Thursday, April 30, 2009

The visitor experience at Historic Yellow Springs

I had the pleasure yesterday of spending the morning at Historic Yellow Springs in Chester Springs, PA. Thanks to Suzanne and Rob for hosting me! The dogwoods are in full bloom, reminding me of growing up in Connecticut.

The lovely old buildings on the property are currently hosting a fabulous art show.

Self-guided brochures for adults and kids were well written and interesting. The site has been a working village for nearly 300 years, encompassing amazing milestones in American history.

The ruins of the only Revolutionary War Hospital, founded by George Washington. They treated many soldiers from Valley Forge nearby.

I loved that they had a nearby shop, Ash Hill Designs, sponsor their bathrooms for the art show. What a great collaboration! This is great way to improve your facilities while supporting a local business. I hope Ash Hill wants to continue the collaboration; seems like a win-win for everyone.

Tip of the day: Creative use of resources like this bathroom sponsorship can really help in a tough economy. Think of ways you might be able to work with local businesses to help support your museum while providing tangible benefit to them.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Madrid Bathroom experience

Those of you who have followed the Bathroom Blogfest know that I pay attention to bathrooms when I travel. On my recent trip to Madrid I snapped these pix of teeny tiny little bathrooms.

This was in a restaurant. Obese people would have a tough time with these. I loved the little chalk drawing for the girl's room.

A paid WC on the street. I did not try this one out.

Tip of the day: Amenities like restrooms are so valuable to cultural travelers. Make sure yours is the best it can possibly be, no matter what the size.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Madrid's Prado Museum: New video podcast

This 4-minute video podcast takes you to Madrid's Prado Museum. You'll meet a student from London waiting in line—and hear what she's most looking forward to inside. Her answer surprised me! I cover their wayfinding, comfort, and museum store experience.

Join me for this first-ever Experienceology video podcast. You can play it from the player in the right sidebar, or if you want to see it larger, click here and use the player on my website.

I look forward to hearing what you think!

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Visual merchandising at Tommy Bahama's

I am taking a visual merchandising class to help my museum store clients.

One assignment was to visit a store and do a report on the concept, branding, and merchandising. While the other students (all 18-21 years old) made a beeline for Henri Bendel and Juicy Couture, I decided to do something different and visit Tommy Bahama. The store employees graciously allowed me to take photos.

The Tommy Bahama store concept is "wealthy Caribbean plantation," their tagline: Purveyor of Island Lifestyles. Unlike most other stores in the mall, they have a strong store fragrance that welcomes you in. While this isn't a branded store scent per se (it's from all their candles), it did a great job of setting a tone and mood. They also use music to set a tone that's brand-appropriate (you can hear samples of Tropicali Punch here).

The store is strongly branded throughout... all the fixtures, wallpaper, tables, and plants add to the ambiance. This "speed bump" greets you on entering and shortens their transition zone so no selling space is wasted. Newest merchandise goes up front, and the store is re-arranged each week as new merch arrives. The employees told me that some regulars come in every week to see what's new. Re-arranging the store keeps the store feeling fresh, allows you to keep fixtures clean, and stay on top of inventory as well.

This feature fixture does a great job of appealing to their target market: 35-50 year olds who aspire to this version of "island lifestyle." I like how a full outfit is shown to increase multiple sales. The specialty rug does a great job of defining this space.

I noticed (and the class has refined this) how artfully the strap on this bag was arranged on this small table display.

I never noticed the details of visual merchandising before this class. In this instance they used hangars like mannequins, getting the effect of a face-out display while also fitting all the colors of this group in. Notice how they've pinned up the sides of the tops to create more movement in the clothing, almost like someone has her hands on her hips. The brights and pastels work well together in this color arrangement and the tops are neatly folded below to help shoppers easily find what they are looking for.

I was surprised to see how young the models are on the website, which to me is a contradiction. I was expecting models in the 35-50 range (or at least, the 30-40ish range): fit, athletic, beautiful, but also more mature and weathered. Maybe she's the young girlfriend of the plantation owner?

Tip of the day: If you run a museum store, make sure you're visiting interesting retail stores on a regular basis. Take notes; take photos if they allow it (always ask first). Look for unusual fixtures in second-hand or dollar stores to make your displays more interesting. Everything in your store should support your museum's brand.
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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Sunday's signpost

Spotted in a wine bar at Madrid's Barajas Airport. Hmmm... perhaps I'll just have a virus today? No TB, thanks.

What's interesting is that the Spanish actually says, "There is no table service." You always need to be careful when translating!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The cupcake visitor experience: MORE

Today's post is from guest blogger Katherine Johnson.

She recently visited more in Chicago, "an intimate boutique infused with luscious materials and creamy light which abstract the pure ingredients and flavors found in their couture cupcakes."

Here is her report:

After our visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art we took the girls to more cupcakes because it was less than a mile away from the museum. After seeing the fancy-schmancy postcard and creative description, I had to give it a try! Our field trip theme was: everything is designed, so I tried to point out the lighting features to the girls.

They completely ignored me as they studied the shelves of cupcakes for their choices.

have to say this, it's not designed for short people—then again we eliminated the bacon-maple cupcake on the higher shelf from our choices pretty quickly anyway. 6'3" Paul was caught by the Guinness-flavored cupcake at his eye level. The girls selected more conventional flavors. We had six of them packed and brought them home.

As a related aside, the other night we were watching Food Detectives hosted by Ted Allen on the Science Network. They did an experiment to test if food presentation affects taste and enjoyment. The hypothesis was that expectations affect the experience.

So they staged this experiment at a restaurant in New York and showed it in action. They bought food from a food warehouse: green salad, breaded fish fillets, green beans, a prepared sliced potato side dish, a light red wine, and chocolate layer cake.

They did a dinner seating with a group of people where they served everything on paper plates and plastic dinnerware. The plating looked like what you would do at home. The menu named everything straightforwardly: fish, green beans, etc.

Then they did another seating where they dressed up the presentation with garnishes, used china and cloth, and gave everything fancy names. The fish became "Panko-encrusted St. Peter's fish with fresh herbs" (we got a chuckle out of St. Peter's fish, had to have been thought up by a Catholic in the group!)

The comments from the taste testers were funny. Not surprisingly, the ratings were much, much higher with the fancier presentation of the same ordinary food. The guy who arranged this experiment claims that the most important part was the names of the food, which sets up an expectation for something better and improves the perceived taste of the food.

So there you have it.

Our assessment of the more cupcakes follows suit. They were good, certainly a world apart from what is available at the local grocery store. The clerks were very nice and the store had a warm feeling from the lighting and the aroma of baking cake. Was it worth the hype and the $3 per cupcake? I suppose so. I would send a cupcake-craving soul there for a satisfying experience.

Thanks to Kathy for the great post and architecture firm David Woodhouse for providing the images. All images by Christopher Barrett; used with permission.