vrijdag 12 september 2008
The Future Design Of Media Retail Stores: Negotiating Between Downloads And The Experience Economy
THE FUTURE DESIGN OF MEDIA RETAIL STORES:
Negotiating Between Downloads And The Experience Economy
© Carl William Kerchmar: All Rights Reserved www.portaltoyourdreams.com
Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike (by-nc-sa)
Media retail stores selling music, movies and games are rapidly approaching a critical point of existence and need to re-invent themselves in the Internet social-networking period. That means their business models need to embrace the Internet, not fight it. But also realize what the Internet can never offer, and that is physical space. Here is where industrial designers, architects and identity engineers will help this industry evolve. It’s too little and too late to jump on the download services bandwagon that is dominated by iTunes™ and Sony™. Designing media retail space will have to negotiate between downloads and the experience economy. Selling data is out, memberships to experiences is in; where design promotes co-creation and engagement. This new frontier of commercial space will strengthen the link between virtual and real while creating new place logic opportunities for designers and architects.
Understanding how the virtual and real intertwine is an exploration in the interface between the two. The keywords in this evolutionary shift in media retail space include: experience economy, pro-active, lounging, tribes, triding*and typo-morphology*
The flow of Internet networking and purchases eventually have interface with reality, a place logic and semiotic code that signifies the tipping point between the virtual and real. This interface is what designing space will increasingly be involved with. The place where Internet and reality integrate can be computer screens and mice that reflect ergonomic and style considerations. But won’t the virtual and the real start influencing each other, where needs and habits in one realm will begin to emerge in the other? The virtual boasts seamless navigation and the search engine while reality engages our physical senses. GPS navigation systems guide us through reality with the help of the virtual. The Nintendo™ Wii™ lets us sweat and swing while moving through virtual space. But what happens when the entire data selling industry has evolved into downloads via computers and mobiles? The design of media retail space will change forever. Media retail space needs to model itself after an airport like a hub to the music, film and gaming worlds.
Media retail can transform into a hub, a node in a network and / or an umbrella organization that offers distribution channels in exchange for content and service fees from smaller niche producers who are rapidly increasing in numbers. This is evidence of our need to differentiate as consumers and the pure increase in supply of media as a result of lower production costs. However as the Long Tail Theory has proven, media retail sales still cash in on blockbusters (Chris Anderson 2006). Even more so than before, mainstream titles in music, film and games represent the vast majority of retail revenues. Why then invest in niches? Maybe it’s time for media retail stores to go extinct, but how can that be if our demand for music is as high as ever? The multinational has become the multi-niche*. In this way, mainstream media retail stays close to underground cultures which in turn can be seen as a floating research and development department. The underground is a multi-national’s R&D. The next top hits have to come form somewhere. Furthermore, the shop space becomes a platform for brand sponsorships where musicians, gamers and spectators can lounge and use the newest technologies in co-creative software. This pro-activeness is a key element in the future of how experience economy will merge into to retail space.
Walking into a media store doesn’t necessarily imply an opportunity to buy media, but rather engage with creating and participating with other media creatives. Shelves of music CD’s and DVD’s become walk-in recording studios where music generating software applications use the retail space as a commercial platform to promote their products. The retail store sells licenses to software producers on the supply side while the customers on the demand side are buying memberships to access the facilities. In the same pro-active experience logic, gamers can come to the media store and find a structure similar to an IMAX™ theatre with the latest game consoles and accessories. Here there is a LAN (Local Area Network) party; with each gamer having his own chair, screen and console. Above them all there is a meta-projection of all the online games being played simultaneously. The LAN party room is also a product placement sponsorship strategy like Living Tomorrow™ concept exhibition spaces; who host the forefront of consumer electronics by top global producers. This gamers’ playground is both a testing ground and source of revenue for the games industry, which is rapidly growing to challenge the size of Hollywood. For example, the new release of Grand Theft Auto 4™ sold 3.6 million copies in the first day and grossed $500 million in the first week (Herald Tribune 2008). But why leave your cocoon and come out to a media experience store if the software and games can be downloaded at home anyway? Aren’t we connected online; is the added value of physical proximity worth it? The difference and incentive will be the crucial moment for designers. In the middle of the musicians’ walk-in studios and gamers’ LAN party there is a café lounge and / or meeting / networking point. In addition to relaxing and being part of the creative space of flows, the media lounge café has tribal guides: Trides*.
