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Enterprise and Research Methods 05: Peer Review (C3 Cube for Calmness and Contemplation)

Over the past week I have corresponded with Noll about his idea, the C3 Cube for Calmness and Contemplation. This is an idea that has been enjoyable for me to learn about. The correspondence process is outlined below:

NS – “The idea behind C3 (Cube for Calmness and Contemplation) is to give people in big cities a space that they can have a bit of privacy and somewhere to relax. Often in big cities, even with public parks, it can be a challenge to find a quiet space where one can be alone and recharge.”

C – My initial thoughts are that I, personally, can identify with this concept. Often I find myself wishing I could escape from crowds of people and I find that lack of personal space can be very agitating, particularly when walking through bustling streets or in front of / behind groups of people. It has occurred to me a number of times to look for a quiet space, when none are available, and I see that the C3 cube could provide these means. Would there be some kind of rule where only one person was allowed in the booth at one time, and if so how would this be controlled? Or is the idea that people can just walk in and sit, and there might be more than one person sat quietly in the booth at a time?

NS – “The idea is to have only one person in one cube at the time, as the idea is to give people a private space, but I’m also taking into consideration that some people might use it to conduct illicit activities, as well as practically matters like how much weight the structure can support. In terms of enforcing this rule, initially there would be a person who would monitor the usage, but later I envisage that some form of automated system can be installed that would check how many people are inside as well as a timer.”

C – I think in terms of any ‘illicit’ activities that could potentially be conducted in the cube, a fee would possibly solve this. As I can’t really see anyone who is prepared and able to pay a small fee to use the cube being the type of person who would do anything illegal (i.e. drug users etc.). And also this helps with only one person being allowed in the cube at once. Maybe with this in mind, a person to monitor the cube from the outside wouldn’t be entirely necessary; but as you said, this would only be an initial thing. Would there be an admission charge to enter, or would it be a shelter that is open for people to come and go as they wish? Would there be a time limit?

NS – “While I’m thinking of this project as a sort of public service, there would be a small fee around 2 to 6 pounds per use. Depending on how much we can get from sponsorships and public funding. Depending on the popularity, I’m thinking about 40 minutes limit and while people would be able to walk-in, I’m also thinking about a booking system.”

C – 40 mins, in my opinion, is a suitable time slot. Maybe there could be voice activation that speaks at the end of the 40 minutes politely asking the user to leave the cube and thanking them for their stay? Maybe at the start it could welcome them? Also, if this isn’t too much, perhaps the door could automatically lock so that the person inside can relax knowing that nobody else will try to walk in. Also, from the outside maybe it would benefit from having some kind of indicator as to whether the cube is available or taken (a red or green light?).

NS – “What do you think you would do in the Cube if it was available?”

C – If the cube was available, I would definitely want to use it. I would also be prepared to pay a small fee to use the cube for two reasons. A) I know it is a safe place to go and be calm, and that nothing dangerous could happen, and B) I would be able to relax knowing it is a private space that nobody else could enter. I would use this space to sit and gather my thoughts, knowing that it is free from social pressure. Sometimes, I find that taking time out to organise my thoughts can help me to cope more easily when doing the things I have to do, and I think that the cube could be an ideal solution/aid to this need. Personally, I find it very appealing.

Another thought was added to my peer review of Noll’s work the following week:

C – Just had another thought about your idea… This wouldn’t necessarily appeal to me, but what about having some kind of interactive system within the cube that allows the participant to either listen to music or view certain images as a projection? Obviously this would affect the cost and other practical factors, but maybe some people would prefer to have some kind of aid to help them escape from the pressures of city life. As, traditionally theatres and cinemas were used in time’s of cultural conflict to escape from these dangerous realities. Perhaps this could be linked to research of location histories. I realise the idea, though, is to allow people to have some un-invasive time alone with their own thoughts, so that this kind of thing may detract from that. Also, if the cube were to be placed in a city such as London, I have considered that there are already a number of theatres and cinemas that actively fulfil this role anyway.

Enterprise and Research Methods 04: Changes After Peer Review

The peer review process was incredibly helpful for me – just what I needed to set my thinking on a clearer path. Tati’s suggestions have helped me to be clearer about communicating my idea in a more focused direction, instead of getting caught up in the practical steps.

After the peer review I have decided that more flexible options will be available for this table; for example, consumers would have the option of choosing a size, design, materials, and level of function from a list. Some may choose a simpler version, a different visual design, or some may wish to create a more complex product. Part of the colour changing process could be linked by signal to consumers mobiles, so that they can change the colour of the light via their own smartphone if they wish.

