Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Digital Sketches: Product Experience in Stores Space!

Of late I've been thinking about the role of the sales pitch (ideally): to inform the potential customer of a new product, it's innovative motive, and it's position amongst competitors. Couple this with the retail environment which usually serves as a symbol to the lifestyle, status, and general interest of the customer. Makes sense, then. The immovable object of of the store is a catchall, while the agile sales pitch takes on the role of specifics. What lays to waste is the deep understanding of how X product came to be, especially the immense amounts of work from very smart people to get it there. Thus, I propose a role reversal: the experience of the retail environment adequately serves as immersive tour of the product manufacturing process, while sales pitch, well, I'm not sure what sales pitch does, and I'm not sure I care. If you're a person patronizing a particular establishment, then you already know you're in the right places searching for the gear you desire.

The scenario for me to explore was simple: I love Back to the Future, and Nike has recently developed the vacu-formed future shoe as seen in Back to the Future II, rolling the manufacturing methodology into a new line titled "Vac Tech," molding their classics such as the Air Force 1 out of a single, seamless piece of fabric. 

Blamo. Beautiful. Although I'll agree with the critics here: why showcase a shoe with no visible seams based on a design with many seams? A visual cue for comfortable familiarity, sure, but no product should falsify its manufacturing roots. (Ahem, stylized housing in this era of open-lifestyle and technological development, anybody?). I happen to know something about the vaccu-form, having made a few molded PETG shapes myself, seamless, smooth, full of compounded curves. In this way, I've simplified the process into three steps to illustrate them as spatial experience: Heat; Mold; Suck. Classy.

My illegible sketch reads something like this:

Heating is necessary for the temporary plasticity to reform the material; a re-ordering and separating of its inherent molecular structure. If you've ever had the pleasure of melting something, you'll usually see some bubbles in the process. Ergo my visual cue at the facade level looks like:

Literal? Nah, the stuff doesn't really bubble when you heat it, though it might appear to under the microscope. Immersion into the petri dish, complete. 

Two is the mold. When creating the mold for your final vaccu-formed product, you are shaping the to-be void space of the object; i.e. the air which the shell encapsulates. A firm, but inexpensive, disposable material this must be, it is oft something compressed, such as the MDF routed into shape as I've used in the past. This molding form is presented in both perspectives as the compression it must go under and the solid is appears as from the outside. They become the entrance of into the space, and the object which occupies the interior, respectively. 

The compression is a simple Frank Lloyd Wright-ian approach to difference between low ceiling and high ceiling, composed with current-technology-available curvature. The solid, and exterior of this entry procession, a near-opaque cladding via difference in lighting intensity. 

Finally is the suck. A space-planning approach tackles this realized-representation in conjunction with the Venturi-esque wind tunnel that is the Form from step 2. 

The thought of people flow derives from the little I know about fluid dynamics from exposure along side Professor Cotel (so interesting!) at University of Michigan. Those eddys are points of maximum immersion into the molecular re-makings going on in the hard manufacturing of your favorite shoe. The result is a dynamic, interesting, engaging space, easily lost to hours. A desire for any retailer! And hopefully a small gift back to the customer.