Wayfinding my way around SAM!

This was my first trip to the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). We were visiting to explore the quality of the wayfinding SAM uses…however it was so hard not to get sucked into the amazing art themselves. But, that in itself speaks to the quality of the wayfinding used. I found myself getting lost in the museum…lost in a good way. I didn’t really have to think about where I was headed – the exhibits somehow transitioned into one another in a quiet, non-interruptive way. The floor plan to each level of the museum kind of reminded me of a maze…just when I thought I was headed back to where I came from, another turn would send me off into a whole other wing, or exhibit. Sure enough, I was able to somehow navigate myself back to the escalators eventually. In any other building, this type of wayfinding would make me feel lost and anxious…but in this setting, it worked beautifully.

The design of the wayfinding is very simplified, yet is still very appealing. At first glance, the color palette chosen seemed kind of boring and subdued, but once I thought about the colors in the context and setting, I felt they were the right choice. The font choice was a clean, sans serif, and black or white, all of the brochures, maps and signage are cohesive and use the same font and choice of typographical hierarchy. Some of the signs were a little hard to figure out which art they belonged to. And the signs for the pieces displayed in the middle of the floor were a little inconsistently placed. The signs that were placed at the entrances of the exhibits were about eye level with me – which was nice for me, but I don’t see that being very convenient for the shorter, younger crowd that visits this museum. Also, some of the entrances had names at the very top of the wall, touching the ceiling, which I felt was very hard to notice. Additionally, there were some exhibits that had large blocks of text on the walls, and while being legible, the blocks were sometimes quite large and not the most “user friendly.” They could have been easier to read if they were broken up a bit more. As well as some of the “no photography in this exhibition” signs at the entrance of a few of the rooms was way too small. I accidentally photographed an entire exhibit, and only noticed upon exiting, the no photo signage. The placement of these signs could use some work.

Another subtle, yet effective, element of the wayfinding was the transition of wall colors from exhibit to exhibit. The rooms changed from white, to a tinted out blue, to beige, to cream, gray, and even a shaded red. The wall color choice imparted a different “mood” to each of the exhibits. It was a slight way of impacting the feel of the exhibits without being overt.

One element that was mostly great was the lighting. The lighting in each exhibit ranges from extremely bright with little individual focus on pieces, to a completely dark room with small spotlights on each piece. While this was a great way to give a different feel to the pieces, in the really dark rooms, my bad eyesight was straining to really see the pieces of art. This was a little annoying. Another element that added a subtle layer to some of the pieces were projectors that were airing videos on the walls or projected onto screens. I almost passed one of the projections at an exhibit of masks because the projector was on the ground and it was being projected onto the side of the escalator. Many of these projections were silent until you stood in one particular spot where a special type of speaker was being used that was only audible when standing right there. That was a nice surprise element.

SAM does a nice job of letting the artwork have the spotlight and letting the wayfinding be the supporting role. I would assume a wide range of ages visits this museum every year, because they keep the design relatively neutral and slightly modern. And I did witness a very wide range of people while I was visiting as well. All in all they do a very effective job of wayfinding.

