November 29, 2009

Mobile Commerce

I was wandering around Jongro 3 Street. This area has a plethora of connecting shops, markets, service centers, printers, restaurants, you name it. Everyday, around 5:00PM seems to be shipping time. Well, instead of freaking out and running to the FedEx office with a last minute order shipment, the shipper comes to you! Above is a three wheeled mobile shipping office complete with Air Con...yes, there is a guy sitting in there waiting to process your shipment.

Not only does the office come to you, but so does the truck. Here, you can see the transaction taking place while the truck is being loaded in the background. This is just one small part of the ecosystem that supports the merchants and tradesmen in Seoul.

Maybe you need socks? Well they will come to you also...the sign says 500 Won...the equivalent of 40¢ US for a pair. This guy parks next to a new Starbucks...high foot traffic. ;-)

Oh, you might want a suit to go with your have heard of the Ice Cream Truck? ...same thing, but different flavors...

“Hey where did you get your suit?”

I will add more to this post...there are lots of interesting “mobile commerce” in Seoul.

Dharma Talk from Zen Master Dae Bong Sunim

Well, I got a chance to hear Dae Bong Sunim give a Dharma talk the other day. It was a on a Korean Army base in Seoul. I was told the facility was like the Korean Pentagon. The audience seemed to be filled with current and former higher ranking Army officers. I understand that they have a strong relationship with Dae Bong Sunim’s headquarter temple Mu Sang Sa.

Since I am not Buddhist, it was quite interesting to listen to Dae Bong Sunim. He gave his talk sitting cross legged on the alter. BTW, I would have a hard time sitting like that for a couple of hours...I can’t imagine giving a speech and trying to maintain composure at the same time.

His speech was translated into Korean by an attending monk. Not sure all the nuances were passed along, but for once, I could understand! The audience seemed to enjoy it very much. He gave a great story about a Korean martial arts instructor being confronted by a gang of motor cycle riders in Chicago. And how the instructor talked them out of shooting him and into becoming his students. Great stuff...embellished maybe...but still comes back to the importance of controlling oneself instead of trying to control others.

Know thyself...can you really answer the question: Who am I? If you really concentrate on the question...could you answer? Good luck...I think Dae Bong Sunim has been working on it for a life time.

But knowing you can never get a full answer...the road traveled while trying to understand is rich and adventurous. I find it simple to memorize how to behave from dogma, but challenging to understand who I am when I am the only one who can answer.

Beyond the philosophy, I was struck by the similarities with a Catholic mass. It was very ritualistic, not unlike what I am used to. It did not seem foreign, but I always look for similarities when trying to make sense of a new situation.

They even had a choir...a very talented and disciplined one at that!

November 18, 2009

Emotional Design II: Milk, Masks and Swine Flu

OK...milk is a bit expensive in Korea. To say the least... It works out to be about $6.50 a gallon as opposed to $3.50 in the US.

But it is soooo tasty! It seems to have higher milk fat content or something that gives it a creamer and slightly sweeter taste. Not what I remember back on the farm. I am afraid to know the reason why. It is so tasty that many Koreans, plus myself, are more than willing to pony up the extra cash.

I’ll bet that great marketing campaigns are a major reason for the success of milk in Korea...

But a mask? Lately, you may know that Swine Flu (H1N1) has been out of hand here in Korea. So, in the spirit of good hygiene, Maeil Dairy packaged their 2 liters of milk with a face mask. No one can say they aren’t innovative...however...Maeil should have taken a cue from a recent post of mine on emotional design. ;-)

While playing on Koreans’ fear of Swine Flu, they did not consider their vanity...those masks are plain hideous. They look like something you would wear to dry wall your house. ;-)

Photo via Trend Doll
A cute mask for a child would have been a hit...Maybe I missed something, but I bet mothers are doing the shopping...not construction workers. Offer them something they’d “love” to have...

Stepping back...

