The CLE project (Computer Lab Experience)
Graphic Design Studio
The problem statement will have something to do with the notion that the Information Technology office on campus is dissatisfied with the appearance of its 5 computer labs and the experience a student has while using an IT lab. They feel there may be a problem with how efficiently and clearly information is disseminated. They acknowledge the problem of cheap-looking signs, inconsistent graphics, and some potential confusion among users.
This project is much more than just environmental graphics. That will be one component, but the project is really about enhancing the overall experience of using an IT computer lab on the OSU Stillwater campus - the CLE. Do not limit yourself to graphic design. You are creative problem solvers - you know design - you should make recommendations on any aspect that your team determines can improve the experience.
• Entry/doorway/hallway signage: greetings, schedules, policies, procedures,
• Interior informational signage: printing, logging in/out, policies, procedures,
• Interior educational signage: info about IT, usage tips,
• Room decor and interior design: arrangement, furniture, clocks, bookcases, monitor stations,
• Others? ___________________
At first, it may seem that the market is OSU students. Nope, too broad, not all students use the labs. Okay, how about OSU students who use computer labs? Still too broad. TMs should be very specific. Some students that use the labs use it so often they know everything you need to tell them - they know the hours, where the printers are, how to log out, etc. Your work won't really be speaking to them primarily. The primary target market may be something more like this:
• Primary TM: Infrequent users or first-time visitors to any of 5 IT computer labs at OSU-Stillwater.
These are the people that have a need to learn info about the lab. Digging deeper into this market, we will likely discover that some of them feel threatened or uncomfortable entering a lab for the first time. They know that there are geeks in there who know more than they do (this realization will lead us to add some objectives for the design recommendations and solution - to be friendly, welcoming, and non-threatening). This market might also lead you to minimize technical jargon in the wording of signs - so this group feels comfortable and not alienated.
• Secondary TM: Regular or frequent users of any of 5 IT computer labs at OSU-Stillwater.
This group may not need the entry signage, but they might be the audience for the educational signage and the interior design that impacts and enhances their experience while using a lab.
• Tertiary TM: Faculty, staff, administration.
This group needs to also have their lab experience enhanced and be impressed by the computer labs. Impressing this group may result in increased funding and respect for the IT department. The client would love that. While its only a tertiary market, it could be a valuable one and one that you should still consider.
These target audiences are suggestions - you may deviate from these as you learn more about the problem. I list them to illustrate how specific a TM can be and how your work will need to reach distinctly different groups of people.
• Enable students to feel good about how their technology fee money is being spent, to feel good about selecting OSU as their university, to feel a sense of consideration to their needs and wishes relating to computer use - that OSU cares about their experience while a college student.
• TMs should feel confident,capable, and empowered while in the labs.
• The design recommendations should convey respect for the target users. Minimize blatant cold demands, maximize consideration, education, and feelings. This is about an experience.
• The graphics and interior should convey a sense that the labs are friendly, welcoming, and non-threatening places to do work.
• The solution should look custom-made for OSU and these 5 labs - they shouldn't work as well on any other campus. Consider this - anytime you print something on a letter-size, 8.5 x 11, sheet that it may look like a flyer, often a cheap flyer. You might consider a non-standard size (cutting 8.5 x 11 to an 8.5" square, for example) that will already convey a custom, non clip-art printout. Strive to maintain production specs that will keep costs reasonable.
• Cost effective: reasonable, but appropriate for the project.
• Easy to produce, manufacture, and install.
• There are more, discuss as a team and add to this list.
Some descriptive terms
Labtastic, laborific, labulous, labadocious, labawesome, labsolutely wonderful, labomania, labalicious,
• The tour of the campus computer labs was a great opportunity to ask questions of Kristen that you formulated during the assessment phase of the project. Avoid making suggestions or telling her the direction the group is considering, unless you have already finalized most design decisions. If you suggest something like the concept of creating a party atmosphere, a kegger, in the labs; she may respond with, 'I love it.' Oops, now you're stuck - the client has an expectation and it will be hard for you to dissuade her if your team decides to go a different direction. Or she may respond with 'Oh, I'm not so sure about that, I don't really see that working.' Now you've limited further exploration of this idea. So, avoid suggestions and teasing the client with possibilities. This tour and meeting with Kristen is still primarily to gather information, take notes, and seek inspiration while in the labs. Afterwards,it would be beneficial for the group to sit somewhere (Union, library, grassy lawn on campus, poolside at a resort in Las Vegas, the beach in Cancun) and while it is still fresh in your minds, discuss the tour and any conclusions made about the labs, the users, and the existing lab experience.
• Sit in a lab, maybe take some work to do, and observe the users. Watch expressions and movements of people as they enter the lab, notice the popular places to sit, see how attentive the monitors are, etc.
• Interview the lab monitors - they are great resources to discover what works and what doesn't; frustrations, suggestions.
• Interview people outside the labs. Ask fellow students if they use the lab - what is their impression, did they know where they were located on campus, if so, how did they learn that (you may discover that IT needs to better address educating OSU students about the labs), did they ever have a bad experience in a lab, if so, get details. Dig deep and discover the why behind their answer.
• People take their laptops into Aspen Coffee, Panera Bread, Starbucks, and Hastings. Why? What is significant about the coffeehouse mentality? What is it about those places that is so attractive? (Other than one can get food and drink there). Is there a greater sense of comfort? Can that visual ambience be transferred to the computer labs? Can you bring that coffeehouse feeling onto campus?
Remember, the research stage is where a designer often finds the connection to a solution, the key element that can make the design effective. The more research you conduct, the easier finding a solution becomes.
Even though you might be working in the research phase, if you begin to get ideas, jot them down. Avoid inhibiting your brain from free-thought exploration of ideas. The design process doesn't often happen in nice neat steps. Each step of the process will be accomplished but not necessarily in sequence. So, if your brain starts churning out concepts - great, let 'em flow.
This will be an excellent project to impress interviewers and supervisors - it is authentic, it is current and impactful, it is comprehensive - showing your design ability in more than just graphics (interiors, traffic flow, informational graphics, respectful design). It demonstrates that you are able to work in a group setting - making compromises, respecting the opinions of others, being assertive with your ideas and thoughts.
• Establish some intermediate deadlines to provide a structure and some motivation. This project is too massive to procrastinate much. Break the project into manageable bits that can be accomplished a step at a time.
• Delegate tasks: use your time efficiently - not everyone needs to take fotos of existing signage in labs, for example. Delegate that task. Someone else could research online or in books for other environmental graphics programs. Later, discuss those as a group - see what might fit in this project. Several students could observe behaviors in the labs - send a different team member to a different lab and compare notes later. Each team member should conduct interviews. The more of those you have, the more reliable and beneficial the information will be.
• Remember to keep records of all conceptual ideas, thoughts, rationale, influences, and inspirations. These will come in handy as you prepare the boards and text for the oral presentation.
• Have fun with your team meetings - meet at Eskimo Joe's, Aspen Coffee, etc. Get out of the Art Building where you live. Enjoy the experience of working in a collaborative environment with your fellow students.
Each team will make an oral presentation in which they present boards or make a Keynote/Powerpoint presentation. Each team member will have a part. We'll discuss the format and agenda in class. Probable topics will include Intro and assessment, Concept and theme, Signage applications,Interior ambiance, and Closure and wrap-up.
Link to info on presentations.