Design By Any Other Name
A little while ago I had the opportunity to participate in a design event called Design Like Mad and it generated some interesting internal dialog, so I thought I’d share some of that here on the KONRAD blog.
About Design Like Mad
I think the above sums it up pretty well. The idea is not entirely dissimilar to the “48:2” weekend design lock-ins that we did every year in the Industrial Design department at Purdue. I’d just moved to San Diego and was anxious to get out to events to meet people and try to integrate into the SD design scene. Design Like Mad popped up in my twitter feed somewhere, so I signed up. I was initially a little confused, because you had to specify a design “role” that you were, and all of the roles listed were kind of web centric; except “Architect”. I’m a UX Architect, so I picked that.
Some months passed since I signed up for the event. The first action towards the event was a pre-planning meeting the week before. In an email reminder, I saw my team assignment. I was on the “Rockstar Architects” team. I looked up my teammates on LinkedIn. They were all building architects. I was a little frustrated, but went ahead with it. When the time came, I went to the meeting and explained my situation to one of the organizers. They explained that the team leader was “kind of a big deal” and I might just want to stay with it to see how he worked. It turned out that our third teammate never showed, (no show, no call, no response to our emails.. who does that?) so it was just the big deal and I.
Turns out, he was kind of a big deal, but not in the negative way that I had feared. The architect in question here is Kotaro Nakamura, the current director of the School of Art + Design at San Diego State University, and partner in Roesling Nakamura and Terada Architects. I found him to be a very knowledgeable, yet low key guy. At one point I started yammering about my favorite metabolist architects and how I thought their manifesto applied to other areas of design. I was stoked to find that he not only knew who I was talking about, but that he was teaching his students about the metabolist movement the week before.
The organizations that we were assigned to help were the The Jonathan Sellers And Charlie Keever Foundation, a group that promotes the awareness and prevention of child abduction, and the Vista Boys and Girls Club, a local part of the national organization, providing children a safe place to learn and grow. Working with these groups was great. Our contact people from each provided us key information on the projects and helped to steer our designs.
For the Jonathan Sellers and Charlie Keever Foundation, our task was to help them with the interior design of a thrift store that they use to raise funds. Their need was to make a very small office space functional for different volunteers. For the Boys and Girls Club, the task was to help design their facility’s entryway to be more inviting.
We started with the Boys and Girls club. Initially I was unsure how to start; I’ve never really worked on an architecture project before. Kotaro recommended a simple but fruitful process of drawing on top of a pseudo elevation view that we grabbed from Google streetview. We each did about 10 concepts. During this process, we also took a look at their website to understand the feel of the clubs marketing and identity. They have a great site. It’s fun and has an engaging colorway. We used a lot of their existing color palate in our concepts. A couple of hours in, we had an design review with our stakeholder from the Boys And Girls Club. She ended up choosing one of my concepts, and so for the rest of the event, I spent my time refining that for delivery and generating a spec sheet to aid a paint crew in applying the design. You can see the final outcome below. It is very simple, but I think effective. The white entryway was a suggestion from Kotaro – It really draws the eye in to the entry doors and has a positive, pure feel. The Boys and Girls Club national organization’s blue was applied to the whole of the facility to separate it from the other warehouse like buildings around it. Finally, the large gym exterior wall was given diagonal stripes to help break up the rectilinear structure while conveying energy and movement. The stripe colors were taken from their website for a sense of multi-channel unity. It was a relatively simple process, but I think the effect is significant. It’s uncertain whether this color scheme will be applied or not, but it is currently going through the organizations steering committee.
While I worked on the Boys and Girls Club exterior design, Kotaro worked on the interior space for the the JSCK foundation. I won’t post his work here, since that’s his story to tell, but I think the outcome he arrived at will serve the foundation well.
I was apprehensive going into this event. The heavy web/branding focus of most of the projects (all of them, except my team’s) was a little off putting to me because I have a bit of an ax to grind with the whole “Digital Marketing” industry, but I’ll save that for another post. The work that I ended up doing was pretty fun. It was so cool to use design in a non-tech context for a while. It reminded me of all of the classes I really enjoyed during my MFA – critical theory, fringe new media and just the general idea of applying the design “body of knowledge” to new and interesting things. Working with Kotaro was also great. He is a man of few words, but the ones he says are meaningful. It was a treat to be able to communicate in a different design vocabulary and be understood.
Overall, I think this project reminded me of some things that are really important to me personally, and I hope to figure out how to integrate some of those things into our work here at Konrad+King. Thinking back to my participation in campus master planning at Purdue and framing it along side the work that I did during Design Like Mad, I have a reinvigorated agenda to find ways that we can use our User Experience and Strategic Design skills to help people in not just technology, but all kinds of businesses.