Tall Glass of Shame: A Well-Designed Change Feb03

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Tall Glass of Shame: A Well-Designed Change

I hated mowing the lawn as a kid. I lived through the agonizing process praying that somehow the grass would burst into flames and I would not have to tread on that scorched earth ever again. The terror of staring at that mountainous hill of green disappeared the day my father bought our first Riding Lawnmower. This simple object transformed the tedious exercise of cutting the grass into a fun filled day of driving a vehicle, winding around a given path, and leaving behind a trail of my making. It was like a little ride at Disneyland all my own and it had giant spinning blades to boot!

I’ve always been fascinated with how a simple change can affect a person’s perception dramatically. In college I studied design, and I loved discussing the internal workings of public space and how they affect the everyday man. We discussed how simple things like placement of stairs, type of music, and use of color can instantly change not only how we view space but how we react to it physically.

One case in point we discussed was the McDonald’s in downtown Seattle. To get people to eat and leave promptly rather than staying for an extended period, they made their seats narrower, and out of a much harder textured plastic. This choice was to make sitting in that same spot for any length of time an unpleasant experience. (As if the heartburn from their meals weren’t unpleasant enough.) A year or so later after their new “upgrade” in furnishings, they noticed that they had too many “youngsters and hoodlums” hanging around the place… Solution: they began to play Country music every day 24/7 which was an effective weapon and moved the undesired group just down the street to the local Starbucks.

Our world is filled with such simple problem solving, telling us where to go, how to get there, what to do while waiting etc. etc. etc. The more you look around you the more you see that our world is just one giant line at Disneyland. (And boy do those designers know how to keep you in line…)

I like to think that the brutal days of utilitarian design from the 60′s and 70′s have given way to a more thoughtful approach to space and how we live in this modern age. The people at Volkswagen took this to heart and created what they called: “The Fun Theory.” Their aim for this campaign: using ”something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behavior for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better.” So, they held a contest to see who could not only create a great idea, but implement it to change the world. Entries came from all over the world and some are simply wonderful!

Here is the winner of the contest: Kevin Richardson from the USA with his “Speed Camera Lottery”


Check out this amazing finalist in Stockholm that proves even if a task is difficult, when you add some whimsy and fun to it people will favor the hard road over the easier path. “The Piano Stairs: Stockholm Sweden”


Here is another finalist applying the principle to getting people to stop littering. Here is: “The World’s Deepest Bin”


These LED Stairs are not part of the project, but I totally want them if I ever own a home! These are made by a company in Europe called Interactive-Furniture. (http://www.interactivefurniture.de/) The stairwell detects when a person enters it and activates the integrated lighting.


Now this last video has less to do with space and how we relate to it, and more to do with advances in science just boggling my mind! Ladies and Gentlemen: “The Skin Gun.”


featured image credit: Sentrawoods.