Design is what we desire

What is the nature of desire? How does it work? In fine arts school there are lots theories about desire that exist. It’s important for designers to talk about this to figure out what people want. We can break down what we want into simple categories: adulation, sexuality (desiring something and being desired), and spirituality.
Psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud’s, three structural constructs of the human psych are the id, ego, and the superego. The id is our subconscious, the place where our fears, wants , and desires stem from. The superego is our morality and our moral police. The ego is the middle mad trying to satisfy the id while following the needs of the superego. The id cannot learn, it is structured like language and is predicated on language, and can be tricked or confused in our desires. The id wants something but cant have it, then the ego tries to substitute it. It is in this way that design plays in.
In design we are always being promised a few key things: we will be like something via its acquisition, to gain sex or power through its acquisition, that the wanting itself is to be desired, or that we will be free of desire via acquisition.
This idea of being completed is a whole segment in itself. In today’s culture one can set out to buy completion (a.k.a. oneness, enlightenment). Corporations have taken yoga, something that is essentially simple, and made it very complicated with the custom yoga bags, yoga specific athletic wear, Tazo Zen tea…it’s the marketing of Zen.
Anthropomorphic design is also a big segment of design: how we view inanimate objects and animals with human qualities. This can be playful and sexy(talking about an object) but how do you make these qualities with out obviously making it look like a sexy lady? You can give products a human quality to promise to allow a consumer to posses non human characteristics via association (like machine like design or objects that give a terminator vibe). Some designs are obvious (baby bottle=breast), and some are overt! If it’s insane enough maybe nobody will notice, or no one will feel comfortable calling attention to it. For example kids riding a red phallic sled, lady riding a red lipstick tube. Many are direct and highly sexualized (Dove body wash bottle), Nestle yogurt – yogurt commercials are notorious for this! Artist Janine Antonnini’s Gnaw – 600 lb of chocolate and 600 lb of lard that is gnawed…displays that having something that is incredible and having something that is gross is always near each other.
Desire and satiation – Taco Bell has done a lot with gluttony…”Fourth Meal” commercials. They even had an “I’m full” campaign. This is sort of like the first bite of a Thanksgiving meal, versus the horrible full feeling afterward!
Desire has so much to do with giving…and gifts…so often people will buy you somthing that they actually want, or buy you something to get something in return…otherwise known as the gift exchange theory. Felix Gonzalez Torres – the burden of giving someone something they don’t want…displayed a whole bunch of grey candy.
Theory of presence and absence – talks about things that aren’t there, food is important when you don’t have it, wanting someone more after they are gone…sometimes what’s missing from the scene is more important than what’s there.
We can’t avoid the topic of beauty when talking about desire…soliciting desire in other people is as important as having our own desire quenched. You have to think about desire when trying to create something for another person.
What desires will drive the next generation of designers to create?

User Interface

User interface is such a huge part of our daily lives in this electronic age. But user interface goes far beyond our “apps” and computers. Several years ago, poor interface design led to a disastrous presidential election. The paper ballots with the “hanging chads” caused people to have to sit and decipher what each vote was. They had to determine the winner of the presidential election over bad user design. It is crazy that something as important as this came down to something so pathetic as this!
User interface involves information design as well. Nobody cares about forms, until they come across a poorly designed form! This is a designer’s job and responsibility.
we are starting to see certain trends due to the systems that we use…such as touch screen kiosks, swiping, and haptics. As a designer you want to design for all of these forms which use all of the senses. When navigating an app, we will learn spacial relationships very quickly. Web interface: search criteria field (usually in the upper toolbar)-we just accept this search field as normal now. Now we think “oh that’s so obvious” – like rolling over an item and see the whole menu. This UI didn’t always exist. Use tabs for navigation can ruin your user experience. As designers, we need to be critical about everthing we look at! A linear system of page turning on a web page is very antiquated…it doesn’t allow you to go everywhere at anytime.
UI is a very overlooked field, but it is so very important as part of our daily experiences. This can be life and death! Hospital forms and the like have to be extremely successful or this could result in horrible mistakes.


Aesthetics of the extreme is so ubiquitous in our lives that we might not even notice it. It might best be described as a one-ups-manship to garner attention. Everyone is trying so hard to be outside the mainstream, which in turn, makes it mainstream. Extremism is such a part of our visual culture that we are getting sick of the “cutting edge.” At what point does this become commonplace and not extreme at all?

