For my research, I tried to focus in on industrial design work, but I don’t think I was very successful in this regard. This doesn’t strictly have to be “product” design in the traditional sense, but also “experience” and “interactive’ design. Maybe this is a place that was designed for specific users in mind. In addition, I also looked at local films mainly because of my general fascination with them. This is where I found most of my research. I will analyze them from a problem solving point of view, such as why were these places/initiates/films made, what problems do they attempt to solve (if at all), and were they successful. I chose some websites that were on the list and some that were not. These are the examples I found.
First, I found an article about an amazon prime original TV series, which was made by local filmmakers. This series is called “Shangri-LA”, and I found out about it from this article on Shepard Express. The series stars Milwaukee filmmaker and actor Nick Sommer, who plays a struggling actor in Hollywood and the other people he meets that also try to become stars (or try to exploit them). What was interesting about this to me is that a local business, Riverwest Film & Video is featured in the series, including its owner Xav Leplae. I took it upon myself to find out more about this place and why it was featured.
Riverwest Film & Video, is an independent and locally run film resource. A documentary about its local influence was recently shown at the Wisconsin Film Festival, which I found out about at the Milwaukee Magazine website. Riverwest Film & Video is one part video rental, one part equipment rental, and one part radio station, owned by Xav Leplae. The documentary is a meta narrative about the lives of the many people that use the space as a resource to create films, and how the space is also offered to people in the community (for instance, the article states that a man “they call Rabbi”, has lived at the store and cooks meals for people. It was a little unclear if he is an actual Rabbi or just a homeless Jewish man with a deep love of film and the Riverwest community). The people that make use of the store may come from a background where they may have not had the resources to realise their visions and tell the community (and the world) their messages and beliefs. It is clear to me that the space was designed to be as inclusive as possible, and because of this the people who use this space are influential to the people of Riverwest. It is also evident that the store’s influence is taken with the people who move on to bigger projects outside of Milwaukee. This space has a spirit of self empowerment; taking initiative on your own, and helping out people with similar goals as you.
The Milwaukee Magazine article referenced a Huffington Post article that was about the radio station part of Riverwest Film & Video, which is called Riverwest Radio. This article is a lot about Xav Leplae. In the article it gives Riverwest Radio’s mission statement (much like a design statement in industrial design) is to “provide a community platform for education, advocacy and creativity, as well as an outlet for marginalized and alternative voices.” This is pretty close to what I inferred in the last article, but this one really fleshed out what the space is all about, and why Xav Leplae made it that way. Xav was born in Belgium, but moved to Milwaukee. For a few years he was a New York City taxi driver, but eventually he moved back in the late 90’s to found Riverwest Film & Video and in 2012 he launched Riverwest Radio as a new part of the space. His goal was to operate Riverwest Film & Video like a food co-op, because Milwaukee (Riverwest included) is a very segregated city (by race and wealth) but Riverwest is become more race integrated in part to initiatives like his. He also travels to underdeveloped countries such as Haiti and creates artwork to raise money for them. His end goal is not to create a product (while, could be made to solve a user’s problem, is ultimately) for profit; all of his resources and initiatives are for the community. Everything he does is to better the people around him and bring them together. To me, seeing an experience design like this, one that is entirely made by and for the users is really eye opening. Usually, I am taught that design happens when there is an unaddressed need by the users, but in this case, the users addressed themselves and took matters into their own hands. Anyone can be a designer to solve problems.
Have you ever experienced a place like this? Let me know in the comments.
Until next time,