Wicked problem

In my presentation last week I presented a “wicked” problem that is closely related to my thesis. I am exploring the integration of our surroundings and its effect on our well-being. I am also interested in the meaning of place and how businesses can plug into the historical and cultural meaning of a community, to improve rather than homogenize.

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In the first three images, it’s glaringly obvious that the needs of the brand have bulldozed any awareness of surroundings or connection to the community. The bright in-your-face colors are out of place with the historical buildings these buildings are housed.

The next three images are solutions: 1. The community board that either keeps the chain store out or requires the same style of signage for all businesses. This is the case in Soho, where the building’s structural integrity is left alone while businesses are required to hang the same size and shape sign. 2. the building with strict signage regulations (i.e. every business name is in the same typeface and color). This creates even more homogenization, and can go badly awry if depending on the taste of the co-op board.

The final three images in the slideshow are examples of large corporate chain stores “un-branding” themselves. Naomi Klein is probably loving this new trend. Corporations have come to the point where they are too controlled and feel the weight of consumer expectations, so they feel that they need to un-brand to capture the imagination of the public again. Starbuck’s started an experiment called 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea in Seattle (found this image on DK Holland’s blog), a McDonalds in Tokyo entirely devoted to the Quarter Pounder (not even a golden arches in sight!), and another McDonalds in Dublin fully integrated into the building.

These two images raise the question of what is authenticity? The fashion label Earnest Sewn has nothing to do with the aesthetic it captures in it’s storefront signage and retail display on the Lower East Side, however it integrates nicely with the building and surrounding neighborhood. Another fashion label, Rogan, is a really interesting example because they managed to break new ground with their brand while maintaining the structural integrity and historical connection to the building they live in on the Bowery. The type is futuristic and crumbling of the sign at the same time, which is an integrated juxtaposition with the crumbling building. The large photography in the windows are the only way you would ever know it’s a clothing store.

Published by Elizabeth Pizzuti

Design, art, and cats mostly

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