Posts tagged “curating consumption”

Curating Consumption

More observations and stuff that Beth and Steve have assembled over the past few weeks.

Can’t get there from here
This is such a fundamental usability issue I have to think there’s something wrong with my iPad or the Kindle app. Which operation is not supported? Buying this book. That’s right…click on that inviting little link down there that says “Buy Now” and get this error. Okay, this is Amazon taking a swipe at Apple (“Mo way you’re getting 30% of our revenue for something on the Kindle!”) But I’m not sure the average user will get that. They’ve helpfully provided another link for me: “What? That Buy Now link that should take you to iTunes to purchase this book doesn’t work? Goodness! Well, how about you See details for this book in the Kindle Store!” Nope – no mas. That operation isn’t currently supported either. So two lovely, juicy links tempting me to buy this book with no way to act [Conceptual sidenote: This would be an ideal design for many vices if they could tempt you but never give you the ability to follow through…the beer that can’t be opened, or the hermetically sealed chocolate bar]. I imagine there’s a product team somewhere at Amazon scratching their heads wondering why sales aren’t tracking but see an astronomical number of clicks on their buy links.Hint: we users will keep clicking thinking we must be doing something wrong, thinking “surely both buy options aren’t dead ends”. When we realize that they are, we get frustrated and take our own stand, in this case simply not buying. /BT

Two is better than one?
In nearly every bathroom I’ve been in (in the US at least) there are at least two soap dispensers – one in use and the other over to the side like yesterday’s newspaper. They’re in all shapes and sizes, usually one (like this one) is discreetly attached to the sink while the other is mounted proudly on the wall. I’m guessing it was aesthetics that sold the sleek little bar peeking from the counter top, I just wonder how long it took for the folks who had to crawl under the sink and refill it to put up a silent revolt – leaving people to pump furiously at one sink, then another then another, to no avail – before management broke down and put the one on the wall. /BT

Too soon or too late?
Gangnam Style is the global sensation that ever your parents know about. I imagine the restaurant owners protest-too-much denial of cashing in on a (no doubt fleeting) trend by pointing to the district in Seoul over the song. But then why is the clucky poultry mascot doing such a distinctive little dance?

Update (June 2013) – Church’s Chicken in Canada is doing something similar (thanks, Mom!)!

The remote control that gives you a lecture in virtue
In a hotel in Melbourne, the staff have clearly become tired of people complaining. Sure it’s partly about delayed gratification but it’s also a well-understood usability problem when feedback is slower than we expect. If the elevator call light doesn’t go on, you’re going to hit it again. But the warm-up for hotel televisions is its own flavor of usability hell. Will the set turn on? Will an LED change color? And how quickly? Apparently this particular TV set is so far off of expectations than the solution was a lovely sticker appealing to your sense of decency. Whatever, that’s a multiple of 8 seconds I’ll never get back again. /SP

Curating Consumption

Since Johnny Holland has said farewell, we’ll be continuing this series here on All This ChittahChattah. Here’s some stories and observations that Beth and Steve have assembled over the past few weeks.

Tim Hortons beverage pricing offers a large number of sizes with a tiny, silly price difference. No doubt there are graphs that prove this is a good pricing strategy, if upselling by 11 cents turns out to have any impact on the bottom line. As a shopper, I find it mind-boggling; the friction for supersizing is almost zero and now I have to actually think about how much I want to drink. The Tims man showed me the largest size and it was so obviously too much (more horse trough than hot choc), so I saved myself a few pennies and went down a size or two. /SP

Pets-as-people is certainly nothing new; a trend that has continued to grow in terms of marketplace dollars, emotional engagement a product selection. Still, it’s astonishing to look at a wall of clothing that looks like t-shirts in a range of kids’ sizes and styles, and to realize that actually you are looking at a selection of “Pet Gear.” /SP

