Urban Genes

Material Information

Urban Genes : Embrace Local Culture in Urban Space
Liu, Fuer
Art -- Art and Art History
Place of Publication:
[Gainesville, Fla.]
College of the Arts; University of Florida
Publication Date:

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Master's ( Master of Fine Arts (M))
Degree Grantor:
University of Florida
Degree Divisions:
Graphic Design
Degree Disciplines:
Committee Chair:
Rogal, Maria K
Committee Members:
Slawson, Brian L
Gladdys, Katerie Helaine


Subjects / Keywords:
Bookstores ( jstor )
Chinese culture ( jstor )
Cities ( jstor )
Cultural customs ( jstor )
Industrial design ( jstor )
Regional dialects ( jstor )
Software applications ( jstor )
Urban design ( jstor )
Walking ( jstor )
Websites ( jstor )
Project in Lieu of Thesis


Urban Genes, a creative project in lieu of thesis, was prompted by my observation of the endless online arguments about the many dietary habits, dialects, and customs in China. They exemplified not only people’s attachment to local culture, but exposed their concern that it would fade away, eclipsed by the rapid changes of cities in China. This is, in part, because, today, we are seeing more urban development and migration occur than ever before. City dwellers hardly have time to notice their urban spaces while they are kept constantly busy with their faster pace of living and working. Meanwhile, these changes begin to erode our rich cultural traditions and sense of local identity.
In this project, I explored ways to identify signifiers of local culture in urban spaces and created a system for participants to contribute to the larger project so that they, and others, might understand, appreciate, and embrace local culture — in essence, as we begin to map urban genes.
General Note:
Graphic Design terminal project
Statement of Responsibility:
Fuer Liu

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
Copyright Fuer Liu. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
Resource Identifier:
1022120750 ( OCLC )


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Summary of Project in Lieu of Thesis Presented to the College of the Arts the Degree of Master of Fine ArtsCommittee Chair Committee Member Committee Member URBAN GENES Embrace Local Culture in Urban SpaceMaria Rogal Brian Slawson Katerie Gladdys Aug, 2015 Fuer Liu


ACKNOWLEDGMENTSI would like to express my deep gratitude to my committee chair, Maria, for being a great mentor, who has always inspire of me through her knowledge, criticism, and guidance so I stay in the right direction. And I appreciate all the help for organizing everything, not only the encouragement to my thesis project, as well as my whole MFA graduate study. I have learned so many things from you, especially, how to con To Brian, who has always been resourceful and open-minded. During these three years, you inspired me so much in many different ways, especially through design thinking and all the conversations we had. You helped me throughout this project as well as my three years in MFA study. To Katerie, thank you so much for offering many inspiring comments and suggestions on my work and research, helping me push the work to be more reasonable. I also ap I extend my appreciation to all my peers in the Graphic Design program at the Uni versity of Florida, whose critical feedback and encouragement helped me grow as a designer. I also want to thank all the faculty members who taught me at the Universi ty of Florida for helping me in my academic growth. Last but not least, I want to acknowledge and thank my beloved parents, for support ing me on everything for all these years. I would not be at this point in life without your love and support.Chair Maria Rogal Member Brian Slawson Member Katerie Gladdys001


005 Abstract 006 Introduction 016 Problem Statement 022 Inspiration023 A Bite of China 030 Difference in Culture 031 Independent Bookstores in China 036 Design in Japan040 Process041 Methodology 042 Project042 concept 046 phase I: april.2014 jun.2014056 phase II: jun.2014 nov.2014068 phase III: dec.2014 mar.2015084 outcomes 088 exhibition098 Conclusion 100 Future Directions 102 Bibliography 106 Biographical Sketch003


ABSTRACTUrban Genes, a creative project in lieu of thesis, was prompted by my observation of the endless online arguments about the many dietary habits, dialects, and cus exposed their concern that it would fade away, eclipsed by the rapid changes of cities in China. This is, in part, because, today, we are seeing more urban devel opment and migration occur than ever before. City dwellers hardly have time to notice their urban spaces while they are kept constantly busy with their faster pace of living and working. Meanwhile, these changes begin to erode our rich cultural traditions and sense of local identity. and created a system for participants to contribute to the larger project so that they, and others, might understand, appreciate, and embrace local culture — in essence, as we begin to map urban genes. 005


