Environments Studio: Reflections (p1)

10/24: Mapping Schedules:

In the first step of my practice of meta-cognitive regulation, I’m mapping out my own schedule to the course schedule.

Image for post
Image for post

It looks like a lot of our studio class time is a work session, so looking into the future I want to make sure I take advantage of being able to get help from Peter and Cameron and distinguish this work session from just working outside of class.

So far, the only thing I see that I really need to look out for is travel plans during Thanksgiving, since we are presenting our first project the Tuesday before break but I know I‘ll be traveling that afternoon. I’m sure the timing will be okay for me to still present that day, but I’ll have to make sure I am very organized that week as it’s a somewhat tight fit.

Out of the three metacognitive experiences, I am interested in observing how I sustain effort over the course of this project. I don’t think I often think to look at what is motivating me to complete something or how the motivators change or waver throughout the course of my work, so this is something I specifically want to focus on observing and reflecting on during these next couple of weeks.

10/30: Hybrid Spaces

What other types of environments are becoming hybrid?

One of the most prominent trends I see in hybrid spaces is retail environments. I’ve always been interested in the different choices designers make to push consumers to purchase something or engage with a particular brand, and now with the high accessibility to smart devices and downloadable apps, many retail spaces have taken on an entirely new level of interaction.

I think retail spaces, for a long time, have been one of the biggest examples of highly-designed environments. I remember reading an article listing all the small but purposeful organizational choices supermarkets make behavior in order to influence consumer behavior: the doors to enter and exit are separate so customers are forced to walk through the store, the essential items like milk and eggs are always kept in the back to draw customers through, bakeries and flowers are stationed at the front so the customer sees and smells something pleasant as they walk in. I was a little wigged out when I first read this because it’s odd to realize how controlled such a familiar environment can be. But then I was inspired, because I can only imagine the possibilities of further enhancing this experience with technology.

Supermarkets are only one type of retail, however. Clothing retailers specifically have to find different ways to draw in and maintain customers, and manby are utilizing technology to create a hybrid environment within their existing physical spaces. One example is with Nike. The brand originally created an app to facilitate online shopping through mobile devices and provide some social media/blogging functions. But now, the app has expanded to include features designed specifically for customers to use while they are inside the store. There are scanning features, so that you can use the app to navigate and check prices and availability on items as they are sitting physically in front of you. You can use your phone to scan entire mannequins and then shop the outfit they are wearing. Nike plans to unload more features this season, notably Instant Checkout, which I think allows you to pay for items through your phone and then physically leave the store with them. There is also, of course, lots of benefits for Nike rewards members (or Nike Plus, or something like that) that can be unlocked by using the app in store, which is a smart way to latch onto that customer loyalty and increase online engagement.

This is a prominent example of a hybrid environment because the consumer is engaging with both the physically and the digital simultaneously, without being pulled too far into either world. I’ve personally notices that one of the biggest complaints about online shopping is that you cannot feel the texture/quality of the clothing and you can’t determine the size or comfort until you pay and receive it. Nike designed the app so that phone is not just an online shopping tool, but rather becomes an aid to the physical shopping experience.

Because the app seems to replace a lot of the tasks that employees would normally do, I do wonder (as I find myself always doing when new technology is introduces) what the effect of this app has on human-to-human interaction. I know I have been in retail situations where my experience was largely improved because I had a positive social interaction with an employee, and I’m wondering if there is a significant cost to losing this by replacing these functions with a screen. Overall, I do think that this hybrid environment is improving the customer’s experience because it’s designed to support a customer in making a decision and speed up their ability to get a product, which improves the customer experience and in turn encourages them to stay a customer long-term.

11/5: Designer Role:

Designer role reflection: How is the role of an architect and an environments designer different? Be specific when talking about projects, skillsets, tools, approaches, etc.

Environments designers and architects are both concerned with space as a medium for design, but there are a lot of distinctions between the two — enough, in fact, that for many projects it makes sense for the two professions to team up and work together to solve a problem.

