian, portrays a level of fitness implying sexual fitness, and therefore "immodesty."

Fashion changes partly because technologies change, and as such, the clothing that can be made changes, and because society changes, and puts different requirements on individuals. The pinnacle of formalwear remains, in many ways, as it was over 150 years ago, as the requirements of a formal party have remained virtually unchanged. At the same time however, more informal party wear has manage to evolve on an almost weekly basis. Fashion's ability to either distinguish oneself or hide one amongst the crowds means that as a reflective outlet, the clothing's capacity for rapid social commodification forces the medium to evolve. In short, fashion evolves partly out of a desire to evolve simply for evolution's sake.

Firstly, a garment needs a context- somewhere to be, a tuxedo jacket fails as sportswear, but it does so intentionally. After context the garment should be original, a distinguishing feature or combination of features that give the consumer a reason to purchase it, and thirdly, the originality should, at least in some sense be appealing, either visually, tactilly or mentally in it's very lack of otherwise appeal. A garment should either accomplish something, as with sportswear, or say something.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Simplicity is Higly Overrated

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

Norman points out the Korean SUV's and toasters as examples of things being bedazzled with virtually useless features, and contrasts this with the Seimens washing machine which essentially could take care of the entire operation if the designers would only let it. This provides for an effective juxtaposition of "Good design" and "design people will pay for."

Strictly speaking, it isn't my line, but if I were to make the opposing argument, my thesis would simply be "A designer knows his work is done not when there is nothing left to add, but nothing left to take away."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Downtown Eval

Kalamazoo's downtown has potential, and very little else. Burdick street is very nice looking, and inspires a certain air, without overshadowing what businesses are there. Some of the best businesses in Kalamazoo are located on Burdick street, and paramount among them is Gazelle, because it manages to be unique while still providing a product and service that is sorely needed by the public. The street as a whole is composed of earth tone, colored pavers, which lend a modern air to the street, but in a playful way, completely different from the chrome alluminum and plate glass that have become typical of "modern" architecture, and the street acquires an artsy air which elevates the process of shopping for and buying any product from utilitarianism, to an adventure, and something which you don't mind ambling through.

The simplest recommendation that I have for Burdick street and the downtown in general would to be either consolodate, fill up empty storefronts, or even better, some of each. The single biggest drag on Burdick street, and the downtown as a whole are the amount of storefronts that are simply empty. If one were to squeeze the entirety of Burdick street's businesses into the space between climb kalamazoo and the state theater, one would find a far more lively area, simply because the density of interesting shops would be increased that much more. Alternatively, simply making Burdick street an atractive place to set up shop for other retailers could be invluable, either way however, Burdick street needs to eliminate empty storefronts at all costs. Thirdly, and this is almost nitpicking, Burdick street lacks any real advertising, I love the pedestrian signs, but if one were to make the entrance from main street that much more obvious, the action would be greatly rewarded.

I believe that in many ways, kalamazoo has taken Gibbs' advice to heart, but it hardly matters when the space simply lacks presence. Burdick street finds itself caught in the classic catch-22, it tends not to be packed with people, so there is precipitously less vibrancy, less vibrancy yeilds less people, and as a result Burdick street is constantly dead; Burdick could possibly learn something from Lexington avenue in New York, Whyte describes that, "part of Lexington's perverse attraction lies in the sensory experience of its walkways, and narrowness is a feature of them. Somewhere along the line, increasing with can work against a street. Defining a happy medium may be impossible, but it is not a bad goal to keep in mind," this, combined with Whyte's other advice suggests that further sidewalk obstructions could help to revitalize downtown, it is a truism that downtown is very regimented, and rarely do the buildings spill out onto the streets.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The same side of different coins

Whyte and Gibbs begin with identical objectives, make the consumer part with their money, but achieve completely disparate answers. Gibbs envisions a broad avenue only speckeled with people, but which taunts the consumer to try to hold onto their money in it's presence, whereas Whyte sees the street which develops into a living personality as the divine path to consumerdom. Whyte relies on people to make a street blossom, but Gibbs attempts to manipulate the consumer in an individualized fashion. In the end, I far prefer Whyte's accommodation of the shopping experience, over Gibbs' singling out of the shopper. Empty streets and brand names lack the authenticity and personality that I like to feel i'm getting when I part with my money, i want to believe that there is a real connection with anything i purchase, instead of simply a sales pitch.

Our egg case was built under the pretense that a spring shock absorber could soften the impact and islolate the egg from the greatest forces. The egg was placed in a latex balloon basket, and this was then attached to a series of rubber bands and slinkys which were to act as the absorbers of the shock of falling three stories. This Then needed to be suspended off the ground, and assured that the suspension would land the correct side down, to actually optimum achieve shock absorbtion. This was acomplished with a Little Debbie box filled about one fifth with dirt, due to it's squishiness and density. Our container was a protectional failure, as it relied on a best case scenario, and attempted not to cushion the fall of the entire package, but of the egg alone. our cas was, however reasonably proportioned, and if the egg had survived, somewhat reusable, as the egg was simply suspended, and not encased. Check our my partner's blog at

Monday, November 2, 2009

In The City

Quite simply, William Whyte's primary point in this chapter is that the more under-designed a street, the better the design. The natural tendency as one is creating a shopping area is to veer towards what would seem to make shopping easy for the consumer, but this attempt is ultimately misguided, shoppers do not want easy, they want interesting.

Whyte's views on street design experience an odd kind of symbiosis with the ideas that Norman expresses in The Design of Everyday Things, particularly 'mapping.' Mapping says that the designer should create structures in such a way that the user need not even think about the use; similarly, Whyte discusses extensively the proper way to design a doorway, and the way that subtle manipulations can change the way that people experience and interact with it. Entranceway design, however, is not the same as door design, doors require mapping, they should coax the user into pushing the correct side, entranceways, however need simply to exist, and if designed correctly, will cause the customer to congregate and eventually, to enter.

The two most fundamental elements of a street's design are breadth, and hight. Sidewalks have an optimal size, somewhere between shadowy alleyway and broad avenue, as the former will scare off the potential customer, and the latter will bore them. Height refers to the fact that stores should not remain constrained to the ground floor of a building, and in their vertical expansion, they should coax the eye upward, appearing to extend infinitely upwards due to perspective. The sidewalk should also be a minefield, difficult to traverse, slow moving, and fraught with distractions. All of this difficulty contributes, essentially to the vibrancy of an area, and because vibrancy breeds vibrancy, the street becomes a miasma of energy and consumers willing to incidentally part with their money.