Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Messin' with Spectar

You ask why? I ask why not?
Starting to get interesting
Yes, we did get the stool out.

Working with Spectar...

Recently, we have been working with the different types of Spectar, finding out how it reacts under specific circumstances.  We've frozen, bent, re-bent, heated, cut, and so far, I have been impressed with what the material can do.  I hope to use what I've learned from this experimentation in the construction of our final models.

Shedding Some Light on Spectar

This week I spent some time working with and getting a feel for Spectar. I decided to test out the scratch resistant Spectar to see how big of a difference it made in intense heat. The heat caused a pattern like the veins of a leaf to spread across the Spectar sheet and it made a surprisingly nice design on my light sculpture. It was nice getting to test the limits of Spectar and I'm looking forward to applying this knowledge to my design.

Getting Familiar with Spectar

This past week and most of this weekend has been spent with some type of tool and sheets of Spectar. I have played around with Spectar using heating rods, heat guns, saws, vacuum formers and everything in between. The experience gained first hand with Spectar has allowed for a better perspective on the initial concept designs i have come up with. The next week or so of designing and experimenting combined with the initial research should nurture some promising ideas.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

poking around with spectar

So far, so good with the spectar. Much better than acrylic... Spectar has been able to take pretty much all of the shapes I've tried. I haven't been let down yet. But I will say it is a little more 'rubbery' than I thought it would be. I expected more of a flimsy material when heated. That is no problem though. I've played around with sanding for a frosted appearance... looking good - and also with extreme heat to gain a slick edge. I've found that unless the edge is already pretty smooth, you're going to damage the plastic with these torches. The ends need to look pretty nice already.

212Degrees+Spectar= Better wear gloves

By boiling spectar it becomes extremely flexible yet when it is cooled it doesn't get brittle. You need to work fast because spectar doesn't retain the heat very well. I also found that if you ,say take a strip of spectar boil it then twist it or roll it up ,let it cool, then put it back into the boiling water it will return to its original shape.

A day with Spectar

During the research process that Auburn's methodology covers, we experimented many different ways with the product. Spectar is unbelievably capable to form change and by process of elimination my fellow colleagues and I put it to the test. We froze it, heated it, torched it, bent it, reheated, and bent it again. It was good being able to find the limitations of the plastic we are working with and I think that there are many possibilities.

Material Destruction

First wave of concept sketches are complete, along with material exploration. Noticing that while Spectar handles initial heating exceptionally well, heating and then cooling tend to make the material brittle... In other words, seems like you have to get it in one go. Also, little known fact by Auburn U students: Spectar catches fire.
Heat gun > Torch.

Thicker sheets of Spectar seem to hold up to heating and bending a lot better though... Which probably doesn't make a lot of sense, but then again we have had so many mix ups with our acrylic supply, scratch-resistant Spectar, and normal Spectar that it wouldn't suprise me if I grabbed the wrong stuff. That being said, the thick orange sheets we have are great... Really hold thickness and form even on the verge of melting. Really great.

Getting to know Spectar...

Getting to know Spectar

During the last two weeks we all have had our fair shair of experimentation with the material Spectar. This product is almost amazing! It acts like a hard acrylic plastic, but you can bend, heat, mold, shape, create air bubbles, burn, color, scratch, crack, etch, laser cut, and reform this material! Spectar has way more possibilities than any plastic can offer us today. So far I have to tip my hats to the Chemical Engineers at Eastman Chemical Company.

Buy it, Use it, Break it, Fix it... Sketch it!

Spectar, the plastic of possibilities, went under many tests, such as heating, bending, thermo-forming and other processes. The outcomes got me thinking so I sketched out some ideas for form and structure experiments.

what can spectar NOT do?

During our "material exploration" phase I have heard people doing some pretty whack things to Spectar: boil it, broil it, melt it, freeze it, sand it, burn it, and everything in between. My light project didn't involve anything too hazardous, just some heat bending and some sand "frosting." I was impressed with Spectar's ability to be heated, shaped, re-heated, and re-shaped. I made a couple bending mistakes that could have been pretty detrimental had I not been able to just re-heat and bend.

Material Experimentation

This week we took a break from studio work and went down to the shop to experiment with Spectar. We heated it, froze it, bent it, wrote on it, scratched it, etc.....anything to test the strength and durability of the material. One of the most interesting properties of the plastic that I found was that Dry-Erase markers can easily be erased off of the Spectar surface, just like on a white board. This could be very useful with changing displays because companies could write current prices etc. on the surface of the plastic and change it easily.

Heating Spectar

Heating with a torch can cause some air bubbles.

