Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Web 2.0 and community: a commentary

Soapbox warning.
Spent "class time" checking up on the News and Observer's efforts at local web community building at Triangle.com
I can't help but get the feeling that Web 2.0 development mirrors society now. In high schools, every student seems to be president of their own separate club. In business, companies slow their technical progress by failing to share and borrow from the technology of others. Few seem to live by the BBC's principles that Serena Fenton posted on Jan. 25 at Fresh New World.
On the issue of homeless panhandlers in Chapel Hill, Triangle.com should link to The Daily Tar Heel archived editorials and columns here. Both should link to Flickr photos of homeless in Chapel Hill. Students should use Facebook and Flickr to build groups focusing on this problem. The mayor should ask students to help, and students should stop calling for action and actually do something.
Back to class focus: If passion is strong enough, users will accept odd bright green colors and post their ideas despite design and speed issues. Perhaps that's why many participants in forums and blogs at mainstream media seem so rabid. But competitors will arise, as they have for Triangle.com at Free Forum. Kudos to Triangle.com for leaving that competitive link on a posting at their site; some others might have deleted it.
Interesting to note that blogging functions at Triangle.com are not very advanced, and the users seem trained to prefer not-so-visual forums, while the Greensboro community has been into blogs for a long time. It goes back to that community thing: It takes a long time for communities to learn new technology from each other.
Soapbox over.

Curses, color and college viewbooks

You may have heard of the typography curse. Or the design curse. Or the math curse. Those curses are the tendency to see typography, design or math everywhere you look.
Now it's time for the color curse, and the college viewbooks arriving at my house daily are rich material.
Like the Cartier website that a classmate posted in discussions, one rich red viewbook stood out. It's from the Robert E. Cook Honors College at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I've never heard of it, but the beauty of the book and the chatty content from students required a second look. Their website matches, though a little more subtly and with black accents. Reminds me of oldstyle University of Georgia design. The college's main website uses blue, with just a few red accents. The color differences allow the honors college to differentiate itself from the not-so-selective main school.
The color curse kicked in on the school's main page though, and I found the blog background color I sought. Behold, I've moved on from gray to ffffd1. I'm learning a new language.
Columbia's viewbook: Beautiful typography and a ripoff of Carolina Blue. Columbia's website: Duke Blue.
Dear Columbia: If you want Carolina students, resolve your blue issues. Or is the confusion on purpose?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Finger cropping and page turning

Must share two interesting interactive tools I ran into recently:
Hands on interaction: Jeff Han is a research scientist for New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. He's been showing off a touch screen in which multiple users can create on a screen at the same time. It's like those screens at Disney, only better.
The video, sponsored by BMW.
Newspaper virtual page turning here. I'm conflicted on this one, but willing to see what others think.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Anthropologie, Part 3: WWMD?

What would Martha Stewart do in an Anthropologie store?
Well, actually, Anthropologie marketers say they're too cool for Martha Stewart.
But visiting the store stirs that longing for creativity tapped by Martha, the idea of the creative "priesthood of the individual," to borrow from religion.
Anyone can be creative, the store says. Use Popsicle sticks, old newspapers, or needle and thread. Combine old, which isn't bad, with new, which isn't bad.
So the store's efforts to create the passionate loyalty of a specific customer spill into the lives of other customers. Anthropologie spreads a gospel among people too old or young or underpaid to serve as its main audience. That love of creativity and the visual inspiration in the stores can spread into our homes and our work.
Martha would say that's a good thing.
But remember that creativity, like Christmas, doesn't come from a box at the store.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Anthropologie, Part 2: Fluffy dollars

Check out ****FLUFFY**DOLLAR$$$****: Trends and Ends
For now, let's go beyond the standard links from Fast Company and Hoover's about the brand Anthropologie. Click on Fluffy Dollars to read yet another person rhapsodize about Anthropologie's stores, but then comes the twist. She declines to open her wallet very wide.
Before the stores increase sales greatly, all the Baby Boom Echo children need to grow up and become doctors and lawyers and bank vice presidents.
The rest of us like to visit, but we wouldn't want to spend there.
Linked blog rated PG.
The store's target customer: 30 to 45 years old, college or post-graduate education, married with kids or in a committed relationship, professional or ex-professional, annual household income of $150,000 to $200,000.
Show me the money: In the three zip codes surrounding the Anthropologie store in Charlotte, about 4,300 households earn more than $150,000 a year, according to Claritas in 2006.
Many other stores, organizations and media are chasing those same 4,300 households.
Maybe the stores can hold on until the Urban Outfitter customers grow up and get well-paying jobs.

Anthropologie, Part I

They could have named it “Archaelogie.”
Artifacts from not-so-distant times decorate this retailer, aimed at “sophisticated and contemporary women aged 30 to 45.”
Each store tries to create an emotional connection with its customers by using tableaux in its displays, mixing product lines together and adding whimsical touches from the past.
Shredded newspapers served as the window display on one visit. And on the latest trip, light wooden Popsicle sticks glued together moved in a flowing mobile over the ceiling. A standalone mirror with distressed wooden edges added nostalgia.
This brand seemed too trendy to choose to analyze for class, but a recent required mall visit increased my fascination. I’m slightly more than a year older than the target audience; my daughter is just over 13 years younger. Her fascination, almost love, for the store, and my slight disdain and reluctance to open my wallet intrigue me, given the company’s target audience.
She’s happy with faux antiques; I want the real thing. Or maybe it’s more complicated.
The company line: “Our core strategy is to provide unified
store environments that establish emotional bonds with the customer.”
Instead of relying on just pleasing colors and shapes, the stores use emotion-laden objects to make a cultural appeal to a specific niche audience. Its brand becomes stronger because the embedded emotions narrow its audience. There is no “flatman” here (I have yet to check the bathroom labels, if any).
All the emotion carries a danger of creating unintended reactions, as demonstrated in the New York Times article by Alex Kuczynski. Who would have thought the stores’ well-worn artifacts would have brought up thoughts of divorce, impermanence and dispersal?
For my child, these artifacts carry none of that baggage. (Though I’m sure other artifacts would). She thinks of creative grandmothers and grandfathers, and I’m guessing she imagines her own place someday, filled with “tchotchkes” giving tribute to the best parts of the past. The clothing and fabrics look fresh and new to her.
Those same “tchotchkes” create disdain in me. I have my own, already, thank you, and accumulate more each year as my far-flung elders continue to divest themselves of things. My tchotchkes are real, and connected to real history.
And the design and fabrics of clothing conjure up memories of clothing gone out of style at least once before.
Wide leather belts? Been there, done that. Big square sunglasses? Bought them, for my daughter. Wish I hadn’t thrown out my own from 30 years ago.
Coming soon: WWMD? (What would Martha Stewart do?)

Friday, February 2, 2007

The Firefox icon

Allow me to presume a moment. If I were queen, Firefox would look more like this. But the icon would include the whole Earth, and the icon would be round, with the tail/flame wrapping a third to halfway around.
Oh wait: that would be the logo for global warming. Then we could add the clock hands within the globe for the time "Five minutes to midnight."