INTRODUCTION In June 2011, a post on the Chinese social network, Sina Weibo1 claimed that it was unbelievable to eat salty tofu jelly and would never give it a try. This post led peo There are generally two kinds of palates in China, sweet and salty. Someone later showed the photo of spicy tofu jelly online later on to show the diversity of how people eat this. I was also curious about later posts that were added, such as "I when there is difference of how to eat them. Soon more people joined in these ar guments. Meanwhile, they divided into two factions, and the sweet or salty parties represented different tastes, and they argued the same topic on certain festivals or dates every year following. Figure 1 1. Sina Weibo, 007


Figure 2 Postings from these online ar guments show the difference of how to eat the same food ingre dients. These postings on the social network Sina both show and argue the different ways to eat the same food ingredient.008


The typical example is about how people eat Zongzi2 during the Dragon Boat Festival3 how the southern part eats salty Zongzi, while the northern part eats the sweet. bles and meat for storage in the southern part since the weather there is humid. ences in general.Figure 3 From Baidu Baike . Different terrains in different geographic locations in Chi na showing the initial reason to differ entiate local cultures Plains in east China Hills in southeast China Mountains in central north China010 2. Zongzi, 3. Dragon Boat Festival, Salty Zongzi Sweet Zongzi


Plateau in west part of China Desert in northwest China Plateau in central north China Plateau in west China Basin in northwest China Basin in southwest China


There were people who always claimed that there was no purpose in argu ing since most people would not change their preference or accept differ ent tastes, instead they only confirmed their own points. Some people also dialects, habits, and customs emerged. For instance, in what region do peo ple have more ability to bear the cold? Would you prefer using coins or pa per currency? When to celebrate your birthday on Lunar or Solar Calendar? short time, and they get more public attention. From what I observed and pearing local culture in urban space. From a cultural perspective, whether the arguments were about taste, dialects or customs, they actually prompt ed people to consider local culture behind these difference. In fact I appre ciated these arguments for bringing up the fact of difference to remind us to consider local culture again. Lucy Lippard writes about the attachment these details represent the authentic part in one place. Unlike visiting wellknown spots or highly recommended place, seeking these details from peo Figure 4 Postings from these online arguments to show the difference on dialects, habits on social netwoking, Sina015 014


PROBLEM STATEMENT How can we use design to embrace local culture in urban space? has been created by dwellers and through daily life such as dietary, spoken di ments encouraged people to reconsider the meaning of local culture, as well as to consider how to the discover local culture buried under the exponential such argument happens, once again it will be the best proof that local culture In this project, I explored how to encourage people to embrace local culture noticed? How can we stop it from disappearing, and continue existing in cities? In order to achieve that, I also considered how people share the local culture 017


Figure 5 Shanghai in 1990, 1996 and 2012 with rapid change. Photo from 018


Figure 6 in China buries local culture beneath the skyscrapers. 020


INSPIRATION 1 FROM A BITE OF CHINA TO EMBRACE LOCAL CULTUREAbout three years ago, A Bite of China1 popular in China. This documentary broadcast attracted extensive attention with its elaborate scenes of tons of dishes. It also showed the traditional dietary habits and situation of people living in China today. What I was impressed about Secrets of the Kitchen , they said that cities look so similar right now, it seems the smell in the air is the only distinguishable fea ture. This referred to the situation of cities in China undergoing rapid changes. That made me wonder about other distinguishable features among cities. Mean while, there were endless posts online about this documentary. Whether these attention on different dietary cultures. From this perspective, the documentary is a success. For myself, I always think about the commentary and try to dig more meaning behind. This inspired me of doing similar thing to inspire more people of local culture, from the cities in which we are living.4. A Bite of China 1, AD%E5%9B%BD 023


