Monday, December 8, 2008

Goodwheels...delivering opportunity to your community.

After working with Goodwill and researching their existing systems, conducting interviews with customers, employees, and future shoppers, and analyzing current visual material such as signage and advertisements, my group and I retrieved vital information which we then used to construct a design solution called Goodwheels.
My group member Jennifer Kim—along with the “Visual” group— focused on examining all aspects of Goodwill’s visual communication. In doing so, she and her peers revealed problems with advertisements, signage, and personal stories being too informative, visually cluttered, and wordy in content.

Above are two examples of how Goodwill advertisements are visually cluttered. Most of Goodwill’s promotional materials are proliferated with images, motifs, and a large amount of text written in different typefaces. Although there is an apparent effort to make the text more easily legible by creating a hierarchy in font size and line widths, the words themselves become additional, unnecessary visuals on the page. Moreover, there is an inconsistency in branding and elements such as color and imagery selected. On the left, the colors chosen for the background are green and blue however, the advertisement on the right is all in black and white. Although it can be argued that the color combinations between the two advertisements differ based on the holiday—the brighter colors being more appropriate for Christmas and the dark, gray tones for Halloween— the Goodwill logo, however, should remain the same color and similar size. This, along with the consistent placement of the logo on all of Goodwill’s promotional material, would certainly aid in brand recognition. But, none-the-less, the combination of inconsistent visual elements in all of Goodwill’s current advertisements ultimately discourages viewers from wanting to read and most importantly retain the information presented to them.

Another problem found was that none of the Goodwill Austin stores have uniform signage. While Goodwill employs hanging signs with information about clothing for men, women, and children, kitchenware, books, etc., the subset of signs located in isles are inconsistent. At some stores these signs are digitally printed, while in others, they are handwritten with markers.

By translating the information on the signs from English to Spanish, the images above show how Goodwill has taken language barriers into consideration. The problem that occurs here is not an incorrect translation, but rather the usage of all lower case and all uppercase lettering to set apart the English from the Spanish words; the sign, which reads “women’s, PARA MUJERES”, uses this particular combination. Although “PARA MUJERES” is written in a slightly lighter typeface—possibly Helvetica light—, the fact that it is written in all capital letters makes it hard to read and seems to give the Spanish translation more importance. Two positive critiques about the in-store signage, however, are the use of bright colors and the consistent placement of the Goodwill logo on the bottom right hand corner of the digitally printed signs.

Giulio Yaquinto and Carrie Gates, my two other group members, were part of the “Interviews” team. They devised a set of questions concerning various aspects of Goodwill. They then visited all, if not most, of Austin Goodwill stores to interview employees, managers, customers, and even non-Goodwill shoppers who were within the area. A few examples of what type of questions they asked are as follows:

• What would you change about Goodwill?
• Why would you choose Goodwill over other donation/thrift stores?
• If you could tell people one thing about Goodwill, what would it be?

After reviewing the data retrieved, one of the questions asked revealed a large split between responses. The question “Are you familiar with Goodwill’s Mission Statement?” showed how many people were aware and could recite the mission statement, while others—a large subset of the Austin community—had no clue as to how Goodwill contributed to the community. Most of this ill-informed population are young adults or of a younger generation. Why is there such a lack of knowledge about Goodwill’s mission with this specific demographic? Could the lack of awareness be caused by the visually cluttered advertisements mentioned earlier?

My “Systems Analysis” team and I researched the process of how a donation travels through the Goodwill system. We met and interviewed with Kevin Mccown and Joel King, the Goodwill Transportation Manger and the Assistant Transportation Manager, on numerous occasions. Combining our interviews with both Kevin and Joel, along with the guided “behind the scene” tours they gave us of the two outlets stores — the Blue Hanger and the one off of Palmer Lane—we created a visual flow chart to better understand how the Goodwill circulation system actually works:

The process begins with the three PODs (Points of Distribution): individual donations, commercial donations, and events donations. From here, a donated item can go from and individual to an ADC (Attend Donation Center) and then to an Austin Goodwill store, or an individual can donate his or her items directly to a store. Items donated by a commercial donor are made directly to any Goodwill store. Likewise, donated items retrieved from a Goodwill event will then be taken to a store. Once an item reaches a store location, they are separated into two piles: sellable or salvage. The merchandise that is sellable is put out on the floor, which is then either sold or auctioned. The items that can be salvaged are taken directly to one of the two outlet stores. If certain items cannot be salvaged, they are either trashed or recycled.

After the merchandise is out on the floor at a Goodwill store for a period of 3 weeks and has not been sold, it is then transported to an outlet store where it will be sold or auctioned to individuals and bulk buyers. The merchandise at an outlet store is changed out every couple of hours. If an item is not sold within the turn around time, it is then divided into either “hard-lines” or textiles. “Hard-line” items consist of either products made from plastic, wood, or metal, or all types of shoes. These “hard-line” products are then placed in large, bales and are sold by the pound, averaging at about twelve to thirteen cents a pound. Textiles are compressed into tight bundles called “bales.” These “bales” are pieces of cardboard that are bound together to hold the compressed textiles. The “bales” are typically sold to bulk-buyers for resale at flea markets located near the border, or are often sold to buyers who export the merchandise to other countries for unknown purposes. If items cannot be sold at an outlet or to bulk-buyers, they then again either trashed or recycled.