Because of this, custom price lists would be created for each design, but I anticipate the version illustrated at the beginning of this video would come to something around £220.

Also, the product could be open to collaborating with app designers to combine mood tracking with home interior lighting. Here pre-sets could be stored for easy access to the consumer depending on intended use of the product in various social occasions, internal moods, and evenings relaxing.

The product would be suited mostly to contemporary style apartments and could be a good feature at dinner parties, especially if combined with smartphone control.

Enterprise and Research Methods 03: Video Pitch, Target Market, and Competitors

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The video pitch does not exactly live up to Politz’ argument that advertising should be transparent (partly due to the sketchy footage and no budget teleshopping style…) but it does focus on simplicity. Because the idea itself is simple.

The video simply shows the rough prototype as the idea in its very basic form, and the marketing stance that would be assumed when selling the product; the actual product would be more complex than this. The product itself will be explained verbally in the presentation.

The target consumers for Illumination would be homeowners and apartment Sharers aged 20 – 50, and within this market would consist of:

Young Professionals
Independent Adults
Family Starters
Middle-Aged Couples

The product will provide the solution escape from the pressures of life in a retreat to the smart domestic home, which is a space free of clutter and for clarity of the mind.

Leading competitors include Made In Design, Hettich, and LiteHouse, which sell products that have separate functions but they are not combined. Ebay and Amazon among other companies sell LED mirror products but none of these products are multi functional for the living area of the home and they do not incorporate art into their designs. The selling point of the product ‘Illumination’ is that the table is multi functional: art, light, and storage space.

The cheapest product match is £95 from made in design, but does not serve the same function as the proposed product Illumination. An example of the Made In Design product is below.

And another with a different purpose:

Other examples of the LED style can be found in bathroom mirrors.

‘Illumination’ combined the principle of the above three. What is perhaps most relevant is the marketing stance German manufacturer Hettich assume. That is to present lighting as the key to the mood of the home:

“The way we perceive an object or environment largely depends on the lighting situation. Does a space look interesting or monotonous, inviting or oppressive, homely or sober? Light makes the mood. Light can be used to give a space a very personal stamp, make it look bigger, upgrade its practical and aesthetic value” (Hettich 2014).

http://www.hettich.com/fileadmin/content/mediathek/PRO/Magic_11862_C_2012-01_en_DE.pdf

This is similar to the marketing stance that the product would take.

Would the product be successful if it were to be produced? There are a lot of home lighting products out there, but Illumination takes a unique approach and someone once told me that good ideas can be simple.

Hettich (2014) ‘Light is Creative Energy’. Hettich [online]. Germany: Hettich Holding GmbH & Co. Available from: http://www.hettich.com/en/products/lighting-in-furniture.html [Accessed 17 April 2014]

Enterprise and Research Methods 02: Mock Up, Rough Prototype, and Product Pitch Idea

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The product pitch idea will be called ‘Illumination’, which is a multi-purpose item of home furnishing. The product is designed to incorporate storage space with artistic display and mood lighting.

The product was inspired by the Grand Designs Magazine statement that “With clever design and flexible furniture, you can now get a lot more function from your footprint.” (May 2014 edition). The product will achieve this through efficient use of space.

Illumination is designed to realise this through multi-purpose functions within itself. For example, the product functions as a coffee table with built in storage space but it also functions as a display of art and as a mood lighting device. This would be instead of having a coffee table with items such as a lamp and framed image, and a shelf on the wall.

The rough prototype:

- uses a mains voltage 230 volt (50 watt) halogen bulb and coloured perspex material
- bulb causes overheating and perspex is too dark for the product to function as a mood light

The cardboard mock up:

This displays the basic idea of a table that functions as a mood light but does not explore storage space; neither does the rough prototype.

A cultural probe idea:

Cards with possible images could be given to potential consumers along with other images; the idea of these cards would be that the consumer could circle a word that they associate with this Picasso image and write a comment on the back of the card explaining why. Other items, such as a cultural probe tool kit, could be given to the consumer so that they could record their daily activities and needs around the home so that the furnishing could be developed with this insight.

A diagram of how the real thing would work:

If this were to be a marketable product it would need a professional finish. One way to do this would be to incorporate LED lighting into the design itself, not the halogen bulb. This would work through one or more back lighting panels attached to the table, which would shine bright white LEDs. The coffee table would also have built in storage space.

A material with a fairly clear opacity would be fixed onto to panels, with the cut out Picasso image so that the bright white light shines through. Around the outline of this image there would be more small LEDs of a different colour, so that the light is contrasted with the light shining through the cutout. A remote control would also allow a change of colour of the light. It would be powered through a built in source that would be plugged into the mains with a discreet wire.