1 2 3 4 photo: A Bite of China I“These days, cities look pretty similar to each other. It seems only dietary habit and the smell A Bite of China I / Secrets of the Kitchen Documentary Poster & Screen capture from the documentary Poster of A Bite of China 1025 024Subtittle


photo: A Bite of China II"A jar of local taste from home, will be traveling to Zhongshan, Guangdong (a city in Southern part of China) that is 1000 kilometers away. Maybe one day this kind of taste will be reproduce in other different places with a new form. For thousands of years, the dish has migrated with people, changing along the way. No matter how far away it gets, the taste from home will The Bite of China II / Footsteps "The things we pass down from our culture are not only the poem or opera, but the details The Bite of China II / photo: A Bite of China II1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4027 026Subtittle Subtittle


“Like teaching native language, mom has embedded the tastes in kid’s memory with her unconscious instinct. It will always remind kid the direction of home once the taste has The Bite of China II / Daily Domesticsphoto: A Bite of China II photo: A Bite of China II"There is rapid change in China, people are immigrating faster than anytime. No matter how fast it would be, no matter how the sorrow and happiness would come, there is always a taste, reminding people three times a day to notice the future direction, and never forget about how The Bite of China II / Footsteps1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6029 028Subtittle Subtittle


2 DIFFERENCE IN CULTUREI explore different cultures not just to learn about the differences, but also I keep looking for the better approach to know these difference. In re cent years, I noticed the rapid changes of cities in China, and gradually developed a strong sense of responsibility to discover the culture of cities attention on local cultural contexts. Both as a designer, and as a part of the generation viewing local culture disappearing in the city.0303 IDEA FROM INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORESIndependent bookstores are becoming more and more popular in recent years in different cities in China. Formed in different ways with their own stores like Bananafish Books5 in Dalian, Maomi Cafe6 in Suzhou, Librairie Avant-Garde78 in Yangzhou are gradually be coming iconic spots in each city. Independent bookstores are more about sharing than selling books. More over, they are inviting local people to come and engage. For instance, there are always talks going on to share experience about traveling, study dent bookstores are also selling postcards, hand drawn maps, and badges The idea of independent bookstores inspired me to create a space spe cifically to share local culture. People can experience, communicate and participate in local culture. 6. Maomi Cafe, 7. Librairie Avant-Garde, 8. Forlive Bookstore, 031


Dalian, China032Forlive Bookstore in Yangzhou, China 033


Librairie Avant Garde 034Kafkas Books in Hefei, China 035


4 HOW DESIGN THINKING IN JAPANESE DESIGN INFLUENCES MINEJapanese design inspires me in that it starts in details and is human centered Based on the situation of limited landscale and resources, Japanese de started selling their local products nationally, the designer chose to use They think when these products come to the cities, people there will have a chance to check the content from the newspapers to learn about this place. in this small town, this could be a great, and simple way to promote the Kenya Hara, the art director of MUJI, believes the design process is to search for the wisdom from object and life rather than making products. For MUJI products, he chooses not to over package but chasing a simple 036When designers in Japan solve problem from daily life, their objective is for concept Design Without Thought9, which means the behavior that people al research in application design. In order to achieve this, I found target users test for me to make the application easier to use (spend less time learn how 037 9. Design Without Thought,


Figure 9




2 PROJECT Gainesville. I was thinking that to be in a place is just like meeting a person. experience. Like every human who carries different genes that makes each of us different, so is every urban space. We are shaped with different fig ures, colors, voices, appearances, and personalities. And the urban space has its own customs, history and weather. From my experience of walking in Gainesville, I noticed that urban genes local places on sides of street, and etc. There are also the genes we cannot see directly, like the history, local taste, dialect, and local lifestyle. Together We inherit our genes from our parents. This gives us a general idea about how we might look in the future. In this project, I believe if more local urban genes can be discovered, it will help us know about how a city might be formed in the future. In order to achieve that, I focused on designing differ the urban space, and join this movement of discovering and documenting.042Walking the City helps us notice the urban space we are living in by observ ing surroundings through walking. It also helps us to see changes over time, Interaction Space offers people a space in a city to interact with the intan gible part of local culture such as history, preferences, customs, dialect, lifestyle, and so on.043