In taking a closer look at how all of the donated items are transported from events to stores and then to outlets, Goodwill has managed to cut the number of routes it employs. Although Goodwill has created a more efficient route, it has left seven of its box trucks parked at the Blue Hanger Outlet in Springdale. These parked trucks currently have no use and have become a wasted resource (see image below).

So what is Goodwheels? Well after analyzing all of the research my group members and I conducted, we combined the problems from each area to create a solution: convert an unused box truck into a “mobile” Goodwill that will travel to local Austin events both large and small, ranging from a Youth Sports League baseball game to Austin City Limits, an annual music festival held at Zilker Park. Goodwheel’s objective is to “efficiently utilize Goodwill’s resources in order to strengthen community presence and mission awareness.”

Above is an image of a spare box truck. It is twenty-four feet long, 8 feet in height, and 7 feet in width. The box truck can hold a driver and up to two extra passengers.

The images above illustrate the exterior of the box truck before and after it is revamped with our “Goodwheels” design. The redesign is inspired by the bright colors found in existing signage at Goodwill stores. We have used a vibrant color scheme, in a concentric, circular pattern. The redesign is certainly fun, dynamic, and visually engaging. The truck also includes our slogan: “Goodwheels…delivering opportunity to your community.”

Here is a rear view of a spare box truck next to our redesign. The original truck another example of Goodwill’s promotional material being too visually cluttered. In our redesign, we chose to keep it simple and clean by including only the contact information and a few of the concentric circles; the text is legible, while continuing our visually engaging theme.

In redesigning the interior, we decided to use existing systems within the cargo space to build our clothing displays. If you notice in the image above, there is a metal tracking which borders the interior of the box truck.

Pictured above is a sequence of images of an existing belt system used to tie down duratainers during transport. The belt includes a latch system, which securely attach to the metal tracking adhered to the interior of the box truck.

On the top is an image of the box truck interior before and below it, our redesign. The clothing display (on the left wall) will attach to the metal tracking. It is also modular in the sense that it can be attached to any of the walls in any of the spare box trucks. The clothing display may also expand or contract in size depending on the amount of merchandise it will hold. Our redesigned interior also includes a mirrored back wall to expand the space and to bring in reflected light from outside, boxes for storage, track lighting on the ceiling, a dressing area near the back, and a donation box. The color scheme is taken from the colors used on the exterior of the truck.

Here is a quick view of the interior space in use:

The clothing and other merchandise that will be displayed in the Goodwheels truck will be selected from already priced items from a Goodwill store. An experienced Goodwill employee will sort this merchandise to be sold in the Goodwheels truck. The items may be customized for the particular event Goodwheels will attend.

Another feature included in the interior of the Goodwheels truck is the “Donate Your Story” board. Goodwheels shoppers will be able to donate their personal stories or fun comments they would like to share to other Goodwheels shoppers. This interactive facet will connect Goodwill with the local Austin community and will hopefully create interest in the younger demographic to become future shoppers of Goodwill.

Above is an image of the storyboard in use and a few example of what comments shoppers might write

The illustration above is a depiction of how the truck will look like once it is set up at an event. The donation box and the cashier station will be placed outside, next to the truck. A bordering strand of attachable lights will also illuminate the side of the Goodwheels truck. The Goodwheels employs will set the lights upon arrival to an event and a solar-powered generator will provide electricity. This idea came from the use of solar-powered generators by vendors at Fun Fun Fun Fest, a local fall Austin music festival, featuring local artists and businesses.

Two types of advertising will promote Goodwheels campaign: door hangers and event cards. The front of promotional material will include the Goodwill logo and the back will include Goodwheels, our slogan, the link to the Goodwill website, and the dates and events where Goodwheels will be participating. This advertising will not only inform the Austin community about how they will be able to shop Goodwheels at an event, but also how they can bring donations for Goodwill to the events. The door hangers will be dispersed in neighborhoods close to where the events will occur and the cards will be placed on checkout counters at Goodwill stores and local businesses.

Here is the flow chart of the existing circulation system within Goodwill and below is the “new” system which would include Goodwheels:

Following the red arrows, the merchandise that would be sold in the Goodwheels truck will be taken off the floor from a Goodwill store. After the truck is loaded with items, it will then attend an event (Fun Fun Fun Fest, Austin City Limits, etc.) The merchandise that is not sold and the items donated at the event(s) will been brought back to the store. The already priced items will be placed back onto the floor and the donated items will enter the system and be sorted.

Goodwheels would ultimately be an effective “filter” to aid in building a better community presence and mission awareness; to build a better relationship between Goodwill and the Austin community. In addition, the number of donations received by Goodwill would assuredly increase, and so would Goodwill’s revenue. The increase in revenue can then be allocated to further Goodwill’s mission: “to provide job-related services for people with barriers to employment.”

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