I best understand this distinction when I compare environments designers to both architects and interior designers. Architects are generally concerned with the construction of the building and the spaces created within the building, whereas interior designers work to improve the aesthetics of a built space. Environments designers, I think, can work in both of these areas, but approach their work with a strong focus on user experience and fluid integration of the digital and physical space. Take a modern museum experience, for example: there is the building the museum actually occupies, there are the designed interiors that hold the artifacts inside, and then there is the specific experience that the museum wants it’s visitors to get when they visit. Experience designers would work to synthesize the structure of the building, the design of the interior and the tools for enhancing interaction (often technological, like a navigation app or sensor-based exhibit, in order to create a memorable museum experience for the viewers.

I think environments designers are becoming more and more necessary as our society continues to increase our reliance on technology, particularly smart devices and other tools that digitally connect us. Physical spaces are still important — where else would we exist — but successful ones now have to better integrate with how much we rely on the digital. Architecture is a profession that’s existed for thousands of years and accommodated the changing needs humans ask of their built spaces, but the invention of the internet created possibilities that I think step outside their realm.

I do feel a little odd talking with authority about what distinguishes environment design from architecture. I know that a lot of my professors and people who now do this type of work started out in architecture, and I know they would definitely have a better understanding of how these professions differ. I do know that because physical spaces are not just always a buildings, environments designers expand from architecture in that they can work with spaces like car interiors. This stresses that they are focused on the experience of the user and the story that a space can guide someone through, regardless of whether the space is a building or not.

11/19 HW: Meta-Cognitive Experience

What motivates you? What distracts you? What keeps you engaged?

These are simple questions, but I feel like I continually find new answers to them as I grow as a student and designer, many which are valuable to realize.

For this project specifically, I found a lot of sustained motivation because I was constantly working with new things that I haven’t ever done before, and that is usually exciting enough for me to get pumped about working. I do think that in part I was motivated to try these things out because I genuinely enjoyed and was engaged by the artist that I had chosen: his work stuck out to me when I visited the museum, and his story stayed with me after I researched him, and he made me feel unique for creating something that would be able to showcase his very different and bizarre portfolio of work. I definitely felt a big burst of motivation in the beginning because I was so eager to understand more about him.

This was also, however, a distraction in some ways. I can get stuck looking into a person: the interviews, the videos, the in depth articles on his process or his birthriver or his family. I’ll start to collect information that I probably don’t need for this project, and although in some cases all information is good information, I think that with such a multi-fasceted project and in this time frame, I wasted a decent amount of time reading things I didn’t need. I think I choose to distract myself with this because I am nervous to start actually coming up with ideas. I trick myself into thinking that once I;m finally an expert on Abel Rodriguez, I’ll be able to design the perfect interaction to showcase his work, but until then, I can’t start. I had to realize this (and was later in my process than it should have been), in order to move forward.

I also distracted myself by looking into the many types of interactive exhibits. This wasn’t just a distraction: My final project wouldn’t take on the form it did without the research I did, but I do think I spent too many hours watching videos of teamLAB’s “Story of the Forest” exhibit (which is astounding and I highly recommend) without directly pushing myself to think of how I can translate these ideas into my own work.

I guess my biggest lesson from how I get distracted is that I need to periodically check in with myself about why I am spending time researching something, and whether or not I am curious for the sake of my project, or distracting myself from moving forward.

Another motivating factor was working with physical prototypes. I didn’t think I would like them as much as I did, but I got pretty interested in LittleBits and definly felt motvaited when something worked out. Of course, the opposite effect was also true. When I couldn’t successfully connect the CloudBit or figure out the MESH blocks in time, I was frustrated and unwilling to continue using them. I don’t think there’s a ton to be understood here: I found success despite these roadblocks only by pushing through the little failures, and taking small breaks.

Critique is also motivating for me. Obviously crit that goes well is an awesome feeling and a good push to continue, but I’ve learned a little bit in this project and past ones that the tougher critiques are often more important, and if I make sure to see them for what they are, which is feedback and direction, and look past my ego, they can push me forward too. I did feel most defeated when in the last critique before the final, I realized I needed to scrap my entire layout, but I was never unengaged from the project. In fact, I think this pulled my attention even closer to it, since I couldn’t stop thinking (stressing) about how I was going to fix this problem.

Overall, I was pretty motivated throughout this entire project, and I think it may have just had to do with the nature of it: there was a some typography, which I love, and a lot of exploring new things, and not too many rules: a fun combination.

Written by

Designer. Currently at Asana, previously at Khan Academy. Language + Data + Digital + Print.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store