As I tried to write the contents of this bag (pumpkin squash curry coconut) onto the label I quickly found myself ranting about the poor design: How can you fit anything on this tiny label (e.g., “pump sq cur coc”)? Then my young designer self surfaced and I realized that, “No, in fact this is perfectly designed.” The available writing space is exactly aligned to the end of the copy above, the height is exactly the height of the Ziploc brand. Everything was in harmony! I can’t tell you how many times while in design school that I designed something most beautiful yet most unusable. Thankfully a super brilliant creative director showed me the way. Functional can be beautiful. If you make medicine bottles clearer or safety messages intriguing enough to read then you’ve done something as a designer. What can seem like the most banal and uninteresting design project is a challenge not many can rise to. Anyone can design for cool brands like Nike, Coke and Pepsi. But can you make Ziploc bag labels a thing of beauty? Or at the very least, give me some more room to write! /BT

“Members only?” Here’s how I imagine that signage came about
Store manager: Why do you think we’re not getting any business?
Clerk: Maybe people don’t know we’re open?
Store manager: But we’ve been open for weeks!
Clerk: But we don’t have any kind of sign or anything telling people we’re open,
Store manager: But, it’s a store…I mean…the door is open…lights are on…we’re in here!
Clerk: Yeah, but it’s kind of not official until you have one of those big signs up…
Store manager: Fine!
[later that day]
Customer: Finally! Been waiting for you to open so I can see how much membership costs. /BT

Curating Consumption #4

We’re back with another round of some curious, provocative, amusing, and frightening observations that come from our daily experiences as researchers and as consumers. Thanks to Tamara Christensen for her contribution!

Ideally parental love is unconditional love. And when you love something or someone you want to tell everyone how great they are. It’s not that disease or disability should be hidden away in shame, but what aspects of our lives do we choose to announce and celebrate? It’s not uncommon to hear that people with Down’s Syndrome do have a number of uniquely endearing qualities that are particular to the syndrome, but is that what’s behind this parent’s vanity license and license frame? /SP

Of course this is a kind of service; I’m not surprised to learn that it exists but I’m still surprised to see it in my daily travels. I was certainly struck by the 2012 touches, using aspirational words like “grooming” and “beautification” (over the more common “maintenance”). And why not put the (delightfully alliterative) name of your business on your hearse-black vehicle? You never know where you’ll find customers! Perhaps even when parked in front of your local coffee shop. /SP

I came across this during a recent hike by the ocean, painted on one of the few large concrete blocks spattered about the landscape. I was taken aback by this image/text combination and immediately created a narrative with two dueling characters. First comes the antagonist, whose symbol of choice is a weapon, and later comes the protagonist who uses language to diffuse and reframe this act of aggression. Of course it’s possible that a single artist is responsible, but why would the hero deliver a message – intended to disarm – with such heavy artillery? /TC

Here’s Steve figuring out where to dispose of the trash from lunch. In the Bay Area, composting bins are getting pretty common in public places and along local trash pick-up routes. “Trash” is no longer a catch-all term or container. Composting is the new recycling. Green is the new blue. There are more bins plus posters and pamphlets that explain what goes where. For example, in some places the chicken leftovers go in the trash, in other places it goes in the compost bin. Disposable paper plates or plastic utensils are tricky because they might be compost, or recycling, or the trash. Ironically, the quest for more environment and consumer-friendly waste management involves the creation of more trash (i.e. bins, bags, and signs) and more confusion. /TC

Curating Consumption #3

We’re back this month with another round of Curating Consumption, seen last week over at Johnny Holland. In previous editions we have looked far and near for ponderous consumer experiences. This time around we are looking a little closer at the messages targeting us and what meanings they explicitly and unintentionally reveal.

