This weekend has been spent primarily coding and branding, with a bit of side tasks left to come and some good news hanging over the weekend.
On Friday evening, I realised that no – Python isn’t the impossible task that I expected it to be, and in fact it was my own personal failings that led me to mess up the code after my first shot. This means that by Friday evening, I was at the stage with the prints that I was at with my Arduino. The only issue from here, however, is the use of the physical hardware. The code that I have set up with my Raspberry Pi for some reason makes the use of a potentiometer in conjunction with my LED a bit jittery. However, to solve this using Arduino means using delays to ensure that the signal between analog pin and LED is strong and reads correctly – perhaps it’s a case of using something like that to make the connection between potentiometer and LED cleaner.
Once the hardware is coded and can effectively print out my forms, I have only two challenges left – get images on the forms (should be fairly easy) and pull tweets out from a library to put on the forms (not so much). I spoke to Ali about the second challenge, and he broke it down in fairly simple terms. It’s a sort of two step process, of programming the code in the form to randomly select things from a library – something that I’ve almost figured out – and to then construct that library of tweets. This, I have no clue about, however there are plenty of tutorials online that should help, and if all else fails, I do have an ace up my sleeve.
I messaged my friend Thomas – a fellow intern of mine whom I worked with over the summer at Made by Many – who is vastly experienced with coding in Python. I asked him if I could take a shot at the code over the weekend, and on Monday, work through any problems I had with him. In his opinion, the problem I’m trying to solve sounds fairly easy for him to be able to work out, so if I am able to bring something to him fairly concrete then the code should be easily solved in the near future. Excellent!
I am obviously not out of the woods yet. I can’t just dump all of my code on Thomas and expect for it to resolve itself. That’s not fair on him, and after all, I don’t really learn anything from the experience. Yet at the end of the day, it’s reassuring to know that even if it all goes south, I have a Doctor in Computer Science in my corner to help me see it through.
The other half of my weekend has involved the brand of my product. I’ve been investigating similar signposts and products, and at the end of the day, most street furniture doesn’t really have a brand as such, and why would it? With most products like benches, signs and bins being purely functional, there is not a space to express the emotional attachment that the user may feel with the product. This is for good reason – people don’t need to feel attached to a bin, it’s just a mundane, functional object. Yet the product that I am creating is not functional – it’s an experience – and consequently, it’s important for me to seek inspiration from other experiences.
Two main experiences have inspired me and drawn parallels with my product. The Oor Wullie Bucket Trail, which I’m sure to have mentioned before on this blog, is one that is close to home in the city of Dundee. 70 ‘Wullies’ were placed around Dundee, painted and designed in various ways to ensure that each one was completely different. With their placement, citizens and tourists could try and find all of the Wullies, creating a treasure-hunt-esque experience. Even better, once the trail was complete, the 70 ‘Wullies’ were auctioned off the raise funds for the Archie Foundation – gathering £883,000 for the local charity!
Oor Wullie’s Bucket Trail has inspired me in regards to the way it captured the public’s imagination with it’s goodwill and public service. It transcended a mere treasure hunt, it positively effected the local area, a facet that my product aims to achieve in a different way. It achieved this by providing it’s users with a very simple premise, yet one that varied and offered novelty at every stop. I find the origins behind the art in the statues almost as interesting as the statues themselves, and it’s this differentiation that I wanted to capture in my product.
On the other side of the scale, I have also been inspired by the London Underground. During my time in London, I was amazed by the brilliance of the transport system in the city, and I feel that the Underground isn’t simply a network of trains, but pulls together elements of graphic design, product design and even environmental design and architecture to deliver an efficient and at times beautiful experience for a number of reasons.
The graphic design of the Tube maps and layouts are brilliant for two reasons. The bright colours and instantly distinguishable layout is easy to follow with your eye and understandable – it makes for brilliant design. Even a chimp could navigate the Underground, it’s a very functional experience. Yet even the colours of the Tube lines brighten the place up and add a bit of joy to what is genuinely quite a terrible moment when you’re jam packed into a train with hundreds of sweaty strangers at rush hour.
So, the Tube is functional, but the design of it also adds a bit of joy to it’s passengers lives. Not to mention the poems in the interiors of trains, and the charming advertisements add a little bit of personality to what could be a dull, daunting service. Then you get the architecture of Tube stations, which add to that personality – for instance, Westminster station feels like you’re walking through a Bond villain’s evil lair (Theresa May?), and Canary Wharf’s opening expanse feels like you’re walking into something grand and powerful.
