Alex, Alan and Andy
"The North Portland Foodcarts aren't about food; they're about people. From the local resident that started the cart, to the neighbor that frequents these establishments, everyone involved has a story."
For our group project, we decided to look at the food carts on and near N Mississippi Ave. Alan had some preexisting knowledge about some of the carts, and their origins. Most of them are fairly new, and there is still construction happening to bring in a few more carts in the area. Overall, we though it would be interesting to look at the owners of the carts -- what they did in their 'previous life', why they decided to open a cart, how their quality of life compares to before they opened a cart.
The burgeoning "Mississippi Marketplace", located on N Mississippi and Skidmore.
We also wanted to look at the customer demographics -- who visits carts, where they come from, how they get to the carts, and what their backgrounds are like.
We spent some time brainstorming questions - one set for cart owners and a separate set for cart customers. Many of the questions on the owner questionnaire centered around start up costs, yearly (estimated) income, previous salaries, etc. We weren't sure if those questions would be answered consistently enough to be of any use, but we asked them anyway. As it was, the hard financial data we gathered wasn't enough to do anything with, but we did get a lot of interesting background information.
We encountered a similar dearth of hard financial data with the customer survey as well. Due to this lack of 'hard' data, we decided it would be best to take a more 'anecdotal' approach to the presentation of our data. With the exception of a few facts (transportation, neighborhood of origin), the majority of the data would be presented in a more personal, individual format. The stories of how and why these people are interacting today would highlight the new mindset - that values are shifting towards more local, sustainable, and fulfilling experiences. This not only applies to customers, looking for an authentic, local (and cheap!) experience, but to the cart owners as well - we found former rock drummers, bookstore owners, culinary chefs, South African immigrants, tow truck drivers, and cook book writers. It would be rare to 'make it big' owning a food cart. They're not doing it for the money - they're doing it because it's closer to the kind of lives they envisioned for themselves.
We realized that effective and deep data collection is a design problem in itself. We could have spent the entire two weeks refining the survey questions we asked, making multiple rounds of data collection, and rethinking our approach. As it was, the timeline for this project (including production) was rather short, so we had to take what we had and run with it. Not to say that our results weren't meaningful, and that our data wasn't relevant. But understanding that we only scratched the surface of the information available on this subject is key to understanding the way we synthesized our data.
For the presentation, we decided we wanted our final visual product to reflect the cart culture - homemade, sustainable, perhaps a little rough around the edges. Instead of using slick computer graphics or interactive graphic, we decided to make the deliverable out of wood from the ReBuild Center, on N Mississippi Ave. The ReBuild Center works to reuse building materials and home fixtures at a low cost to consumers, both reducing waste and increasing accessibility of materials to lower income individuals. Using reclaimed wood, we constructed a mini replica of a food cart. Instead of listing menu options and prices, we inserted findings from our survey. The end result is a data-rich yet personal presentation that remains relevant as it informs.
Construction of the visual was time consuming, but ultimately rewarding. Alex was gone over the weekend, so Alan and Andy met and obtained materials, and did the prep work of cutting, sanding and painting base coats on the boards. "They were awesome," said Alex of their hard work and dedication. "Of course I knew that they would keep on top of things, but coming back to that much work being done was simply amazing." To finalize designs, hand paint each component, and assemble the piece, our team met on Monday and worked through the night. We agreed on stylistic choices together, to give the final product as much cohesion as possible. Overall, we were pleased with the final product - a culmination of hard work, creative processes and analytical thinking combined to great effect.
ART 320 - Bingaman-Burt