On my last overseas flight, by the time they came around with the meal, I was more than ready. Sure, the crew didn’t seem to know what the options were, where words like “beef” and “chicken” were interchangeable options (and one attendant was freestyling with the radical “lentils” offering). Given the uncertainty, I went for the most-likely-to-keep-me-from-dying-of-low-blood-sugar-option: pasta. Looks like I made the right choice, because the pasta was homemade! Well, sure, the perfect formation of noodle-cheese-sauce may not evoke the sense of the artisinal, but the industrial inkjet printing on the foil covering reassures me that it was indeed homemade. Just like an artist numbers her limited edition prints, the pastacraftsman behind this meal uses a special code to document the individual pride and care. Sure, it tasted like crap, but I was thrilled to have homemade airborne crap. /SP

In this park in Lisbon, we found a phone hole, where a payphone once was, but is no more. The sign helpfully suggests that the phone is temporarily unavailable while being repaired. But let’s face facts, that phone is long gone and ain’t never coming back. Lisbon telco maintenance people, please don’t set up expectations you can’t meet! /SP

I recently received this card from an agent at the Southwest Airlines check-in counter. It included a lovely little flower-shaped piece of paper with flower seeds in it that I can plant wherever I choose. While I “luv” the idea of Southwest giving me flowers, I am baffled for a few reasons. Firstly, it seems like an unnecessary use of paper. Why not just print the promo message directly on the flower paper? Why use up a not plantable piece of paper to give me one that is? I have seen this kind of paper printed on before so I know that it is possible. Secondly, I don’t understand the campaign purpose. In preparation for this post I visited the Southwest Citizenship link on the card and found no connection to this item. I expected to see an image of this card or something, anything really, that would visually or conceptually close the loop between the gift, the targeted behavior (visit the site) and the message. A flowery fail, really. /TC

Celebrity sighting! For all of you out there wondering “Whatever happened to Johnny 5 from the 1986 film Short Circuit?” I believe I have the answer! While my son and I were returning a movie to a DVD rental kiosk in our local market this message appeared on the screen. My son doubted the likelihood of a little old-fashioned robot inside of the kiosk handling the check-out and return process. Of course, he is much too young to remember Johnny 5. So while he left the store incredulous, I left sighing with satisfaction that even 26 year-old robots can find relevant work in today’s economy. /TC

Curating Consumption #2

We’re back with another round of some curious, provocative, amusing, and frightening observations that come from our daily experiences as researchers and as consumers.

Our second guest post of Curating Consumption came out last week over at Johnny Holland. In case you missed it over there, you can sit back and relax and enjoy it right here on our blog! In our first digest (Curating Consumtpion #1) we featured images from our travels to Austin, New York City and Dublin. This month we are looking much closer to home and finding ponderous interactions and objects within a few miles (and sometimes feet) of our front doors.

My local cafe offers a small selection of lovely creams and lotions on the back of the toilet tank. I react thusly: “Ewwwww.” It’s one thing to put this in your home bathroom, or maybe in your office, where there’s a known and finite set of users. But this is a cafe along the highway. You don’t know who else has been using it, touching it, or not-washing-their-hands-and-touching-it! Or worse, I’ve seen some of the people that come in there and I do know who’s been touching it. Suffice to say that I do not want to be sharing cosmeceuticals with them! It’s the tragedy of the commons in the coffeeshop toilet. /SP


The fitting rooms in Old Navy have labelled hooks to assist you in categorizing your prospective purchases. It’s what we do when trying on clothes anyway, and while it’s not a complete solution (e.g., where’s the place to put the clothes you are already wearing?), there’s something charming about how it acknowledges your process. Also, those arrows bring a real dynamic energy to a static aspect of the task. Small details, but fun. /SP

There is not a lot of graffiti in the tiny town of Pacifica, CA where Portigal Consulting calls home. I passed this while walking from the office to the ocean one day and felt annoyed, but not because of the graffiti itself. I like to think I am an enlightened urbanite who appreciates the aesthetic enhancement, self-expression, and community color that street art affords. In this case, however, I was pissed off by the placement. See that ugly grey brick wall RIGHT BEHIND the fence? Yes, that’s the one; the unadorned, badly-in-need-of-anything-to-bring-it-to-life one. I can’t for the life of me figure out why the artist tagged the pretty white picket fence instead of the menacingly misfortunate wall. /TC

