CrossLab — Sensory Shopping

Investigating the power of senses, shopping and new media

Where to find important information…

Posted by arno -- CrossLab on April 11, 2008

We have been using a blog in this Visual Merchandising class in order to collect information, share ideas and make use of digital software to create our own database of inspiration and links. Using this format, you will find that there are lots of places where you will also find important and interesting information.

Perhaps the best blog for our purposes to reference is called We Make Money Not Art. This blog is a great repository of all kinds of information, mostly from the art world, but really rich in new media content. This blog is set up much like our own, with categories listed on the sidebar to all the areas where information is discussed and posted.

For example, you can find information on biometrics at this site, but instead of being purely technical, it is discussing how artists are making use of this information. Check it out and you will also find that there will be lots of postings regarding sensory experience and how other artists and designers deal with these issues.


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Steve Mann — MIT

Posted by arno -- CrossLab on April 11, 2008

Steve Mann is a scientist from MIT.  For years he has been experimenting with wearable computing, and has been connecting himself with sensors, gadgets and computers to the internet.  He is a pioneer in this field and he is worth writing about.  You can read more about him here.

Why do I blog this?

What Mann is doing is very similar to the assignment I’d like you to think about when you are developing your concept.  How do we use new media in a new way?  How do we make use of the power of internet and electronic devices in our daily lives, in particular, as visual merchandising designers?  Though Steve Mann is extreme for our case, it is worth writing and reading about him because much of what he has done is becoming reality.  And it is important to be aware of his ideas and his work.  How can you use his research in your own design concepts?

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Maarten Wijntjes

Posted by arno -- CrossLab on April 8, 2008

It is unfortunate that Maarten could only be present on Tuesday, because I think everyone deserved a chance to see him present his own work, and to ask him questions directly.

However, either way, it went very well. Once again, what seems to be a simple assignment opens up lots of interesting questions. How do we know what we touch, where does that information come from? Do we create visualizations of shape in our heads? How do we store this information? How do we translate touch (or words!) into visuals and recognize them?

And on the other side: how do we as designers make sense of the touch vocabulary we have to describe various physical things? We discuss things such as hard or soft light, warm or cool colours, heavy or light moods….these are all descriptors related to touch, but we can not touch any of these things! What do these descriptors mean, and why do we relate them to physical features we understand with our hands? How can you really tell if light is hard, or soft, when you can’t actually touch it?

Photos to be posted very shortly.

Speaking of touching light, check out the work of Anthony McCall who recently had a retrospective exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery in London. A must experience work if you want to have a discussion about the physical aspects of light…

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This weeks classes…

Posted by arno -- CrossLab on April 8, 2008

This week (wk 15) we will be looking at the information we’ve collected and learning how to put it together into a useable, presentable format. In this case, the blog is not going to work, since it is our digital sketchbook and research materials.

In order to make a digital moodboard, we will be using PowerPoint.

Why PowerPoint?

You may find that as a future designer you will be making many presentations to many clients. Often, it won’t be convenient to carry a large portfolio and a collection of images. A powerpoint presentation, along with a beamer, gives you the power to carry your images, research and concept proposals on a memory stick. It is an important skill as a designer to be able to create a good presentation to communicate your ideas. There are other tools available (InDesign, Acrobat, Flash), but we will start with the most basic, and widely used, being PowerPoint.

Todays lesson will get you up and running, as we learn the basics. After today, your assignment (HOMEWORK) is to put together a concept presentation with PowerPoint (10 minutes), outlining your direction for term 4.

What should your PowerPoint look like?

Your presentation should be 30 slides with the following information:

  • Your experience with senses: describe what you’ve collected in your blog, both in images and in text.
  • Why are the senses important to a designer?
  • How can you use them in your design concept?
  • Which senses do you want to work with?
  • How do these senses relate to the concept of the zeep winkel?
  • What new media will you use to create these sensory experiences?

The presentation should be due by the end of next class (week 16).
The presentation should be saved from PowerPoint in .pdf format, and posted on your blog.
We will discuss next week how to make a .pdf from PowerPoint.

On Friday, we are in a different location: 3DD is in 1.6B (ochtend) and 3DE (middag) will be in 2.6, both in Blaak. See you in class!

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What it all means…

Posted by arno -- CrossLab on April 1, 2008

Some of you are being challenged to understand what this class really means.

I hope to put here an explanation to perhaps make it more clear, but also why investigating our senses in relation to new technology is important.

First, have a look here.  This is a link to Philips ExperienceLab, which is just down the road at the Eindhoven HighTech Campus.  This is what we are also trying to do, on a very small scale.

If you read what is going on there, you’ll see how the world is changing.  Visual Merchandising is no longer just about a mannequin and some nice clothes in a window front.  New technologies allow you to change all of that.  As future visual merchandisers, you are going to require a new set of tools in order to work in the changing world.  Part of those tools will be to understand the new technology that is available to you.  Another part is to understand how the senses play an important part in our daily lives, by creating rich experience.  But mostly, as designers, you need to know how to put these two things together.  That’s what this course is really about.  Putting together your investigations of your sensory experience, and how you can translate that as a visual merchandiser to new techology situations.

It is not a small topic.  It is not something that I can personally teach you, right or wrong.  And it is not easy.

