Posts tagged “ford”

ChittahChattah Quickies

In East Harlem, ‘Keep Out’ Signs Apply to Renters [] – When in a large city I often look at the residential spaces above dense commercial/retail and wonder who lives there and what it’s like (I once lived above a real estate office of some type – we never really knew what they did down there – and was constantly pestered by couriers and other delivery people) – but the answer may very well be that nobody lives up there. Naively, it doesn’t make economic sense, but the situation appears to more complex than that.

East Harlem has been undergoing a resurgence for two decades, yet the neighborhood is still pockmarked with four- or five-story walk-ups where the ground-floor stores are bustling and the apartments above are devoid of life. Their windows are boarded up, blocked up or just drearily empty, torn curtains testifying to no one’s having lived there for years. Although the vacancy rate in Manhattan hovers at 1 percent, at least some of the landlords of these sealed-up buildings are deliberately keeping their buildings mostly vacant, content to earn income from first-floor commercial tenants rather than deal with the trouble of residents. …At the corner of 106th Street and Third Avenue, the boarded-up windows and the remainder of the five-story building have been sleekly painted a rich taupe, allowing the Chase Bank branch below to escape looking as if it were in a forsaken slum. Still, no one lives in the apartments.

Reinventing Post Offices in a Digital World [] – Digital, and all that it encompasses, is remaking every industry. We straddle the opposites of welcoming new services and holding onto traditional ways of receiving familiar services. Nice to see the German post office reframe this away from loss, towards reinvention. The article doesn’t characterize the pain that must have been felt by the organization and the customers but you can imagine it must have been tremendous.

With mail volumes decreasing 1 to 2 percent annually in many countries, European postal services from Germany to Sweden to Switzerland have reinvented themselves over the past decade as multifaceted delivery and information companies tailored to the virtual age. Though Deutsche Post by law still delivers to every address six days a week, it has jettisoned tens of thousands of buildings, 100,000 positions and its traditional focus on paper mail. “We realized that being a national postal provider was an endangered business, that we had to redefine the role of postal providers in a digital world,” said Clemens Beckmann, executive vice president of innovation of the German post office’s mail division. After selling off all but 24 of 29,000 post office buildings in the past 15 years, the German postal service is now housed mostly within other business “partners,” including banks, convenience stores and even private homes. In rural areas, a shopkeeper or even a centrally located homeowner is given a sign and deputized as a part-time postmaster. At the same time, many European postal services, including the one here, have developed a host of electronic services that are increasingly making traditional post offices and mailboxes obsolete. Bills and catalogs can go first to digital mailboxes run by the post office on customers’ computers, and the customers can tell the post office what they want it to print and deliver

Ford reintroduces the 1965 Mustang [Yahoo! Autos] – First I’m hearing that Ford has its own business supporting the classic car market. There are obviously design, performance and legal/safety issues why they won’t sell you an actual 1965 Mustang, but the idea of having someone make you a new version of an old car is very compelling. Who will make me one?

As part of its Ford Reproduction business, Ford revealed today it had approved a new stamping of the steel bodies for first-generation Mustang that buyers could then build into their own 1964 1/2 through 1966 Mustang, using whatever engine, axles, interior and other parts they can find on their own. The first-generation Mustangs rank as America’s most-restored vehicle, and the cottage industry of reproduction parts has grown to where it’s possible to build a Mustang just as it would have appeared on the showroom floor in the mid-1960s, down to the pushbutton AM/FM radio.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Shudder: Ford is using "Invented characters" to get everyone on the same page – Antonella is the personification of a profile created from demographic research about the Fiesta’s target customer, said Moray Callum, executive director of Ford Americas design.

    Ford is using characters like Antonella to bring a human element to the dry statistical research drawn from polls and interviews. Based on psychological profiles, these characters are a more modern version of the “theme boards” that designers once covered with snapshots and swatches of material to inspire a design. They are also like avatars, those invented characters used in online games and forums to symbolize a participant’s personality.