Punk is the ultimate example of something that thumbed its nose at convention and confronted people with outrageousness…now its become a uniform. What corporate culture does is take these things, for example “punk,” and sells this idea of extreme to a broader audience. Another example would be the music videos and movies with rapidly changing clips. This used to be hard to follow and crazy, but now we don’t think twice about watching and can actually follow what’s happening on the screen.
Subcultures will do something to identify who they are because they aren’t participating in the masses, then corporations find these things and sell them back to the masses. What is extreme anymore? Everything feels sort of tame now because we have been so over exposed. As designers what do we do to garner attention, and communicate something out of the norm, without being lumped in with all the other extreme crap.
Extreme is always relevant to the current culture that you are in. But what do you do with the attention once you have it? In Korea, there are video game professionals playing on big-screens in front of 150,000 people! All they are doing is playing video games in front of an audience! This is riviteng in the Korean culture…people are identifying with these things. The X-Games is a culmination of how corporate cutlture has bought out subculture. BMX and skateboarding became incredibly mainstream and all of a sudden everyone is looking for a sponsor. This isnt about selling out, its just weird that something that was diverse and laid-back has become super strict.
excess comes in many forms: guar the band…would throw blood and fake poop on everyone at their shows…its as over the top as you can get…but over the top has come to be something else. The pointlessness of the extreme is what becomes amazing…the Bugati Veron, a diamond encrusted PS3 controller, or a girl in bikini next to a giant motorcycle. One question we have to ask ourselves as designers is, “Why do we keep doing this kind of thing?” Maybe it’s time we go back to some thing more sophisticated and meaningful!
Another thing to notice is this movement into a very cartoon-esque quality of design…take for example the NFL…it is basically Saturday morning cartoons…as designers we have accepted that what is manly is kiddie! This is now what it means to be manly…12 yr old fart jokes and Saturday morning cartoons. Nobody notices any of this, we just accept it, that is the weirdest part of all. This cartoonesque quality has gone into everything! Take the Starbucks and KFC logos as further examples.
As designers we don’t have to give into this lazy way of dealing with things! We can speak to peoples intelligences too!! Extreme is just lazy! We are starting to get to the outside edge of things. Take Lady Gaga’s meat dress as an example…she didn’t even try to hide the fact that is a publicity stunt. She was simply just wearing meat…no significance, no statement…just meat. It is so obvious is can’t be denied. We designers have our work cut out for ourselves to get design back to a meaningful place. I’m definitely up for the challenge…are you?

Car Sweaters Gone Viral!

After much debate, I chose to do a self-promotion for my viral marketing assignment. I mulled over several ideas for my project before settling on this gem: make a sweater for my car using thrifted afghans! The concept was simple:

1) Buy several afghans at my local thrift store

2) Construct “car sweater” using my ingenuity and sewing skills

3) Make a short video of myself constructing said “car sweater” and publish on my blog and youtube

4) Put QR scanner codes on the sweater linking to my blog page (karabou-creations.blogspot.com)

5) Park my car (wearing the “car sweater”) on a busy street in Capitol Hill on a Saturday afternoon

6) Sit back and let the public do the rest of the work for me!

This was, by far, an extremely successful project! I generated A TON of excitement over my car sweater! In the course of 3.5 hours I had 38 hits on my blog, and well over 50 people take photos of my car sweater as they passed by. Not to mention many, many more people who stopped to look at/comment on the car sweater with their friends or to someone on the phone. Even when I was constructing the sweater in front of my home, I had well over 20 people come up to me and comment on what I was doing. I later searched “car sweater” on twitter and found a tweet/photo by a complete stranger about my car sweater! Who knows where the rest of the photos ended up, but the fact that people are sharing the photos with their friends shows that I accomplished my goal! Give me a couple more weekends and I’ll go viral most definitely =)

Here is a look at my process for the car sweater:

Car Sweater in the making

The construction of the car sweater

Strategic Parking on Capitol Hill

Car sweater parked on Broadway

Front view of the car sweater

A rear view of the car sweater

Crowd gathering around the car sweater

More people interested in the car sweater

Where will the car sweater be spotted next?

Going Viral!

Most of us have been exposed to this relatively new version of advertising called viral marketing. These are non-traditional advertising or branding strategies that use social networking and mystery to promote something. Some examples of viral strategies include: flash mobs, mysterious images, incomplete information that leaves you hanging, unexplained sightings of images or sculptures or websites…but the sky is the limit!

