May 11 2012

las vegas – new retail

it’s hard to believe I hadn’t been to Las Vegas in about 5 years…of course so much has changed. I walked through most of CityCenter and the Crystals and found some elegant details and spaces and you can afford to do in Asia and in places like Las Vegas. The central space of the Cosmopolitan is a wondrous immersive chandelier gone wild – that wraps in and over the escalators and public spaces. I loved the simple things too like the All Saints facade – which are always engaging in their detail and directness – also the wine store with bottle ends that beated out the LED rhythm of D-R-I-N-K…

the Crystals at City Center
3720 South Las Vegas Boulevard
Las Vegas, Nevada 89156



Nov 15 2011

two new technology apps

Last week Apple announced a new Apple Store App

The Apple Store App is a free download from the App Store and allows users to use their iPhone or iPad to scan a UPC barcode in any Apple Store using EasyPay, log on with their user ID and use the credit card on file to pay for the item. Receipts are then available on the device and can be emailed to you as well.

What this means for the consumer is the option to learn a little something about a product at the store, test it out on display and when they are ready to purchase – they no longer need to find a T-shirted salesperson but can do the entire transaction themselves. In the testing of similar technologies – losses did not increases dramatically and the potential is of course that it can increase sales of individuals who might leave due to long lines or lack of service.

The other feature of the App is to find the item online at home then order for pickup in the Apple Store. This is not a new trend and the tested turnaround times are bit higher than the norm – at 12 minutes. This feature of ordering has been pretty standard for many retailers the past 2 years or so but with Apple – they will most likely strive to differentiate their offering with greater customer service and speed of delivery.

Starbucks Cup Magic App

In a similar vain to owning the retail experience and making it immensely personal is the new Starbucks Cup Magic App that was released today. The free App for iPhone and Android devices utilizes the phone’s camera to immerse the user into an augmented reality world. Anyone can us the App to scan  a typical Starbucks Holiday cup and the 2D printed characters come to life on one’s desk or other environment. Some screen shots I took at the Gensler LA office of two discarded cups I tried the App on. Visitors can collect the characters in a virtual world on their smartphones and share photos and FB updates of their experiences with the playful animated scenes.

The brand has also placed key seasonal ads in all the location which can be activated by the AR App – which allows consumers to get the added bonus for visiting a brick-and-mortar location. What I like about the app is the cup is a still a good coffee cup and if you want the primary experience of consuming a Starbucks beverage – this App only adds to the experience but does not diminish it or make you do extra work just to get your caffeine fix.

Both Apps make it more apparent that the ‘novelty’ of interactive digital media such as phone apps are no longer an added treat for the consumer but they are real tools of the retail shopping experience. The Starbucks App may be lighthearted in this incarnation but imagine when your phone App can see how that item will look in your home, how that shirt will look on you, how that picture will look when placed on your wall or which Ikea cabinet actually fits into that space. Some of these applications are occurring in limited release but the very near future has technology like this affecting not only the way we shop but how we interact daily and live.

Nov 12 2011

collaboration + innovation workshop

last week I gave a talk at the annual Opportunity Green conference – which took place at LA Center Studios on November 10-11, 2001.


The idea of the workshop was to uncover some of methodologies and practices of creative individuals and groups working together. The first discussion was the folk story that I have always loved, Stone Soup. The story is about an outsider who comes to a small town long ago and as he walks down the street the local people shut their doors and stay inside. He sets up a fire and a pot in the town square, adds water and then reaches into his satchel to bring out a large stone. After placing the stone in the water he begins to stir the pot and wait. Eventually people come out to inquire about this magical soup he is making and soon offer some of their own produce to add to the boiling broth. Carrots, greens, potatoes, onions and meat are added and eventually everyone partakes in eating the hearty soup.

Of course we know that the soup did nothing to add flavor or even start the base but what it did was bring everyone together so they could share in something greater than what they each had in their own homes. That is the message of how I start each design project and work with my own teams. Sometimes I add more to the soup as well.

RISD Wintersession

I had attended the Rhode Island School of Design for both Fine Arts and Architecture in the 1990’s. The education at RISD begins with a well-known foundation program that is based on the principals of the Bauhaus Vorkurs program. For the first year at the school – no matter what your major, be it painting, printmaking, architecture, etc., every student takes the same set of foundation courses. The curriculum covers 2d, 3d, English and some other design skills.

The goal of the RISD foundation course to provide an equal footing and understanding of all aspects of design before one focuses closer and closer into their chosen field of the fine arts they wish to pursue. It builds an empathy for all things related to design, construction, fabrication and creation and it positively affects everyone who goes through the first year of the school.

There is a fail-safe to building silos between each design profession and focus – which is the Wintersession program. RISD has a long Fall semester and Spring like most schools – but they shave off just enough to allow for an 8 week period in between when the Wintersession can occur. What the students are required to do is study anything at the school outside of their own major. If you are architecture – you might study sculpture, if you are in textile design – you might study typography. The goal over your four years is that you try different things and almost build some secondary skills to your focused major. One other important outcome that is evidenced in the Spring semester at RISD – is the knowledge that is brought back into one’s own work. An architectural student might now make their study model out of welded metal instead of cardboard, an Illustration student might use a variety of paint media when before they only used ink and paper. What you find when you meet a RISD graduate is that they have some very precise memories of what they studied at Wintersession and how it affected their own professional work today.

More to come…

view the slides here