Figure 10 Urban Genes I discovered in Gainesville through walking044


The initial phase derived from the online arguments about different dietary kind of taste to a city or a place, along with their worries of disappearing local culture in cities. In May 2014, I went back to China, and reviewed CITYZINE and MING (Figure wide in different aspects. Through different cases, I refined the key concepts 046 Figure 11 Some of the postings from these online arguments in 2014 and 2015 on social netwoking, Sina047


Figure 12 048 049


website for discovering amazing local places to stay when traveling. I believe this is a great opportunity to know more different local cultures contexts from staying with local people, talking with them, and learning from them. Figure 13 Airbnb web page, 050 051


Figure 14 Literature that inpired walking052In this phase, I refined the problem to consider, how to interact in urban Michel de Certeau writes about local culture reflects from the practice of cooking. These everyday practices can create experiences and memories that tie us to one place, and finally accumulate into attachment of one place. ville when I started this project, I barely spent time walking here or time noticing this place. I also want to know whether the rapid changes in one place matter in this project. Will walking work for all the places? I believe this experience could be a test of starting this project. where people also want to embrace local culture identity. I also treat walk fers us chance to observe the space, and discover its authentic part, whether we are familiar with or not.053 “In her day, walking the streets of the city was as organized an entertainment as a


1 Experiments In Gainesville 2 App Prototype 3 Testing Prototype In Ybor City, FL, Savannah, GA and Washington D.C. 4 Website Prototype 5 Conceptual Design For Whole System cal things like the street, signage, and store including the changing in this to walk and notice the contexts of local culture. Plus more interaction with I decided to design a way to document part of the walking process. For instance, documenting what you have discovered through walking (Figure through walking. If there are more people walking, sharing and discussing, would definitely help people know more about a city. I encourage people to do this since I believe the point of what people discovered and documented are the things they feel interested about. It could be the things you have never seen and feel interested about, or the thing you feel interesting and want more people to know about. The only precondition is what you have shared is from the city you walked and can only be found in this city based on your experience. Through this sharing process, the urban genes could be more completed and precise in each place.054 Figure 15 Posting on social media websitefor sharing the walking map055


Figure 16 Figure 17 057 056


Figure 18 The changes I found in a month from walking in downtown Gainesville058While I was walking on the sidewalk in Gainesville I noticed that, besides some national chains, the rest of things I could see are all special to Gaines ville. The doors, windows, signs, neighborhood, walls, streets, stores, and concept of genes from human genes and applied it as the metaphor to name what we can discover in urban space: urban genes. I believe there are more attributes that can be shared between human genes and urban genes. completing the application on categories of genes. I walked in Ybor City end, I went to Washington, D.C. During all these testings, I noticed the dif ference on urban genes that make each place different. For instance, the color, texture, material, shape, and etc. Based on that, I finalize the urban genes categories to make the objective of walking clearer and completed the function to document the genes.059


Figure 19 Structure of application060 Figure 20 Testing Prototype In Ybor City, Savannah, and Washington D.C.061


Figure 21 Testing Prototype In Ybor City, Savannah, and Washington D.C.062 intended to let people interact with intangible part in local culture. I started with the icon design to represent different aspects of local culture, then kept working on designing the whole system. Figure 22 Posting on Instagram for sharing063


Figure 23 Earlier feedback on this project and posting online064 Figure 24 Earlier feedback on this project and posting online065


