Journal Entry #4

American Apparel is somewhat of a cultural phenomenon.  Love it or hate it, their brand is one of the most recognizable in the clothing world.  Their advertising is sexy, youthful and minimal, and their clothes are, for the most part, plain.  Yet, due to the colors and vibrancy of the material there is almost no mistaking an American Apparel garment.  Design firm Method was faced with the task of devising a unique and interactive way to show off American Apparel’s photography while keeping the style of the presentation within the company’s well-known and already established brand.

Method

The result was a media player/photo viewer with a transparent overlay covering the page’s other content.  When you visit americanapparel.net, the main focus of the page is a series of rotating image in the center.  Each photo in the slideshow is from the same series/photo-shoot.  Mousing over the image presents a series of disc shapes, and mousing over each individual disc shows a preview image on the right-hand side of a new image gallery to replace the main slideshow in the center of the page.  Visitors have the option to pause, play and skip through the image gallery.  The images sometimes contain nudity, yet the site offers no warning of inappropriate content.  Do they consider the nudity to be so tastefully or artfully presented that it is not considered pornographic?  It’s hard to say, but Method didn’t seem to mind.  Some photo sets do not even feature clothing, just photos of city blocks, warehouses or crowds of people.

While the final product is certainly much different than Ideo’s shopping cart, the design was fundamentally the same.  A group of designers were presented with a problem, and were tasked to come up with a solution.  In this case, the deliverable was a Web interface, not a physical item such as a shopping cart.  Although Method’s site does not describe the design process in the case study, it’s clear that they spent a good amount of time analyzing American Apparel’s current image.

In chapter 10, Moggridge notes that cultural anthropology can play a part in developing and designing products. The people who shop at American Apparel are certainly part of a subculture, and the image is not one for everyone. When designing the photo viewer, Method had to take into account the types of people who might be frequenting American Apparel’s site. Chances are, a 55 year-old construction worker from Arkansas would not be shopping for colorful hooded sweatshirts online, and therefore would have little reason to visit the site. The people who do visit the site, however, would be interested in seeing the clothing on models,

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~ by cvellis on October 30, 2008.

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