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Parsons the New School for Design: Design in Everyday Experience Final Group Project Spring 2013


Design affects our everyday lives - in the products we use, the places we visit, the behaviors and attitudes we adopt. How has Saturdays Surf NYC applied this wisdom to its 31 Crosby Street location and overall brand?


• Systems thinking. • Deductive reasoning. • Looking at the world as a designer.

This assignment asked us to build, research, and verify our own theory based on ideas learned in class. Urban planning wisdoms and the basics of human psychology laid the groundwork for our investigation on how strategic spatial design is an important ingredient to a company’s success.

Jacobs and Tuan

31 Crosby Street

A Rival

Our Own


Business Proposal

City diversity, space v. place. DESIGN FOR EXPERIENCE. “Culture crafting.” DESIGN AS BUSINESS STRATEGY.

Coffee + surf under one roof. EXPERIENCE FOR OURSELVES. Charm + energy, juxtaposed. NEIGHBORHOOD AS ECOSYSTEM.


Integrate artifacts, make recommendations. VERIFY THEORY.

Going in with a theory... Both tangible and intangible signifiers of meaning are knitted within a city’s spacial fabric.

Successful businesses understand how to harness theories of space and place.

This was NOT about inductive thinking.

It began with a general idea, then sought to validate it by examining a specific, real world example. Life’s best lessons are learned outside the classroom.

Our Own Hypothesis took from the ideas of two champions of systems thinking: Jane Jacobs and Yi-Fu Tuan. Therefore, applying their concepts challenged us to take on many roles: a consumer, a designer, a business strategist... and, most importantly, an ethnographer.

Chief takeaways from Jacobs and Tuan: What promises enduring street vibrancy? High diversity (mixed users drawn by mixed uses - for work, for play, and for everything in-between). Space versus place - how are the two terms related to each other? Co-dependently (abstract spaces are transformed into concrete realities as we experience and endow them with value).

Quotes from Jacobs and Tuan

Using their words to frame our project.

Project Brief

A deductive approach: Combining Tuan and Jacobs’ ideas to choose our site.

With various overlaps between the two treatises, it was easy for us to utilize both in shaping Our Own hypothesis. Now we felt that the best site to prove our theory would be a coffee shop - as an “in-between” place, many have become almost second homes to their customers. But among all of New York’s coffee retailers, which to select? One that strongly captures Jacobs’ “mixed use” principle, of course - a store that wears many hats, is located in a vibant neighborhood, and blends things beyond just coffee.

Hypothesis: Brainstorming

Saturdays: A cool fashion boutique or a hip surfer cafÊ? Honing in and defining our project’s goals.

SWOT Analysis

The experience perspective meets a business lens.

31 Crosby Street’s recipe to success is one part flavorful coffee, one part quality apparel, and one part prime real estate - its tucked away location in the vibrant Soho district. Theory Application was therefore conducted in both environments.

Getting a true feel of 31 Crosby Street was achieved through the collection of “artifacts”, the fruits of our regular trips to the store. These included observational notes, videos / photographs, and interviews with staff and customers.

Artifacts: Personal

Artifacts: Ms. Dana Droppo, Media Contact

Reaching out to the company, including its perspective.

Store Location: Premier Downtown

Perfect for those living, working, and surfing in NYC.

Notes Tuan: “Learning to know the neighborhood requires identification of significant localties, such as street corners and architectural landmarks, within the neighborhood space. Objects and places are centers of value.�4 Hearkening his words, we now took a step back to consider the macroenviromental factors which have helped shape the store to what it is today. How has its presence as a cultural vestige affected and been affected by its surrounding Soho neighborhood?


Artifacts: Mapquest

to see what lies nearby.

Artifacts: Personal

Documenting idiosyncrasies and juxtapositions.

Project Nodal Map

Intergrating and illustrating the linkages within the system.

Social research isn’t just about collecting data to prove a hypothesis. At the end of the day, its value lies within how its results are harnessed to solve a problem. For a firm, this can include sustaining relevancy and being at the helm of innovation. Although our findings revealed that 31 Crosby Street’s design encourages a congruence between the store and its users’ behavioural needs, we felt that the brand can do better in reaching female surfers, a market that’s on the rise. Addressing this untapped consumer segment was thus what lay at the heart of our Business Proposal.

Key Supportive Statistics

Basing our proposal on concrete facts.


Summarizing our recommendation visually and succinctly.

Getting a real taste of 31 Crosby Street and the zeitgeist spirit of Soho (not to mention a cup of Saturdays’ famous personal blend of La Colombe!) certainly made us realize how fun ethnographic research can be. But now for the Synthesis of all the artifacts collected at Our Spaces, and gathering more from A Rival to strengthen the verification of our theory

Staying true to systems thinking, we decided to bring another “node” to our analysis: A Rival and Saturdays’ main competitor, Lost Weekend NYC. The same researc methodology was now applied to a brand with a similiar business model, but situated in a different NYC neighborhood.

Culture Crafting  

"Culture Crafting." Process. Date completed: Spring 2013. Brief: Design in Everyday Experience - Final Group Project. Summary of the project...