Archive | June, 2011

Design for people: K-mart and a park

17 Jun

It’s interesting to note a shopper’s sensation upon first entering a store. There used to be two huge retail branches in my town – Walmart and K-mart. In comparison, K-mart did very badly financially. And why was that? For one, a customer ‘perceived’ that K-mart’s products were more expensive. For another, the entire layout of K-mart invited a headache. I would go 2/3rds into K-mart and come out shaking my head, wondering why I was getting a bad vibe from the store even though they sold basically the same sort of products that Walmart sold. Another thing came from when they were going through their ‘closing shop sales’ period. When I walked into the store, though many of the items were marked down, I felt disinclined to buy them because of the way they were placed – haphazardly, crookedly, as if they had no value. Now, K-mart could have substantially upped their sells during that period if their employees would step in at every other moment and fix things that a customer had just mussedup, but the employees were probably feeling very demotivated at the moment with their looming unemployment. Another store I would like to compare this to would be Target. Target had basically the same problems as K-mart – their products were more expensive, and the store organization was not thrilling. But target made up for all of it with one thing – color. Target was a master at setting up bright, cheerful colors, making sure that there was no dust on the merchandise or the racks, and making sure the lighting was bright and cheerful. Target employees wore red and white and smiled a lot.

I do wonder why Walmart stores place the sewing related merchandise at the back of their stores; and, if there is a gun section, all the hunting and gun gear at the back of the store as well. If I recall correctly, most larger gardening and lawn appliances (BBQ stands, lawn mowing machine, lawn chair…etc) are always placed on the left of of the store. I wonder why?


————————————————————On to elsewhere—————–

I was walking through our renovated community park with my dad tonight, and noticed that the old problem had started up again — older people in my community were bringing in their own chairs, and leaving them in the park. The chairs they brought in were either very cheap, or outdated – which guaranteed both that no one would want to take them home, and that it looked like an eyesore.

I was originally glad that they had renovated the park. The original park was basically divided by this massive monument that had steps leading up to it. Since the park was shaped like a triangle it meant that it was hard to walk straight through the park, one had to walk around the monument or over it to get through the other side. The way the bushes were designed also made it difficult to clean out litter, and there was a constant swarm of insects.

The new park design has a central fountain that spurts every hour. They minimalized the space that the monument uses and lowered the entire structure, removed bushes, and put in plenty of benches and some picnic tables as well. There’s even a small tent-like space in a corner where old people can bring in their own chairs and tables and do the chess, hangingout, smoking thing that they like to do. It has become a much more palatable location for the better-to-do families who just like to walk (or jug) around the park and bring their children to play in the fountain. But looking today, I noticed that most of the benches are not being used – because that’s not the way our community functions.

1. The benches are lined along the park. It looks very pretty in a design concept, but in reality bences are used when people want to a) rest, or b) enjoy some privacy. The park is not large enough for the joggers to feel an overwhelming desire to rest, and the placement of the benches allows for no privacy. It would be better if the benches were designed as gazebos, or placed along the path facing a view (like the fountain or playground) with their back to a tree or a fairly spaced plot of plants or running water.

2.  Like smokers who don’t like designated smoking rooms (besides freedom, they find each other disgusting), the older people in my community don’t like to be boxed off in an ugly tin-roof tent in a corner of the park facing the traffic. So they bring their own chairs to supplement the existing benches. Taiwanese people don’t use picnic benches either – because it’s square, and so high (our usual tea tables are only slightly taller than our knees) it constitutes an obstruction to conversation. So we see a ringlet of tattered looking chairs surrounding a bench. It’s a community activity, sitting under the cool shade of trees, talking.

Now if we can find a solution to the pet-owners who like to treat the park as a soil fertilizing project.