A heat strip can be used to bend and shape Spectar.

Video Retail Research

Over the past couple of weeks I have spent time researching the local video rental retail industry; this would include Video Gallery, Blockbuster Video, Video Warehouse, and Hastings. I happened to grab some photos of the stores overall, as well as up close pictures of the different types of display materials. I also interviewed employees with an in-depth survey.
In general there were some consensus issues with the four retail competitors. One of which was placement; at what level the rental was placed in regards to eye level. Another concern was how well the display actually displayed the product. Ease of cleaning the display was also a major concern with retailers. I'm currently in the process of taking this information and developing some innovative solutions.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Constructing my Spectar Sky Sculpture......

Overall, I haven't had any problems working with the spectar in creating my sky sculpture. A couple of the issues that I did have with it was that when I used a heat gun to heat up smaller sections on my sculpture, the pattern on the gloves that I was using was sticking to the spectar and also the blue fabric from the gloves was sticking onto it as well. This made it difficult to keep clean and continue forming my sculpture. Also on a couple strips of plastic that I heated up, they got way too hot and were like pieces of spaghetti when I tried to form them. the plastic stretched too much and therefore I was not able to use a couple of the pieces on my sky sculpture.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Working with Spectar Material

My plan as I worked with the material to create my light sculpture was to vacuum for these stacked cyclinder shapes and cut it how I wanted. Just putting them on top of each other didnt work so I tried taping them together. That made the plastic push out where the air couldnt escape to I used less tape leaving air holes so that the air could be pulled through. Third time was a charm... After that I cut pieces from the models that didnt work out so well and sanded to make my light sculpture.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Fresh Squeezed Spectar

During my early research at the local super-market, I found quite a few opportunities for spectar in the produce section. After talking to Chip, who works in the produce section, I was introduced to a few problems that he had with the existing fruit baskets. He has also brought to my attention issues with organization of the vegetables and displaying prices. I plan to investigate more innovative solutions to keep the produce fresh for longer periods of time.

Research with retail grocery stores

My research for the eastman project is in the area of grocery markets. I have narrowed my observation down to self check out regesters and how to improve the area around it. My partner and me interviewed the assistant customer service manager Betty Ward who gave me very good information on the problems and complications with the self checkout. She explained that the main problem was space. This is first self checkout that I found that had displays incorporated with it. More could be placed at the top of the regesters with better use of space and placement displays could be placed around the counter area.

Friday, September 5, 2008

My first visit was to Win-Dixie, I focused on the shelves and the self check out stands. One of the first things I noticed was the how crowed all the shelves were, it was a massive information overload. In the self check out area I also noticed there was a good bit of unused overhead space that could be used for add space. There are also many uses for spectar in specialty displays. The flexibility of spectar in terms of use ,leaves this fairly open.

Retail Research

Brunos was the start of my research. I have shopped in this place over ten times, so I know the layout pretty well. Just because I know the layout of the place does not mean I know where everything is. First I just walked through the store and noticed all of the different uses that this product already has, after all, Spectar has been around for about 10 years now. On this first trip to the supermarket I just wanted to get an idea of different areas in the store I could focus on: Self Check out, the grocery cart, cleaning supplies, P.O.S.. Those were my areas of interest.

Drug Store Research

Drug stores were my first mark to pursue, and were initially very interesting. Loads of acrylic in use (often broken and scarred) in hundreds of displays--from the pharmacy to the register.

Interviews revealed however that Walgreens, CVS, etc. order all of their display casings and shelves from one company... So cheap and by the pound is probably more in line with their mantra...

Point of purchase was boring, with clear acrylic being used to display product packaging.

I'm not sure if we can sell to Revlon, or other makeup companies, but some research revealed theyre acrylic based displays may benefit the most from the durability of Spectar... Will post more pics soon.

Exploring World Market

The employees at World Market were more than willing to assist us in our research and observation of their merchandise. We discovered definite room for improvement throughout the entire store, every where from stocking to displays, it seems our eyes have been opened to numerous new opportunities.

DVD Sales and Rentals..

While researching the field of DVD Rental and Sales we went into local stores such as Movie Gallery, Hastings, Target, Video Warehouse. We took pictures of these stores, noted their flaws, their positive attributes and began to think about the changes that could occur with the functionality of these businesses and their retail space, including shelves, stocking systems, and product placement.