The challenge of design in this respect will be to cater to a flexible user oriented space that can bridge both mainstream and underground semiotic coding. Designers will need to consider functionality and user friendliness complimented with the right look. Functionality implies a hands-on and / or proactive interface where users can exchange and produce data. As technology giant Phillips claims,
“We must now enter the era of designing equipment that adapts to users. The user is placed the center of the design process.” The right look has to do with fashion and tribal coding. Tribes are social / special interests groups who are ageless*, organized via psychographics* and have both a language and dress code. In relation to the tribes associated with media retail, think of how every music genre has a different look and feel and how the lovers of that music dress and experience their favorite concerts. Consider the diversity in film audiences and the types of gamers who play online Texas Hold’em versus the newest gruesome first person shooter. And how certain types of video games correspond better to specific genres of music. Tribes are not mutually exclusive and we can be members of more than one tribe simultaneously.
The ability to recognize and codify tribes is of increasing importance since age, gender and race are of less importance in Western societies. Understanding tribal groups is what marketeers need for their advertising campaigns and what designers need when considering the typo-morphology*of space. Keeping our attention on how real and virtual spaces intertwine, how has the Internet altered our needs for real space? What does access to information and facilitated communication mean for commercial and public spaces? Manuel Castells points out that,
“Ironically the Internet has given individuals more freedom to chose their own reference persons, but evidence shows that at the same time there is a stronger collective behavior than before.” Carl Rhode explains further by saying,
“Hyper-individualism is out. Finding a place where you really feel at home, with your types of people, is cool.” Trides* are cool, and represent the physical manifestation of a personalized search engine. They are knowledgeable and personal in way that a virtual personal brand agent cannot be: there is a pulse. This is not an attack on the virtual, it’s about learning from it.
Imagine sitting in the media store café-lounge, a wall of real-time gaming worlds projected on the right, and to the left there are aspiring musicians making recordings. There is a stage for concerts and a people’s choice award for top ten hits. The sitting area has a console that lets guests get online, download, interact and maybe even listen in on the musicians or have a peak at a gamer’s action. There is spectacle, interaction and an opportunity to find like- mindedness. Find and meet other music talents, brainstorm script ideas and organize a massive LAN event between two rival cities in the hottest current first person shooter, sport or strategy game. How will designers meet the technical and fashion challenges? Can the space be a flexible template for constantly updating new technologies? How can the interiors codify the look to be inclusive yet give a feel of customization? In essence this type of structure is a multi-media playground. How will its typo-morphology* fit into the current built and virtual landscape?
Recognizing the appropriate look for the target group in the new media retail store will be paramount. Designers will have to stylize the atmosphere to bridge the gap between generations, in fact, agelessness*. The mature population doesn’t want design to emphasize that they need special attention: think of the failed NextStage™ stores in America offering design-technology for seniors. The youth of today is so much more exposed to information than in former generations that they are increasingly discerning: Note their data transfer savviness with iPOD™’s, PSP™’s and mobiles. Finally traditions, gender roles and cultures have become blurred and often times a choice. Music is for everyone and gaming audiences are expanding into new frontiers. What does this all imply, what kind of existing space can reference that as an appropriate departure point? Airports manage flows, commerce and connectivity very well, especially Schiphol, Amsterdam. Imax theatres have strong visual and audio technology but how about the café-lounge feel? Is there a global branded space out there that we can feel cozy in, Starbucks™, Barnes & Nobles™ or a hotel chain? Is this the wrong approach entirely, perhaps the media retail space has to have a branded template or philosophy that makes each location unique while distinctly recognizable? The posterity of media retail space will be achieved once it can offer a framework that is open to the speed of change in both technology and fashion.
* Concepts by Carl William Kerchmar for www.portaltoyourdreams.com and Trend-Portal seminars.
# Concept Visualizations co-produced by www.pholt.net