Friday, November 24, 2006

Making maps fun: The Museum of San Diego History

We had a meeting at this museum in San Diego's Balboa Park last week.

One of their new showcase pieces is a huge, walkable floor map of San Diego County.

A grid allows school groups to spread out and every kid can stand in one of the squares. A variety of geography-based activities and games proceeds from there.

The detail is great.

The genius? Clear cards that can be matched up to actual locations with clues.

Fun and challenging for all ages.

Tip of the day: Creative approaches to educational challenges can yield wonderful results. Sometimes just placing something in an unexpected place, like the floor, can change your experience in profound ways. Getting people to engage in an experience with their entire bodies makes the experience more memorable.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Albuh-quirky: The Hotel Blue

I stayed at this hotel in Albuquerque, which described itself as a "chic boutique" hotel. I was a little surprised that it was already run-down, as the Web site made it sound freshly decorated.

Lobby seating was fun, and there were lots of people using the free wireless 'Net. If a hotel that charges $70/night can offer free wireless, why can't hotels that charge $250/night do the same?

The table in the center of the lobby offered fresh cookies in the afternoon.

The free breakfast spread included hard-boiled eggs and make-your-own waffles.

The back side of the hotel was already showing some wear.

This old control next to the elevator worried me: "Rescue assistance. Push for help. Help coming when light flashes." It clearly was broken. But worse, why was it needed in the first place? This negative cue should have been removed during renovation.

While this hotel did provide clean and very affordable accommodations near the convention center, they did not entirely live up to the expectations set on their Web site. I'm guessing that the design team who developed this hotel is long gone and the management is still Route 66 motel-style.

Tip of the day: "Under-promise and over-deliver" is always better than setting expectations you can't meet.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Albuh-quirky: Get your vegg on

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.: If you like vegetarian food, or just want a groovy experience, don't miss the Annapurna Chai Tea House. I found it through the Happy Cow website.

Hand-painted murals set the tone.

The largest chai tea selection I've ever seen, on a hand-decorated board.

The beautifully painted table added richness to a simple restaurant.

Incredibly delicious food, lovingly presented.

Tip of the day: A great experience doesn't have to be expensive, just thought-through and authentic. If you love what you're doing it always shows through.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Friday, November 17, 2006

Albuh-quirky, part 1

Last weekend I visited Albuquerque, NM for the National Association of Interpretation's annual conference. I had some fun taking pictures of businesses along Rt. 66.

This gorgeous building is downtown near the convention center. Note the amazing detailing.

The Silver Moon Lodge looked like a movie set, as did many of these businesses.

This was along the same downtown strip.

There are a lot of carwashes in Albuquerque. I guess it's the dust. The octopus (left of the sign) was really great... its arms hold soap and brushes and squeegees. A fun welcome element.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Napa wine museum in trouble

I just read that COPIA, the wine, food, and arts museum in Sonoma, CA is laying off 25 (of 80) workers, converting 11,000 SF of exhibit space into rental conference space, and selling 5 acres of gardens and parking lots to a developer (who might build a hotel, condos, or retail.) [Note: You may need to register to read the news story.]

What went wrong?

I visited this museum in 2004, during the California Ass'n of Museums conference.

Here is the long view, walking in from the parking lot. Feels kind of cold and distant, doesn't it?

While the grounds are beautiful, there's no feeling of connection, almost as if you are visiting a ruin instead of a vibrant, current museum.

Artwork like this sculpture was casually strewn about the gardens. I didn't know what to "do" with works like this as I wandered around. You almost felt like you weren't supposed to be there.

Spaces like this one could have been wonderful, but felt empty. Was it for concerts? Live theater?

One of my companions, a designer, said, "There's no there, there."

My sense is that the museum was built without community involvement or a clear sense of purpose. While beautifully turned out, it didn't connect with visitors. Even the name didn't convey what it was about. While the news story blames their attendance problems on 9/11 and the following recession, which did hurt all leisure destinations that year, COPIA's problem ran deeper. I hope that they take this opportunity to refocus, get community and visitor input, and can move ahead into a successful phase.

Tip of the day: A beautiful building isn't enough. Your business has to have soul and a purpose. Your customers (or visitors) are smart enough to feel the difference.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Amazing new touchscreen technology

I know I don't usually post about technology, but this 10 minute video by Jeff Han from the TED conference is too amazing to pass up. Remember Minority Report? We're almost there.

I can only imagine the wide range of cool experiences, in museums, retail, etc. that this can be applied to. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Bathroom Blogfest ends, for this year at least

When Susan Abbott and I concocted this idea, we thought it might be a fun way of examining a topic that seemed to resonate with many people. What we got were a whole series of deep, funny, and thought-provoking posts from a wide variety of perspectives. I'd like to thank Susan for all her hard work and our fabulous logo, Cynthia Jones for creating our press release, and all the other bloggers who joined us:

Sara Cantor's "true confessions" on handwashing rang true for me as well, and I see that it's been picked up by some interesting newsfeeds in the research and science arena.

Jackie Huba's funny post took me back to my beloved Chicago stomping grounds. I know she is getting ready to launch her new book next month, and we appreciate her fitting this in.

Reshma Anand's evocative trip down memory lane took me far away to a time and place not part of my experience, but I felt I'd been there with her as my giggly, shy, 17-year-old self. And her perspectives, from a rapidly developing country, contrasted so well with the other posts.

Susan Abbott made me think, a lot, as she applied theory to this issue in a number of posts that made me bring my A-game, just to keep up!