At CVS, alot of the cosmetic displays are shipped from the company for direct installation with the products so that there's little guesswork for the employees. In this photo, it's very easy to tell which products are "Lumene" and where the generic Fragrance Department is even though there is barely any space between the sections. With just a little bit of thought to design and just a few strips of acrylic, the Lumene Brand has made sure that the customer knows where their products are. Accessibility has also been considered because it seems to be much easier to examine one of the Lumene boxes or bottles than it is to ask an employee to carefully extract a box of perfume from the Fragrance case. There should be alot of potential for the use of Spectar in these sorts of display to add pop to a group of products in a crowded area like this one.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I think we saw  a lot of opportunity in the drugstore/pharmacy category. This photo for one shows CVS using a Rubbermaid pushcart to display marked down items at the register. The only two things that you pay any attention to are the 50% off signs and the cart itself; I myself did not even see the items in the bottom of the cart until I looked at the photo.

Specialty Shops: Southern Trails Outdoors...

The employees at Southern Trails were more than happy to answer our questions concerning the way they currently display their merchandise.  After a quick tour around the store, they mentioned several areas that could use improvement.  Many of the issues they addressed were echoed by other businesses carrying similar specialty items. 
We documented each retailer's story and are continuing to research ways to not only improve the customer's experience at the store, but the employees as well.
The employees at each store were very excited to see this project progress and hoped to hear back with an update very soon.

Research to display fabric....

For additional research, I went to Hancock Fabrics. I noticed how unorganized the yards of fabric were and how they were very poorly displayed. I quickly began to think of ideas on how to better display the merchandise. While I was there I interviewed Andrea. She has worked there for about 2 months helping customers and also stocking fabric. She was very helpful in what works in the store and what needs help. She gave me insight on customers and how they shop around the store, also how they deal with the unorganized yards of fabric. The interview helped me figure out what I needed to focus on as far as displaying fabric and home decor items neatly.

order for the beans

The big guy at locally owned 'Toomer's Coffee' was more than pleased to sit down with us and give some valuable insight to selling coffee from a display's perspective. Mr. Sandy Toomer knows he has a great product - freshly roasted coffee every day of the week. He wants to see displays that can stretch his inventory. Sandy says that the ideal displays would only be two coffee bags deep, and stretched up, down, and across the wall. He wants to let customers think he has a lot, even if the truth is a bit different.

We also hit 'Cambridge Coffee' (a not so local company) and they, to our surprise need a little help. They have little space in their store and obviously need some organizational help. With merchandise sprawled on the counter tops to a tower of disposable lids just inching ever closer to covering floor... we have a great opportunity to collaborate and solve a problem.

Coffee Shop Research: Starbucks Co.

I volunteered myself to explore coffee shops, all while observing and asking questions about how they display their products. Starbucks is what I (and many people I know) would consider the unopposed world conglomerate. So it was interesting to see how the "pros" do it. The customer base at Starbucks is love or hate, which leads me to think that the people who go there are half way interested in what the cafe is selling also.

The first thing I noticed was all of the products sold here, perfectly fit the displays they were destined to sell in. But even Starbucks hasn't maximized all of it's space. Ceiling space appeared to be the biggest area to capitalize on. Whether it be the blank high ceilings, or the possibilities of hanging a display just above the cash register, it seemed like free space within reach. I found myself, several times, wandering glances up to the air space above and just staring while friends continued on about their day.

Displays in Starbucks were very warm and "homie" looking so I think it would behoove a designer to incorporate many of the already-in-place aesthetics into a possible concept such as, wood, steel, brick, or a rusted look. This coffee shop would probably be a great challenge to test ideas and displays on since their fan traffic is so large.

Specialty Shops: Kinnucans

One of the specialty shops we went to Kinnucan's, a locally owned outdoor store. We were able to speak with an Assistant Manager who has over a year experience stocking shelves. He informed us about the process of storing, setting up, and stocking clothing rack displays. He even had ideas about how to improve existing designs. After a personal tour around the store we left with many ideas about how to solve problems involving retail racks and displays.

Into the Depths of Pier 1...

Going to Pier 1 has always been a nightmare for me. So many breakable objects packed into claustrophobic aisles can be pretty intimidating. Today, however, the tables have been turned as I'm tasked with figuring out how to clear up the clutter. I met with the Assistant Manager, Michael, and picked his brain for problems he had with the layout of the store. Afterwards, I left the store a little bit wiser and with a couple of brewing ideas. Can't wait to get started!

Journey to Pier 1

In the heat of back-to-school mayhem, I visited the haven of home furnishings, Pier 1 Imports. Upon arrival I was greeted by a fair-haired young woman named Samantha. I conversed with her on the subject of displays and such. After my time there, I left enlightened and wiser with the knowledge of pillows, plates, and candles!