A meme is an idea or behavior that spreads from person to person within a culture such as the internet. An internet meme can be in the form of a video, picture, website, etc. that is spread from person to person through email, blogs, and social networking. These can be created and rapidly expand in a relatively short amount of time, and can disappear just as quickly.

Netiquette is etiquette for the internet, just as we display etiquette and good behavior in social situations person to person, there is also a set of proper behaviors for online social situations. Using the internet, you are anonymous, therefore other people are as well, and it is all too easy to act offensive or rude without trying too hard. Since everything on the internet is permanent, it is a good idea to keep these netiquette rules in mind because you never know who is watching or how it might come back to haunt you later in life!

Flash mobs are a public orchestrated events involving several, maybe even hundreds of people who suddenly get together in a random area to perform random acts for a predetermined amount of time, then suddenly disperse as if it never happened. A good flash mob takes everyone by surprise, and has gotten so popular that companies are starting to use them as advertising.

For our next class project we are creating a viral marketing campaign ourselves. I am choosing to use the opportunity for self-promotion…stay tuned to see what I came up with!!

DIY Aesthetics and Working Class Design

DIY is more than just people doing projects, it is the rejection of Corporate America as well. DIY is the fight for the heart of America. But what really qualifies as American? This is a highly controversial topic because it seems as if everybody wants to be part of the middle class, yet nobody wants to be mainstream. It is interesting when people making over $250 thousand per year still see themselves as middle class. Branding is what blurs the lines and confuses things. These things are highly contradictory…there is a war over who gets to be “normal” because those are the people who get marketed to. Terms such as: “Heart of America,” “Average Joe,” are what people aspire to be.

There was a time when the “working man” was considered sexy, but within the last 10 years that image is becoming less desirable. Almost simultaneously there was this idea of the “American buffoon” being created. Like a Peter Griffin, just-can’t-make-ends-meet type of man.

Peter Griffin

If you take a step back and look at the working class ideals, there is a strange omission of women in the bulk of these pictures. Before there used to be Rosie the Riveter, but with the rise of women in the work place in the 70’s and it becoming a controversial political issue, advertisers just decided to side step the issue altogether. The contemporary working woman has a classic image of a woman in a business suit and tennis shoes. Women holding up the tennis shoes became a symbol of “I work!” acknowledgement.

Rosie the Riveter

There are certain contradictions at work that are notable: the manly working figure, the doofus worker (Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin), and the notion that it is ok to BE poor, but it is not ok to LOOK poor. There is a war in this country on the appearance of poverty…mullets and podunk, hillbilly people are played up with demeaning images and looked down upon. Advertising does this too! The belief that “I did it myself, I earned every penny” is always touted, but then we make fun of people actually living this life.

Homer Simpson at workAn example of insulting the mullet

Let’s think about credit for a minute…you are poor, but the credit allows you to not look poor, but it ensures your poverty because you will always owe some credit company money. This is strange because you don’t want to look poor, but will always be poor to justify this behavior.
There is also this notion that it is patriotic to be of the working class. You will see images with lots of checks, stripes, red, white, and blue solid colors, people in the back of the a pickup truck waving the American flag. But in these images everybody is sort of spit-shined. A good example of this are the football teams the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburg Steelers, icons of the working class. This is meaningful because football is American, and this is a rivalry of two working class teams. But while these teams are supposed to be identifying with the most “average” individuals, you can see that is not how the players are dressing and trying to be conveyed. The working class image simply comes from the branding of the teams…it’s a huge contradiction.

Patriotic Working Class

There will always be a group of individuals that are trying to “own” the working class and who is trying to be proud for the DIY movement. For instance, the 80’s had the punk look, the 90’s had the grunge movement. During the grunge movement, it was almost impossible to find a plaid shirt in the thrift shops, and it became pricey to buy one. The plaid shirt became a uniform of sorts, just like a mohawk and piercings was the uniform of the punk movement.

90's Grunge80's Punk

What will the next working class look like?