Sandra Renshaw jumped in and added the "green" perspective, something near and dear to my heart that hadn't occurred to me in this context.

C.B. Whittemore must have put out a broadcast email to people all over the U.S. in preparation, as she brought in so many ideas, comments, and behind-the-scenes design and finishing tidbits that were great and fascinating to read.

Linda Tischler was hilarious, bringing in all her great resources, from Paco Underhill (one of my favorite authors) to PopTech and beyond, and of course raised the awareness for the event several orders of magnitude. Thanks, Linda.

And Maria Palma took us dancing in TJ and into the Nordstrom's lounge with her unique retail perspective.

Thanks to the many other bloggers, male and female, who picked up the concept and made it their own.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Friday, November 03, 2006

A star bathroom extends your brand

To finish the week, let’s look at some bathrooms that I consider outstanding examples of customer experiences. These businesses have extended their brand, beautifully, all the way down the hall into their restroom.

Lulu’s Nail Salon in San Diego shows that even a small bathroom can be lovely.

Rockfish Restaurant in Chandler, AZ continues their zany sense of humor with their bathroom signs.

Maeve Riley clothing in San Diego–a tiny, gilded jewel.

Vagabond Kitchen of the World Restaurant in San Diego serves travel-inspired French/Moroccan cuisine, and the bathroom is a fabulous deep blue retreat.

At Ku De Ta restaurant in Bali, this gorgeous, art-filled hallway has just one function: to take you to the restroom. Four years later, I'm still wowed.

Tip of the day: A notable bathroom doesn’t have to be expensive, but wrapping it into your theme demonstrates your commitment to excellence and attention to detail, which impresses your customers. This leads to word-of-mouth advertising, the most valuable kind of advertising you can ever “buy.”

Don't miss these other Bathroom Blogfest posts:
Maria Palma
on employee handwashing, C.B. Whittemore describes some inspiring bathrooms found in flooring showrooms, Sandra Renshaw on fresh air, Susan Abbbott showcases the fanciest portapotties you've ever seen, Linda Tischler is still standing in line for the ladies' at PopTech, and blogger Bill Kinnon weighs in on coffee shop bathrooms.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Stall of Shame

Many bathrooms deserve this dubious honor. It should go without saying that bathrooms should be absolutely clean at all times, and that cracked and dripping fixtures should be fixed immediately. I’ve seen too many bathrooms where this isn’t the case. So take this opportunity to inspect all your public facilities today to see if anything is amiss.

The first example is not a public restroom, but one located near two conference rooms that serve both staff and outside guests who are attending professional meetings, renting the rooms for wedding receptions, and being courted as potential donors for this non-profit institution. The picture shows the women's restroom wall that is opposite the toilet.

What's wrong with this picture?
Problem #1:
The architects, construction staff, and administrators (who I am told are all male) failed to recognize that women sit down every time they use the toilet. With the mirror in this location, women get a full frontal view of themselves and all the action. Yikes.

This mirror placement is also inconvenient for any bride or wedding party member who wants to see her dress because she must back up into the toilet to get a full view of herself.

That mirror could have been placed on the adjacent wall on the right, or on the back of the door.

Problem #2:
The original wall color was off-white. The administration changed it to green to better match the tile. My correspondent writes, “These men obviously have never tried to apply make-up in a dark green room, as many of our clients will certainly be doing.”

After stopping at this rest stop in Sichuan, China, the women in my tour group, who had paid a lot of money to visit Panda Country on a luxe tour, opted for nice outdoor bushes.

This is the “handicapped” stall at an orthopedic surgery office. 95% of the people who use this bathroom facility have, at least temporarily, a mobility impairment: crutches, braces, or walkers. There are two heavy doors one must negotiate to get into this bathroom. Once inside this stall, there is only a tiny, broken hook (see the arrow?) and no shelf. So, where do you put your purse, or your brace, or your crutches? Many of these patients can’t bend over, so if something falls on the floor, they have to call out for help.

Tip of the day: Good design starts with common sense. If you have a unique audience using your restroom (like brides, or patients with walkers), take extra time to make sure that your bathroom will suit their needs.

More Bathroom Blogfest posts: Maria Palma and Linda Tischler on Starbucks, Reshma Anand reports on conditions in India, Susan Abbott gets out the graph paper for a re-design, Jackie Huba trolls Michigan Avenue in search of a decent ladies' room, Sandra Renshaw blows some warm air about hand dryers, and Kent Blumberg sheds light from his stall.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Captive Audience

I'm not in favor of advertising in restrooms: Messages on the urinal cake? Ads on the back of the doors? Enough! Author James Twitchell (Branded Nation) calls it “logorrhea.” (While I'm not a marketing expert, why would you want people to pee on your brand? It's a dreadful subliminal message.)

But sometimes the time spent in bathrooms can be tied into the educational message of the facility. At the Pueblo Grande Museum in Phoenix, a sign by the sink answers a commonly asked question, “What did the local Native American people do for bathrooms?”

At the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, this fun bathroom is themed to the area and provides some educational messages inside.

And, at the Conservation Station in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, information about animal poop is posted on the inside of stall doors.

For more Bathroom Blogfest posts, check out Linda Tischler on the road using a Posh Porta-Potty, Susan Abbott on integrating your customer experience. and Sandra Renshaw joins the discussion. See David Polinchock's post on urinal advertising as well.

Tip of the day: If there are educational messages that can be conveyed in your bathroom in a fun way, integrate them into the design.

Technorati Tags: , ,