Date: Spring 2019
Skills: Design Research
Methods: Cultural Probe, Affinity Diagram, How Might We Questioning, User Interview
Collaborated with: Matthew Nam, Daniela Delgado, Thomas Youn
Construction Junction is a nonprofit center located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that sells used building materials. Our objective was to research and observe the wayfinding experience in the store in order to locate strengths and pain points. We were then tasked with designing an intervention that improves wayfinding in the store while maintaining its unique charm.
__Field visit / Observation
__Design Ethnography (photo documentation + notes)
Location A - Entrance
EXPLORATION AND CURIOSITY (+)
The interior incites a sense of exploration and adventure. The variety of objects differing in size, shape, and color evoke wistful feelings that encourage the user to walk within the space. The scale of the area is also a compelling factor for the user to investigate the space.
Most people explored the space by wandering around and looking at the signs occasionally for guidance. The signs were not necessary but a welcome enhancement of the space
Signage is inconsistent and visually loud. The large EXIT sign initially made me think I was at the wrong location. There is no comprehensive map that shows me how the space is designed.
Location B - Aisles
The towering structures construct an intimate space for the users. The space is surprisingly quiet and helps the user to concentrate in the shopping experience.
Information on signages intersect and overlap, causing confusion to the users. There is no clear grid layout and designed pathways. The space doesn’t afford a safe environment.
The placement of signs did not coordinate with the physical structure of the space, causing instability and visual anxiety.
LACK OF CONTRAST (-)
The lack of contrast between the objects and the ceiling blur foreground and background, making it even more challenging to navigate the area.
Location C - Lumber
COLOR CODE (+)
The lumbers were color coded based on price. It was an intuitive system that made it easier for users to pick and choose.
TYPE SIZE (+)
The large type size helps communicating information even from far distances. Once locating the signs, getting to the destination was just a matter of time.
TOO LITTLE INFO. (-)
Once locating the area, I had difficulty reading the faded signs that seemed to inform me more about the goods. It was frustrating to figure out what was the common denominator amongst all the lumbers of different size and shape.
Location D - Appliances
The contrast in the wood and metal texture helped me figure out where the appliances are. The environment forces me to rely on sensorial information to navigate the space. Shape and size are also good indicators of the type of object.
TRIAL AND ERROR (-)
There were two appliance aisles with only one actually containing appliances. I had to do trial and error walks to figure out the area I needed to get to. I got used to the idea that signs are not accurate and reliable in this environment.
NO THRESHOLD (-)
The lack of threshold in between areas can cause disorientation. For instance, next to the appliances section is a lower ceiling that seems to indicate a threshold. I was unable to tell if the other side was part of the appliances section or an off-limits area. The space doesn’t afford a pathway that complements the layout and organization of the objects.
02. CULTURAL PROBE
We created a survey and dropbox for customers to give us feedback about their experience in construction junction. The task was for customers to place stickers on the floor where they: were most excited, were confused, found something that they bought, found their favorite object, and spent the most time. These stickers would help us visually pinpoint problem areas and trends in the store. The questions at the bottom of the survey would help us further frame the problem area.
STEP BACK AND REFLECT
We left this cultural probe up for about two weeks. Unfortunately, we only received one survey response and no stickers were placed on the floor. We identified a couple issues that might have caused the lack of responses:
—The surveys were placed at the checkout counter (per construction junction's request). Because of this, customers did not see them until the end of their experience. At that point, there was no reason for them to back-track their path to complete our activity.
—Construction Junction is visually overloaded. For customers to be able to see our probe, it needs to stand out more.
—As this was a short term class project, there were multiple probes out at the same time (about 6). We either need to split up the time between groups or make ours draw the customer's attention first.
Signs in context
03. AFFINITY DIAGRAM
We took the insights that we gathered from our cultural probes and desk research to make an affinity diagram.
04. DESIGN INTERVENTION
Based on our insights, we proposed a redesign of the layout of construction junction. This consistent aisle layout would streamline the shopping experience and mediate stress and anxiety. At the end of each aisle would be a themed room showing users how the materials could be used to create a unique space. These rooms would encourage exploration and maintain Construction Junction's uniqueness.