Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Let's Get Weird Part One of Sideways Eight

Let's talk about Grocery Stores...and Signage...and Warehouses..and Cartoons...And mathematical Romance...and let's just face it, not one of you will ever understand how my shitty brain works.

Let's just jump into the crazy. I have a problem with spacial thinking. I can't think of things in a 3d environment. I can't arrange furniture in my head, I have no sense of direction. In fact if I "feel" I'm going the wrong way, I am almost certainly going the right way.

I have no doubt in my mind this is a contributing factor as to why grocery stores confuse me. I don't understand how they're classifying things. Like when I look for bread, I generally look in the "bakery" area. The processed  in a bag give you cancer bread is not in that area, it is in fact on the opposite end of the grocery store, with the refrigerated foods. When I was looking for honey I went to the cookingi(oils,shortening, vinegar, spices),    condiments, and sugar aisle. I thought, Honey is a sweetner, it's used in cooking, and hell if that's not it, it's a condiment. It was not in this aisle. I wandered around in a few other aisles looking for it, think a bunch of bears in wizard hats, should be easy to find. 20 minutes later, I found it. It was in the breakfast aisle.

Solutions that are unacceptable, talking to a gatekeeper of information. Whether this is a human being in the store, or an app for your phone. Both of these seem absurd to me, for one, during my honey adventure I broke down    and asked someone and the reply I got was, "Uhhh....I don't know." Which is perfectly acceptable it's much better than a wrong answer, but I don't want to have to talk to a human being anyway. I also don't want an app, because everyone assumes you have a smart phone, however a grocery store is universally used by nearly every demographic. Old people, children, the tech illiterate, curmudgeons maybe the Amish people. I don't know, but a 300 dollar device   should not be a prerequisite for shopping in a grocery store.

I think it boils down to a taxonomy problem. Of organizing like things appropriately. But maybe it isn't Amazon organizes there warehouses, using a system known as chaotic storage. In short they put stuff where it fits, and it works very effeciently for them. So maybe a book next to a mr potato head. The locations are recorded in a database. So I guess if your cart had like an rfid reader, or just a pad or something it you could input everything you needed, it would beep when you walked by, and you could get everything in one pass of the    grocery store. That sounds terrible. That's worse than an app probably? I don't know. My initial idea in lieu of this was have everything in alphabetical order, and then the singnage could just have regex, so like A[a-p] would have like animal crackers and apples. But that's like the worst idea ever. There becomes a thing about brand names, or types of things, chips or corn chips or potato chips or lays potato chips or what the fuck.

One thing I think would help, is better signage. But I get overwhelmed when I think about signage. Signage is so vastly complicated and that's probably why it's not properly utilized in grocery stores. If you don't believe me read this introduction to wayfinding.  99% Invisible had an episode about signage, and one of the things they stress in the episode is that it is near impossible to create "forever" signage. Like even the most basic thing, would people read from left to right, or   right to left would be important, but also unknowable. So someone may see these basic symbols on a toxic waste can and think, don't touch, kills you, but read in reverse, brings people back from the dead, how bad could it be.  I think that was the moral of the story, I haven't heard it since it's air date, so what do I know.

So I give two really crappy ideas, chaotic storage, and a sort of regex alphabetic system. For some reason I immediately think of the cartoon The Line and The Dot, A Romance in Lower Mathmatics. You should watch it. It's about  a dot who likes a scribble, because he's exotic and interesting and doesn't like the line. The line then try's really hard and learns he can become angles and shapes, and wins the dot's heart, and the dot shoos the scribble    away. I root for the scribble every time. Every time. The scribble is messy, the scribble is me. The scribble is chaotic storage. The scribble is a regex alphabetic system. The line is the current system of arbitrary rules.    But like seriously, watch it. (Also buy the Dvd)

So I think this was a post about grocery stores. And for sure grocery stores should have better signage...or at least a comprehensive navigable structure. But I don't know maybe I'm just dumb and I don't get grocery stores.  But mostly I just wanted to talk about amazon, bears with wizard hats, and cartoons I liked, and let everyone know they should be listening to 99% invisible. I'm sorry I stole your time. See you on let's get weird part 2.

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