1 Finalizing 2 Storytelling of walking, documenting, sharing, and collecting. This included user experience, and interface with a lot of testing. In the initial phase, I played the role of user and designer at the same time to ensure this process could be completed. As a user, I offered feedbacks to myself to make every step simple and understandable. As a designer, I had to organize information architecture for using the app. So by the end, I could apply this structure to my design on the app prototype. genes, then used a box to represent the space, and by the end, focused more on urban space itself. I also received different comments on the necessity of the web site. Some suggested since the website has the same function as the app, it is not very necessary to build one since people are already used to checking images on we need to consider the people who are not using smart phones, so they can view through the website. Based on this feedback, I kept the website.066 Figure 25 Application develop process067


Figure 26 Application develop process068 Figure 27 Application develop process069


Figure 28 Application develop process070 Figure 29 Application develop process071


Figure 30 Application develop process072 Figure 31 Application develop process073


Figure 32 Website development process, from chain genes to box 074 Figure 33 Website develop process075


Figure 34 Website development process, back to the urban space itself076 Figure 35 concept of perspective on a cube since I considered to use the space of cube to represent urban space. Then I tried to add more sense of genes into it based on the feedback. So I applied the genes pattern to the logo, connecting with the bulidings in urban space. I also applied the logo to the application icon.077


VISUAL DEVELOPMENT 2014. 10 2015. 02use cube to represent space. then different perspectives creates different space which represent different urban space. used the plane formed by cube, then form a sense of space. urban genes space bring more sense of genes’ visual element, and space. transformation of letter “U” with graphics from genes. different experiment on using genes’ graphic. visible urban genes we can see. intangible urban genes hide in city. skyscrapers in cities use more genes graphics. try to make the sense the 3d dimension on genes. solid and outline. consider which part to be selected. too uniform. got the feedback, looks similar with sound wave genes in urban space. Figure 36 Identity mark prototypes078 Figure 37 079


Figure 39 App icon design process080 users in two groups. The contributor and the rest of the users. If people choose to contribute, they must have an account to the app and up load their walking experience and photos. The rest of the users can still view the photos, and topics this project is doing through the website but cannot access the app since they do not have an account. So, in a word, users need an account to access the app, while the website can be viewed by everyone. The list is below: Contributors Application & website; need account; Website; do not need account; Upload walking experience Check posting on website Role Access Purpose081


1) The booklet of inspiration Project departure (Figure 40) This booklet summarizes the story behind this project, documented how I got inspired, why I decided to focus on this project, and how I reached to the end in this phase. 2) Visible Urban Genes (Figure 41) App (for iPhone) to walk the city; The application is used for people dto iscoveg urban genes, under different categories through walking in urban space. Then share the urban genes to encourage more people notice contexts of local culture in urban space. Website (prototype) to present urban genes; discovered in categories. Everyone can access to check the photos through the websites. 3) Intangible Urban Genes (Figure 42) Conceptual Design for Interaction Space; Icon design for different section of interaction; My objective is to build an actual space to encourage people to experience and communicate local culture in different aspects. I come the the conceptual design for different aspects (like local in local culture, as well as the icon design to represent these aspects. This booklet summarizes the story behind this project, documented my inspiations, why I decided to focus on this project, and how I reached to the end in this phase. The application is used for people discover urban genes by the different categories through walking in urban space. Sharing the urban genes en courages more people to notice contexts of local culture in urban space. they discovered in categories. Everyone can access to check the photos through the websites. My objective is to build an actual space to encourage people to expe rience and communicate local culture in different aspects. I completed the conceptual design for different aspects (like local taste, local history, as well as the icon design to represent these aspects.082 Figure 40 Booklet of inspiration083


Figure 41 Application & Website for visible Urban Genes084 KITCHEN LAB A place focuses on collecting local tastes. People can sign up for experiencing the lab, learning from the recipes in the lab, and have a try on cooking READING SPACE Collecting local stories, and documenting local history which is a little different from library of a city. People could know about almost all kinds of knowledge related with the city. RECORDING ROOM Everyone can get the chance to participate You can record, share with other people, check the difference, and even question if you are not sure about the word in dialect. URBAN THEATER of our life. You can upload documentary of your own in cities, sharing what you have discover every day. It is the way to know about the real part of a city. URBAN WORKSHOP A platform for people sharing local customs on special days, ideas of local events, crafts, and etc. It will offer workshop and lecture to help people blend into the city they live. URBAN STORE A studio could help promote local culture with design products in a whimsical way.INTERACTION SPACEINTANGIBLE URBAN GENES COLLECTON Figure 41 Interaction space for intangible Urban Genes085


versity of Florida. My intent was to exhibit the collected data, my walking experi ence to engage more audience to this project. It also included a video to present the process of the whole project to my audience along with the outcomes. Figure 43 E xhibition 1086 Figure 44 E xhibition 2087