With both of these experiences, I can extract a few points. Mainly, I need something that is quite functional yet also indicative of the placement of each signpost and suggestive of the culture of Dundee. It needs to be fun yet functional, awe-inspiring yet almost unremarkable. I feel that I’ve sort of nailed it – whilst keeping with the viability constraints of not designing each signpost in a completely different way, and that comes down to my brand.
I don’t have a name yet, but I’ve worked out how I can effectively embed a modular brand into the design of my product. When brainstorming the philosophy of my brand, the aspect that kept occurring was the directive that my signpost provides it’s user. This directive represents a new way of seeing Dundee, of exploring and finding your way around Dundee on your own adventure. It represents opportunity, inspiration and discovery, and it was important for me to capture this most distinct piece of imagery – the signhead – from my product into the brand identity. It only makes sense.
Through sketching, I experimented with the idea of the arrow being part of the logo, however it was a bit unsightly and a bit too simple. Bearing in mind that this brand needs to be experienced in the digital space as well as the physical, the long, protruding form of the arrow didn’t really fit the native aspects of Twitter’s square profile pictures or other imagery. Yet I thought of an idea I had a while back – using the sign head as this modular representation of environment and brand. And whilst each sign head can’t be too different, there is space to experiment.
I chose instead to dedicate a space on the sign head to a medallion that represents the place in which the sign is. This is quite an interesting nuance to the sign – signposts represent ‘there’, not ‘here’. This nuance reflects one of the emotions that a user may feel when they encounter my product on a path – part of the experience is about appreciating what’s here, not there. It’s all about taking a moment to reflect and admire the surroundings in which you find yourself, and so for this reason, I really like the idea of representing the location in the body of the sign head.
Obviously this should not be done in a way that interferes with the user’s understanding of what’s actually ‘there’, so this medallion is pushed to the opposing side of the arrow. But what is in this arrow, and how does it denote location?
I’ve drafted up a couple of logos to represent this. At the moment, I don’t have a name, however I am beginning to realise that the name is not vital to this product at all. As I mentioned before, street furniture is rarely branded, and people won’t refer to this product by it’s name – it’s not commonplace, and it’s something that they’ve never seen before, and may not see again. Therefore, brand is not important for this product in terms of identity and leaving a mark on users, but instead for the potential of graphic design and it’s ability to add to the overall product experience.
I love how this brand has transcended a mere logo and letter mark, and into something that actually adds to the meaning and purpose of this product. The logos I’ve created serve a real purpose. There is the main logo (with product name to be determined) that symbolises the experience relative to Dundee. I used Law Hill in the central imagery to depict the Green Circular route that these signposts lie on, with a subtle ring around it to further this imagery. I wanted to use the Desperate Dan logo that I’d used for my fliers earlier in the project but this probably passes as copyright infringement, so instead chose Law Hill – mainly for it’s simplicity, and it being the one constant on that the cyclist revolves around during this route round Dundee.
The lines bounding into the centre of the logo represent the spokes of a bike, and the word mark at the top will have the name of the brand in the top. This is fairly simple, but it gets interesting for each separate signpost.
With every signpost there will be an individual medallion in the space on the sign head, and each medallion will alter slightly to represent the place. The first, and only medallion I’ve drafted so far is the one for Discovery Point. In that, the logo of Law Hill changes to represent the Discovery. It’s this simple change embedded in a charming, nice piece of imagery that just adds to the overall experience of the product, and one that can translate into the slips that are also printed out. If there’s time, I hope to aluminium cast this logo and make it a beautiful component in the overall design.
These logos represent the idea of here and there effectively – almost like the Tube map uses colours to denote each line. I feel that this addition to the product just adds to the personality of the overall experience. As for a name for my product, I have two options thus far that have been lingering on my mind. Firstly, ‘On Yer Bike’, which I feel is a bit rogue and cheeky, but is a name that is quite fun and bold. If you look past the fact that it could be perceived as a tad offensive, in very literal terms it essentially sums up the goal of the product – get on yer bike!
The other name is ‘Here and There’. It’s simple and explains what it is, and as the name is not an important facet of the design, it will not really be used to refer to my product – I anticipate something more like “turning Twitter signpost thing”. This, ultimately, is something that needs a bit more thought and shall be considered more over this evening. Until then, it’s back to the drawing board to work at it more!
Tonight involves a bit of CAD Modelling to (hopefully) finalise all the 3D printed components that are needed to add into the product. Then the rest of the night holds a tonne of coding to see how far I can get with the functionality.