I spotted this sad scene on the sidewalk in front of our office. First I thought of the little girl who lost her shoe and would be upset, perhaps even scolded by her mom. And then I thought about the mother, recalling my own mothering moments of frustration realizing that my son or I had lost something of his along the way. And then I thought of the 6 word story penned by Hemingway, “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.” And then I waxed anthropomorphically about the shoe and her point of view. Yes, that little shoe looks like a lonely lady; one who has lost her sole mate. /TC

Curating Consumption now playing at Johnny Holland

We are delighted to announce the debut last week of our new series, Curating Consumption on Johnny Holland. The idea was born right here on All This ChittahChattah as an occasional curated collection of musings, seen through the bifocal lens of consumer/researcher. Not to worry if you missed it, we have it right here!

When is a door not a door? When the sign on it clearly states “Do not Touch, Pull, or Use This Door. Thank You!” I came across this (not a) door during a recent fieldwork trip to New York City, where I found myself invariably studying every door I walked by because they all seemed to have great stories to tell. Sadly, this story is one of inability to fulfill one’s useful purpose. What is a door if it is not a portal to some other place; a threshold to cross? Now it is a wall, and a window. I wonder if it will be repaired or replaced or reframed as an aesthetic relic that will remain in its present location and state of dysfunction. /TC

This television was hanging out on the sidewalk in the Mission, right here in San Francisco. I am curious who labeled this anthropomorphized electronic with feelings of inadequacy. It could have been added by a passerby; a reflective commentary on the choice by the TV’s previous owner to upgrade and abandon. In fact, a man passing me as I shot this picture told me “I love rich people, man! They throw away the greatest stuff. I got a vacuum cleaner last week that works perfect.” Or maybe the words were put there by the person who left that unsatisfying TV on the street. A “Dear John” letter from consumer to consumed: It’s not me, it’s you. /TC

When visiting Dublin, I was prepared for (and delighted to experience) all Guinness, all the time. What I didn’t realize was the supporting infrastructure required to make that happen. They’ve got tanker trucks of the stuff rolling down the street to meet the demand. /SP

Just days after the Kony 2012 video went viral, hitting the national media, images of the dictator appeared as stencil art on the streets of Austin. From Facebook and YouTube, the story touched the activism (or some say slacktivism) nerve. But what meaning is implied or inferred when the medium changes? Stencil art is hip, ironic, anti-mainstream. The street art form has none of the outrage of the previous forms. Is the previously unknown Kony now accorded folk hero status? /SP

Curating Consumption: Identity Crisis

Yet another collection of random musings from the perspective of a consumer/researcher.


This is awkward on so many levels. Of course there is the bizarre act of turning a fine cut of meat into a hot dog. Most troubling for the polyglot in me is the collision of cultures and languages: Kobe Beef is a Japanese culinary delicacy, it’s offered American Style, it’s touted as the Ultimate Haute Dog bringing French into the conversation and, wait a minute, it’s also a Gourmet Frankfurter so willkommen Germany! I’m sitting here wondering if I am supposed to consume this dog raw or put it on a bun and add ketchup, dijon, or sauerkraut. Mon dieu!


It might appear, on first glance, that this homeowner wants to sell you some fresh eggs. On second glance you might notice that spray-painted notice on the gate that you are absolutely not welcome. Missing from the image is the front porch, apparently a welcoming halfway house for transient felines. If ever I wanted to buy some fresh eggs (hen’s) here, I wouldn’t even know where to begin my purchase journey. I am considering offering some customer service design advice but seriously doubt it would be welcome.


Dear Fresh & Easy, I trust that you have access to some stellar check-out technology. You must; you have all but eliminated the need for any employees at the check-out and empowered me, the consumer, with this task! I typically don’t mind this activity (or I outsource it to my son, who loves to do it) except when it ain’t easy. Allow me to clarify: When the scanner won’t read a UPC code because the sticker has been wrapped unreadably around a package and I have to enter that code and that code is 24-characters long, that is not easy. Also, when I have two of these poorly stickered items and you don’t offer me the chance to enter a quantity so I have to enter the 24-character code twice, that is so not easy I start referring to you as Fresh & Fiercely Annoying.




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