    “Personalizing gives context to the information we have. Sometimes the target demographics are difficult to relate to by, say, a 35-year-old male designer.

    “We found in the past that if they didn’t understand the buyer, designers would just go off and design something for themselves,” he added.

  • All of the highbrow talent lavished on lowbrow fare – Frank Bruni riffs on shifting trends in food and tastes as informed (or exacerbated) by the Internet's power to bestow a laser-like focus on the details of the details. Cupcakes, donuts, hot dogs, hamburgers, but what does it all mean?

Personas Leaking Outside the Enterprise

Yesterday’s NYT article about Ford using personas raised one of my big concerns about the process, where a design process artifact becomes (inappropriately) a marketing artifact.

The designers imagined her life in detail in a video, “A Day in the Life of Natasha.” Several human models were screen-tested before one, who looks vaguely like Audrey Hepburn, was chosen to appear in the video. The video was also convenient for explaining the car to the press and public.

Here’s an egregious example of persona-think gone mad: In the “Intel Process Personalities” contest, they put forth a number of personas
intel1intel2 and asked online readers “What kind of PC junkie are you?” and “What superhero powers would your ideal notebook PC have?” People submitted their answers online and a six were chosen to be profiled in followup advertising. Here’s one:


Five other real people are similarly profiled in the 3-page ad.

It’s just disturbing to see corporations decide that there are 6 mutually exclusive customer types and ask people then to identify themselves as a Frequent Flyer, a Cafe King, or (yecccchhhh) The Multimedia Monkey. I don’t aspire to be any of those characters. While I may have a set of needs, behaviors, and preferences that align me with other folks, it’s audacious of the company to set up categories and ask me to fit myself into them. And when it’s as ham-fistedly awkward as this (i.e., The Blogger is involved in “posting timely twitters updates”) it’s even more insulting.

Now, this is marketing, not user research, but it’s bringing in user research as semiotics in a way that devalues the real work of researchers and participants. “What superhero powers would your ideal notebook PC have?” is a great question in participatory design, but smug as part of a contest.

Kudos to Intel to using real people in these profiles (admittedly, I assumed they were fake until I read the fine print) but shame on Intel for exposing their patronizing “segmentation” and offering goods in exchange for people identifying themselves within those caricatures.

For more anti-persona ranting, we’re happy to pass along the now-classic interactions column Persona Non Grata upon request.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • The Ruins of Fordlândia – Henry Ford's miniature America in the jungle attracted a slew of workers. Local laborers were offered a wage of thirty-seven cents a day to work on the fields of Fordlândia, which was about double the normal rate for that line of work. But Ford's effort to transplant America– what he called "the healthy lifestyle"– was not limited to American buildings, but also included mandatory "American" lifestyle and values. The plantation's cafeterias were self-serve, which was not the local custom, and they provided only American fare such as hamburgers. Workers had to live in American-style houses, and they were each assigned a number which they had to wear on a badge– the cost of which was deducted from their first paycheck. Brazilian laborers were also required to attend squeaky-clean American festivities on weekends, such as poetry readings, square-dancing, and English-language sing-alongs.
  • Fordlandia: The Failure Of Ford's Jungle Utopia – Henry Ford tries to build a Midwestern American company town in Amazonian Brazil – for the rubber, even though you can't grow plantation rubber in the Amazon. Absolute epic failure results: they were unprepared both industrially and culturally. "But the more it failed, the more Ford justified the project in idealistic terms. "It increasingly was justified as a work of civilization, or as a sociological experiment," Grandin says. One newspaper article even reported that Ford's intent wasn't just to cultivate rubber, but to cultivate workers and human beings."
  • Report Non-Humans – Marketing for upcoming sci-fi flick District 9. See my interactions column "Interacting with Advertising" for more discussion on the "tricks" of hiding advertising in the aesthetics of real informational signage. Is it okay here because we're in on the joke?


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