Paola Antonelli once spoke about how designers “stand between revolutions and everyday experiences”, asking us to consider the fact that multiple realities can occur at the same time.
After being assaulted by a little black box yelling incoherently about some weekly promotion one day at Walgreens - I realized that the in-store experiences with new technology for almost every brand I could think of consisted of mostly dysfunctional machinery that did little to inspire loyalty or create a connection between shoppers and a particular brand or identity, let alone the actual products or services they are purchasing.
When it came to women shopping for clothes (an experience that is supposed to be exciting and fun!) it was even worse. So I asked myself - "How might we develop a more natural fitting system that is easy to use and simple to understand one that builds community and empowers women to make their own decisions when it comes to choosing their style...regardless of size?"
This initial question - rooted in the retail experience - eventually evolved into a broader curiosity - one that I still return to often - of "How might we design better experiences that help women feel comfortable in their own bodies?"
This project evolved over the course of several years but began with an exploration into the future of retail technology in my graduate school thesis semester.
- Develop a comprehensive research plan and schedule for initial exploration
- Identify core area of investigation
- Develop a second comprehensive research plan and schedule
- Weekly presentations to faculty and advisors of findings over 2 semesters
- Low-fidelity prototyping
- Final thesis defense and creation of high-fidelity, interactive exhibit
- Publication of findings through the institution
- Penned my thoughts on the future of retail technology
- Built upon concept in MBA Experience Design Studio - produced Fitwell concept (a smartphone and in-store application)
- Penned my thoughts on design's role in navigating bodily change and my personal experience thus far.
- Explored several areas of interest within the "brick & pixel" retail landscape over 3 months through two unique lenses:
- an anthropological mind-set, investigated patterns of social interaction codes of conduct/social cues
- a participatory mind-set, probe first - then co-create w/ generative tools
- Conducted secondary research into
- both industry and adjacent trends
- consumer psychology (flow theory)
- cultural strategy
- UX best practices within E/M/T commerce (information systems theories)
- retail ethics
- experiential marketing
- social media
- Explored core concept of "removing the numbers" and bridging the "brick & pixel" experiences over 3 months through MFA Thesis studio
- Mapped current and ideal customer journey through the shopping experience to identify areas of opportunity
- Selected "at the rack" as a critical point of interaction during the "searching" phase - when a woman is first confronted by "the numbers"
- Learned basics of Arduino to developed interactive rack prototype to test theory with the hope of creating delight where there was once anguish and discomfort.
Further details into my explorations and findings are below.
early LOW-FI Explorations
- I Adore... Project: The I Adore project explores personal values and acts of voluntary participation. In collaboration with Lisa Woods, the “I Adore...” project arose from an interest in personal value, public participation and appropriateness of location for introspection. Key takeaway: ease with which participation was facilitated as well as the serendipitous affordance for editing the entries of others to create new meaning.
- Toms of Tomorrow: I explored a subtle, tech-oriented change that could recapture their essence and create sustained generosity with a broader conversation around each purchase. This was an exploration into how a company with a triple bottom line could potentially expand its mission/conversation across time with their product and a mobile app.
- T-shirts + Twitter: A tool to merge online with offline, face to face interaction and embody a digital platform within a physical presence - This was an exploration into bridging the physical and digital to create a long-term community for repeat participation. The campaign was meant to spark conversation and act as a means of crowd-sourcing pain-points for innovation while supporting the consumer as collaborator.
- Lets Start Here Challenge (A Helpful Failure): A four-part, online, participatory challenge that aimed to explore three main areas: (1) The “Wrapping” (what the thing which we purchase is clothed in and comes with), (2) the importance/connection of visual vs. physical, and (3) appropriateness of location for technology. In order to arrive here, a behavior-based photo safari of social cues was conducted and an initial participant pool was developed with a screener. What I experienced in comparison to my other probes was an underwhelming level of participation. After digging deeper into why participants had avoided participation, I concluded that lack of instant gratification and the number of barriers existing between “ask” and moment of participation was too high.
- Simple Social (interactive sketch installation): An experiment in evaluating the nuances of our typical fast-paced social media outlets in analog form. This exploration looks at how visitors add, move, share, and react as well as what is considered “appropriate content” within a public space (physical public vs. “digital public”) A Simple Social Shop will brought the Pinterest phenomenon into the 3 dimensional environment to explore the physicality of browsing and selecting while publicly sharing. In order to source images to “pin”, a holiday catalog drive was held to collect and reuse the under-utilized wealth of printed material distributed each holiday season
- Invited to continue my exploration in an independent study within the MBA portion of my program by the Program Chair who also served as my advisor
- Finalist in 2015 Bluetooth Breakthrough Awards (1 of 6 in Student Category) - announced at annual Consumer Electronics Show for the Fitwell Concept
- Had the opportunity to meet and discuss my findings with the found of ThirdLove (creator of an innovative app that allows you to find your best bra size in the comfort of your home)