9:30 pm, November 18, Looking at Seoul from Bukak San (Mountain)

Sometimes you need to step back and dream about what the possibilities are. I know you have heard it before. I am not going to cite all the research on taking time to wonder and dream. And, to be exact, I had to climb up instead of stepping back. ;-)

It happened to be a crisp night so I decided to climb up Bukak San to fill my lungs with some cool fresh air. It is hard to describe the feeling of standing alone on top of a mountain and gazing over a beautiful city like Seoul. It is like describing sweet when tasting need to experience it. It always fills me with wonder. Wonder at the things people are capable of. I never get tired of looking at Seoul’s skyline. It keeps me looking forward...knowing how creative and industrious we all can be.

Don’t forget what you are a part of...enjoy the hints at the beauty of the night...and make sure you find a space where you can step back and dream...

November 12, 2009

Curators of Culture: Platoon Kunsthalle

I came to Seoul just after the iPhone launched in 2007. Many competitors were caught off guard and have since taken great strides to copy Apple’s device. However, by now most designers know that Apple’s triumph of art and engineering is not the whole story.

No matter what new gadget is launched in response...the underlying source of brand strength lies within the culture and the community that supports it. Cultures need curators...

I recently attended a “Flea Market” (first Saturday of the month) sponsored by Platoon Kunsthalle. Suffice to say, Platoon understands their supporting culture. I would risk saying that they are curators of that culture...

For the time being, Platoon resonates with a self-selected group of people who define themselves by being part of a creatively energetic subculture within Asia.

This phenomenon did not happen overnight and will take time and energy to nurture...

That evening Platoon hosted a mash-up of back-yard barbecue, art gallery, dance bar and garage sale.

They did not wait to copy the idea...their culture spawned it, supported it and reveled in it.

Curating culture is nothing new...just enable people to experiment, play and grow...then nurture what works...

There are too many choices in life for any one person to sift through...curators are needed to help define and deliver engaging experiences that fit a culture’s tastes (needs).

We don’t need a copy of what already exists...

Words just get in the way...

The emotion in this man’s face became apparent as he pushed his cart of persimmons past me. Not just a lowly street vendor, but a man with a story. At first, I was curious to know that story. Then I realized something special as he pushed on... that moment he told me his story. All I had to do was listen.

Can you hear it?

We often look for deeper meaning through words and text, but these are often lengthy and misinterpreted...sometimes you don’t need to say a thing.

November 2, 2009

Emotional Design

Today, a colleague of mine, Christopher at ?WhatIf! asked me to check out five by fifty, an Asian consumer intelligence firm... On their site was a trend about how the recent health scare over the H1N1 virus is creating a new fad of “Pandemic Chic.” It got me thinking again about emotional design.

Photo: The Sydney Morning Herald
Recently, I have been thinking about how people engage with the objects they own. When I think of user experience, the phrase seems too broad for me to get excited. Define the entire user experience for these masks...right... Now, think emotional engagement. Well? What is the emotional engagement? Anyone can describe in detail the emotional engagement for each mask. Reverse the process and as a designer, how can you emotionally engage users with your mask (product, service, website, etc.)?

I have been mulling this over ever since listening to my friend, CJ Chou gave his doctoral dissertation defense at the Institute of Design. USER ENGAGEMENT: Providing Users Additional Interaction and Meaning with Products was presented to the Institute of Design on March 26, 2009. At the time, it struck me how simple it was to create new meaning out of the user experience when designers try to emotionally engage users.

CJ’s simple example...How can we get people to fill up the water dispenser after they pour themselves a glass of water? You know, the filtered water container that sits in your office’s refrigerator. How many times do you find it almost empty? How often do you forget to fill it? are not emotionally engaged...

...what if there was a fish in the container? Would you make sure it was filled with water? Yes! Now, a live fish is not so clean, but a plastic fish! You bet! That would engage users on an emotional level and you will never find an empty water container in the fridge...

Emotional engagement is an integral part of any experience. Otherwise, your product will have to compete as a commodity.

I would say emotional engagement is integral to anything you do...