The blog is the first step to this investigation.  It is a sketchbook for you to use in a digital environment.  How do you collect your experiences in the real world?  Photos?  Sketches?  Sounds?   Where does your inspiration come from as a designer?  Books?  Videos?  The past or future?  How do you collect all these experiences and make sense of them?

Through CrossLab we are doing things differently.  The blog is your sketchbook, and the internet is part of your experience.  There is a lot of information out there, and every day more is added.  What are other designers doing?  How do other people create experiences using new technology?  What are the opportunites, and what are the problems?

I’m not asking you to be great writers.  I’m not asking you to be excellent draftsmen.  I’m not asking you to be programmers.   I’m asking you to think about how you create experiences by looking at your own experiences, but how they are defined in terms of senses.  Some of you have written about DJs using smell to create an atmosphere.  You’ve explained how it is done, using very low tech equipment.  But what is the effect?  How does this change the experience of being in a club?  What is that experience?

The assignments I’ve given are a challenge for you to really DO these experiences, and reflect on them.  What does the wind on the Willemsbrug feel like when you can’t see anything?  How do you know you are eating mashed potatoes, instead of mashed bananas?  Some of you said that “I already know the answer.”  I know you have an experience already (who hasn’t eaten mashed potatoes?).  But these silly experiments force you to really think about it.

Writing and documenting those experiences will give you a database of information that you can use in your coming assignments, and not only this one.

What is the smell of Tiki, if that is your other assignment?  What is the feeling of Tiki clothing against your skin?  What are the other sensory experiences of Tiki that you can think of, and then with your experience, use in your assignment?  Would a Tiki display work in Toronto in January, when its -30 celsius with a metre of snow outside?  What are the senses you are trying to capture to communicate your message?

The blog is the place to put all these things.  I am not judging your writing style.  But I am judging your presentation style later on, and how well you’ve decided to do y our research.

I hope this gives a bit better idea of what we are trying to achieve.  We’ll talk more about it in class this week.  And if you have technical problems, you can email me 24 hours a day, instead of waiting to see me in class.  That is the power of new technology.


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‘A’ is voor aardappel…

Posted by arno -- CrossLab on March 30, 2008

These are the results from today’s experiment: Unfortunately I no longer have the results from Tuesday’s class, but I took their advice and changed the assignment just a bit. Thanks to 3DC’s advice, about not letting the first blindfolded person NOT see what they are eating. It works much better.

Rosalie Nancy 1 2 Laurette Nadine 2 0
Cerinte Mariette 2 1 Rianne Dorian 4 0
Merel Emma 3 2 Eefje Maaike 3 2
Luca Arno 3 1 Pauline Roos 3 1
Wouter Rachel 2 2 Melissa Sanne 1 1
Mariska Nona 4 1 Laura Pauline 1 0
Cayan Anne 2 2 14 4
Esther Martine 3 0
20 11

What does this data mean?

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Assignment #2 is now online

Posted by arno -- CrossLab on March 24, 2008

This coming week we’re going further with our trio of experiments.  In the coming week we’ll be conducting the 2nd of these tests of our sensory experience to try and figure out just what is going on.

The assignment is posted, under the banner above.  Like before, there’s a .pdf file for downloading if you prefer a hard copy.

See you Tuesday, or Friday…

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CrossLab Lunch Event: FabLab

Posted by arno -- CrossLab on March 24, 2008

Fablab: Bas van Abel over Personal Fabrication

dinsdag 25 maart / 12.25-13.15u.
2e inbreiding, Blaak 10

De nieuwe digitale communicatie revolutie heet Personal Fabrication, aldus FabLab. Dit concept is ontwikkeld door Neil Gershenfeld van MIT. Een Fablab bestaat uit een set machines – van bij elkaar zo’n 30.000 dollar – waarmee je zelf producten en prototypes kan fabriceren. Op die manier kan je bijna alles met desktop machines maken. Dit snelle productieproces biedt talloze opties voor ontwerpen, zoals rapid prototyping. Er bestaat inmiddels een wereldwijd netwerk van Fablabs. Ook in Amsterdam is er een in oprichting, door Waag Society. Bas van Abel vertelt over de oneindige mogelijkheden van persoonlijke fabricage.

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What’s with the rabbit?

Posted by arno -- CrossLab on March 23, 2008

392px-alice-white-rabbit.jpgNot that I am a fan of their product, but this add seems to be addressing what we are talking about in our assignments and on our blogs. Douwe Egbert’s new advertising campaign is called The World of Black.

Do you dare? Blindfolded even? I think they should have done the ad campaign in Dudok, myself…

I’m guessing the white rabbit is a reference to Alice? Or is it a reference to the old fable that I learned in Canada while sitting around the campfire? (oh, and it does work…).

Now that you guys are experts on blindfolded sensory experiences, what do you think? Comments anyone?

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Christian Nold

Posted by arno -- CrossLab on March 18, 2008

Today, Aldje from CrossLab sent me this link, and I thought it would be great to share.

Seems to be tackling exactly the issues we’re trying to deal with, but in a more artistic format. Check out his link Sensory Deprivation and see how he is dealing with the experiment we did only a few weeks ago.

Why do I blog this?

Sensory stimulation is a topic of major concern as we shift towards a media rich and visually dependant culture. There is a critical need for artists and designers to create not only experiences that remove our sensory stimulation supplanted by digital media or visual dreaming. Instead, digital technologies should be a supplement to heighten our awareness of our environments and our abilities to communicate within them.

[stepping off the soapbox now]

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