Figure 44 E xhibition: Poster 1088 Figure 45 E xhibition: Poster 2089


Figure 46 E xhibition: Poster 3090 Figure 47 E xhibition: Poster 4091


Figure 48 E xhibition: Poster 5092 Figure 49 E xhibition: Poster 6093


Figure 50 E xhibition: Poster 7094 Figure 51 E xhibition: Poster 8095


CONCLUSIONIn this project, I used design methods to observe, document, and collect data. After refining the problem, I started with field research then led to the experience I have created. Meanwhile, I studied user experience, and in the end, developed a system for people to interact in urban space through walking, communicating, and sharing. Following my personal interest about the difference of cultures, I realized the importance of embracing local culture (Healey, Cameron, Davoudi, ress on technology under this era, and these endless online arguments, I concerned about the disappearing local culture in cities. I inspired by the documentary, A Bite of China , and decided to do similar thing with the same influence to embrace local culture. I know this project is just a start, and in prototype phase. I still hope what I have done in this project might contribute to raising awareness of people to care about local culture in an urban space that keeps changing. Either in the city we are living in or visiting, we can always learn and know more about the place through walking. Also how design processes and products can help people have better understanding on this project.097


FUTURE DIRECTIONThe past year has offered me time to focus on the project that I felt interested and concerned about. We can learn the past of a city from the things we see these relations in the future . I plan to complete the application and website, and upload the urban genes resources I have collected from my walking test. For the interaction space, I want to apply this idea back to my hometown, testing in a selected public space with people who care about local culture. 099


BIBLIOGRAPHY Sharing the city: Community participation in urban management. London: Earthscan The City in Cultural Context. Boston, MA: Allen & Unwin. Brands: Meaning and value in media culture. Urban Lifestyles: Spaces Places People. The practice of everyday life. CA: University of California Press. Chuansong Newspaper to shopping bag , Douban Review of A Bite of China Livable cities?: Urban struggles for livelihood and sustainability. Berke ley, CA: University of California Press. Cities of difference. Designing Design . Zrich, Schweiz: Lars Muller. Brands: The new wealth creators. York University Press. Man -101


aging cities: The new urban context Allworth Press. On the beaten track: Tourism, art and place. The lure of local: Senses of place in a multicentered society. Tourists, signs, and the city : The semiotic of culture in an urban landscape. Cities full of symbol. Walking And Mapping. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Before The Brand: Creating The Unique DNA Of An Enduring Brand Identity . Cities. Sina Saving the Street Signage A Field Guide To Getting Lost. Wanderlust: A History of Walking. 102Cities And Urban Cultures. The Transformation Of Cities. Uedc Without Thought A Bite of China /%E8%88%8C%E5%B0%96%E4%B8%8A%E7%9A%84%E4%B8%AD%E5%9B%BD. 103


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHFuer Liu grew up on the East Coast of China. In her teenage period, she fo cused on painting and drawing. She received her BFA in Industrial Design from Southeast University in China, where she focused on graphic, architecture, and product design. She pursued her graduate studies in Graphic Design at the University of Florida and received her MFA in August 2015. In her graduate studies, her research interests focused on difference in cultures, changes in information age, and interaction in urban space. Most of her inspi ration is formed by her experience of living and working in a different cultural environment and how technology changes the ways of communication. Her cre ative project, Urban Genes, can be viewed on her website dent magazine focusing on art, news, movies, books, exhibition and life around tion and different ways of thinking.105

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