Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Vundabar, Personal Stylists & Museum of Failure

Weekly Update 2018-32: Singing along to Vundabar, interviewing personal stylists for an associate app project and visiting the Harbourfront's Museum of Failure.

Music: Vundabar
Boston-based Vundabar pelts their listeners with moody powerchords, drums-forward tracking, and repeated chamber vocals that just beg us to sing along. It's the teen garage pop I never knew I needed. I imagine their lyrics are somewhat sad, but I appreciate the ambiguity and the cathartic nature of being able to sing along without fully knowing all the words. It's a mood, okay?

Check out Holy Toledo and their entire 2015 album Gawk.

I'm working on a portfolio piece that is making quite the interesting challenge from a user interface perspective. It's an associate app for a fashion brand that will allow salespeople to book and manage personal appointments with clients, allowing clients to request specific items in advance before coming in to try them on in person. When they arrive at the store, the items are waiting for the client in a fitting room, and the associate can upsell, communicate and even checkout the client all through the app.

I spent a few hours wandering around Eaton Centre speaking with people in various roles, asking about how they manage their client appointments. More on that below!

Now that my roommate is leaving quite soon, I am cherishing our last days together. We went to the Christie Pits Sunday movie this week to see Amelie (such a cute film I had somehow missed) and for a hike in a small Ontario town called Limehouse. The hiking trail there contains ruins of an old set of kilns (that used to produce limestone blocks for buildings - which were exported to Melbourne), and a sort of rocky heights that are cracked in places, so you can go down a set of wooden ladders to explore down between the two sides. A very cool place.

Erika and Ari in his party bandana.

I'm hoping to get the upfront research on this app all done so I can work on perfecting the InVision prototype all through the week.

I'm also finally able to join my father with his coworkers on their occasional Dim Sum adventure (always very early in the morning, when the Dim Sum is sleepy and easier to catch). On top of that, I'm taking my roommate to a Blue Jays Game - her first (and last) one before she leaves Ontario. The goal there is not to get hit in the head with a ball. Saturday marks my friend Phillip's goodbye party before he moves permanently to Europe, and I'm hoping to bike there as I did for one of his parties when I was just learning to ride a bike. I'd also like to make time to visit the Gardiner Museum on Sunday for the final day of an interesting exhibit they have called Reclaiming Artifacts.

Random Thought:
For my associate app project, I took to the streets this week. By that I mean that I went to Eaton Centre and interviewed as many personal shoppers, stylists, salespeople and makeup artists as I could about how they manage their appointments. You'd be surprised to know how much of these tasks end up being done manually, with no technology beyond a phone call or perhaps email in some cases.

With an apparent gap between customer need and the available products, I did find it quite interesting to note all the workarounds and interesting ways that personal shoppers (especially at Hudson's Bay's The Room) use the tools and services they already have to do their jobs. One personal stylist even showed me his contact list on WeChat (extremely popular in the personal styling business in China) and some of the conversations he has with ongoing clients. He simply uses WeChat as a one-stop-service for sharing pictures and links of clothing, booking appointments, and providing fashion advice to his clients.

My favourite example, though, is the way one salon professional used an appointment booking product while working at a salon. She showed her coworkers that they could repurpose an unused field in any client's profile to set all sorts of notes regarding upselling and helpful hints for the next appointment. All of this really inspires me to make an app that will improve their experience beyond what it is now. I definitely see the potential to do so.

Inspiration: Museum of Failure
During my mother's and my seasonal jaunt about Harbourfront Centre and Powerplant Gallery to see the current instalment of art and design, we came across quite an interesting little shadowbox display of objects of all kinds - the sad physical history of failures in products sold all over the world. From purple ketchup to overcomplicated and underperforming musical equipment to the Virtual Boy - the only Nintendo product ever to be declared a failure by the company - it was an array of wonder at how anyone could have come up with such silly products.

The 1957 Ford Edsel was a total failure from a business perspective, but without it we would never have had the Ford Mustang.

The Museum of Failure's founder, psychologist Samuel West, has high praise for his collection. He says, "The point of having the museum is that we can learn from these failures. I want us to start to admit our failures as companies, as individuals, so we can learn from it."

When you think about it, it really rings true that most examples of success in life are the end result of a lot of failure. Failure is a useful tool in building the bridge to success, as can be seen with something as frivolous as the Virtual Boy. It was truly ahead of its time as a step toward the futuristic world of virtual reality, which we are teetering on the edge of now.

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