Enterprise and Research Methods 01: Literature Review (Politz 1960)

In ‘The Dilemma of Creative Advertising’ Alfred Politz discusses ways in which contemporary advertising has replaced effective communication methods with ‘gimmicks’ that are detriment to the power of advertising itself. In pointing out several concepts in advertising theory that Politz explains have been overlooked, misunderstood, and developed ineffectively, ‘The Dilemma of Creative Advertising’ argues that simplicity and accuracy is the key to the effective selling of a product. Politz’ view, this blog post will suggest, is a valid and powerful one. It will also briefly relate Politz’ ideas to the given task – the video pitch – of the Newcastle University module HSS8121 ‘Enterprise and Research Methods’.

In the text, Politz concludes that “intellectual gimmicks, cleverness, wittiness, or ingenious and tricky word combinations” only obscure the consumer’s perception of the product and thus subtracts from successful advertising of the product. Although the article is both written in and directed at advertising of the 1960s, it is possible to transfer these concepts onto contemporary advertising of today. Efficient advertising, as Politz suggests, is dependent on simplicity. Politz argues that “simple language – simple direct presentation of sales arguments and the avoidance of tricky attention-getting devices” place trust in the consumer and convey persuasiveness in a way that is almost transparent. It is the purpose of this blog post to identify and agree with Politz’ argument that it is exaggeration, misrepresentation, and sensationalisation that are outright attempts at advertising and are thus not techniques that are as engaging as they could be. In the words of Politz himself, “directness and simplicity have been replaced by carefully contrived detours, which can be very costly indeed”. So, with this view, it is the return to a focus on simplicity and straightforwardness that should stimulate success.

According to Politz, the use of ‘familiarity’ in advertising is a concept which has been both neglected and overlooked. The familiarity principle, Politz argues, is easy to understand: “something that is known inspires more confidence than something that is unknown”. It is this principle that has governed the creation of the product that will be marketed as a pitch for the entrepreneurship task within the ‘Enterprise and Research Methods’ module. The product has been designed with the question ‘What is familiar?’ in mind; when the question ‘What is familiar?’ is asked, the initial response could result in, perhaps, with another question: ‘What is familiar to most people?’. Asking this question, then, it seems could result in an obvious choice: the domestic home. The domestic sphere is associated with comfort, familiarity, shared moments, and relaxation. Before the advertising process has even begun, familiarity is there to inspire confidence; it is the advertising process itself, however, that must be excecuted with sensitivity. How can this be done? Politz argues that simply repeating the name of the product can contribute to its advertised properties, “simply by generating an awareness… that generates this minimum amount of confidence.” This is a start, however, more than generating awareness of the product must be achieved; generating likability of the product must be achieved.

Of course, this is something that is recognised by Politz: “But advertising copy is intended to perform a function beyond the mere development of familiarity with the brand name. Copy is intended to shape motives and desires, to build believability, and to provide a reason for selecting a particular brand over all others.” And as Politz suggests, this can be achieved through simplicity. The product that will be created for the ‘Enterprise and Research Methods’ pitch will be a product that is based on minimalist design, that embodies the simplicity, and the comforting and relaxing properties of the domestic sphere. It will be marketed through one strategy, and that strategy is to present the home as a space free of worry, and for clarity of mind. For this to be achieved, it will focus on the positive; it will not acknowledge the negative. In other words, it will present the home as a calming oasis; but it will not references the stresses of daily life at all. The product itself combines design with functionality. It is a cube table with a wooden structure and coloured perspex panels with a Picasso line drawing cut onto the panels; inside the table is a halogen bulb, that when lit, illuminates the Picasso design but also functions as a mood light at the same time. As well is this, the table has the simply and primary function as a surface to place various tools for relaxing in the home, such as a glass of wine, a cup of coffee, etc. It is with this view that the product will be pitched as a solution, a space of clarity and freedom of the mind.

As this blog post has established, Politz has outlined the familiarity principle as a key effective strategy that has, in the past, been overlooked. Moreover, Politz has identified transparency as a fundamental element to any effective design. This is a question of, not what the product says, but how the product says what it is saying. Politz argues that “the advertising man, unless he takes pleasure in perfection, will also be disappointed to discover that the more perfect he makes his advertising, the less it becomes noticeable as advertising.” Furthermore, it is with this view that the product will acknowledge itself as a solution, to a problem which is silently referenced. In other words, in the pitch there will be no naming of negativity such as worry, stress, clutter; but there will be a named reference to peace, clarity, functionality, and design.

Politz, A. (1960) The Dilemma of Creative Advertising. American Marketing Association. 25 (2) 1 – 6.