GDE720 - Week 12

GDE720 – Week 12 : Workshop Challenge

Firstly, I am so sad this is the last blog post of GDE720 – I have really loved this module, it’s been so much fun and such an in depth insight into my locality that I wasn’t expecting.

Before I created my video, I wanted to really analyse my project and service design – I’m designing for good here, and I want to make sure it hit the right notes.

Without the passion behind it, it could definitely fall flat. I was gutted at the lack of responses from my emails, but I think one company shared my link and I suddenly received 23 responses overnight. I’m overwhelmed that so many local independent businesses took time out to respond to my survey, and the responses have been fantastic in terms of being able to fully analyse my project. I’ve listed the reponses below in question order:

Question 1 : of course this was an obvious question and the overwhelming response was yes, it’s a worry. But I really wanted to get the reasons why people felt it let the city down. In order to look into fixing an issue, you not only need to know what the problem is but WHY. Responses like the comparison of business rates to online businesses, more food outlets, negative impact on City character, affect to tourism… these all contribute towards the need to fill these stores. it’s evident that this is an issue and it’s a very strong response to this question which I needed.

Question 2 : again, I really wanted to get into the nitty gritty and really understand the issues that prevented smaller businesses from opening in the city centre. Again, the same issues were highlighted, high rental prices, profitability, business rates and long leases, and, interestingly, “absentee landlords”. This answer is evidently an issue here in York, majority of our Landlords stem from out of City and cause problems in that the empty stores don’t affect them directly – they don’t feel the impact local citizens feel when walking past empty shops.

Question 3 : not really much to pick apart from here, this was as expected and is vital to see. Especially in terms of validating my idea.

Question 4 : I found this quite overwhelming – when you get such a positive overall response to an idea, it’s quite moving and has given me real passion to push further with this. The amount of support I’d garner from this project is huge and and the ideas here are amazing. The consideration of 12 month leases, looking past JUST retail for the units, bringing in educational and community spaces… the splitting up of units seemed to be overall very positively recieved.

In other (very much related news), I also found this York Press article created just this week:

I have to say, I was completely gobsmacked when reading this and it’s actually fascinating that this idea is going around – It’s by no means a highly “original idea” with the example of Meanwhile Space, but this proves that there is high traction around this potential idea and, with the right support from the council and landlords, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing much more of this in the next year or two.

This whole project has ignited my passion for service design – it’s proven that this is something that has HUGE potential and can benefit my locality. As much as we designers look globally for creations, acknowledging your local area as we’ve been encouraged to do in this module, can in fact be far more rewarding.

So… on to the ACTUAL weekly task… The video – I’ve just finished watching our final lecture which finished on advice for the video which I’ve taken on board and “re-jigged” the concept of the video. I was intending on creating an “advertisment” video for this idea but was struggling to fill 2 minutes effectively.

Upon reading the weekly challenge again, this project is about a CASE STUDY – as in analysis and reflection on the project itself – imagine I’ve set out on the path to creation of this idea and what could I improve, develop, change etc.

Having just had those 23 responses, I’m on a positive path now and feel like I can really analyse my project with the viewpoint of other York independent retailers.

My voiceover:

In January 2021, we saw a 74% year on year decrease in retail spending in the same month across the UK. As sales plunged even more than expected, already struggling high streets and stores reported shocking figures. With non-essential shops shut, the decline worsened.

With the hit of Covid in March 2020, existing consumer behaviours accellerated, in the wrong direction. Online shoppng and purchasing from the safety and comfort of our own homes saw blow after blow to our streets.

In York, specifically, we’re seeing increasing rents offered with 10 year minumum terms with a mandatory 5 year rent increase. With ever rising rents and out of City Landlords, small businesses are unable to gain foothold within the city.

Prospects seem bleak…

Introducing… popup:YORK.

In segmenting larger retail units into smaller more manageable, semi-permanent market spaces, landlords have consistent competitive rent and, with the support of the Council, smaller businesses now have an affordable retail space in the city centre.

popup:YORK offers prime central space, free business advise to new businesses to allocate budget friendly spaces and stall sizes. We can help you host events or workshops on seasonal or weekend occasions to drive traffic to your store. We will also help with Christmas, Halloween and summer promotions to increase both tourist and local footfall.

We’ve seen this success in London where Meanwhile Space has worked with local councils, landlords and small businesses to fill empty prime retail units. Similarly in York, SPARK shipping containers have seen success after success with new independent traders.

This will work.

With Social Media and instafriendly shop fronts

With high tourism throughout the year

With York’s seasonals trails

and with your help, popup:YORK can rejuvenate our City.


As can be seen from the many responses from York’s independent retailers, this idea has a lot of support behind it. This project has the potential to do some valuable, positive reinforcement for the City and it’s clear retailers feel the empty shops are causing issues to our tourism and footfall rates.

Interestingly, a lot of the responses did warn me that getting landlords on board would be tricky. Had I thought ahead, I would have tried harder to contact landlords of our city centre stores to get an alternative view. This would be my next step to contact landlords and the council to really understand their point of view. There must be a reason for landlords to not want to fill their stores by trying new methods but also I understand that getting rental income is a valuable part of their business.

On another note, I was given some feedback on the lack of oomph in the designs for the project itself, I do believe that vibrant, colourful and interesting displays really improve the look of a city centre but I also appreciate that York is extremely limited in colour choices, window displays and signage. The shops are encouraged to be kept in keeping with the historic conservation feel to the city, but this is definitely a drawback when trying to attract new custom and tourists. Could this project be repositioned to not only fill empty stores but help add vibrancy and younger more creative tourists and citizens?

Finally, a recent article in the York Press 4 days ago looked into the possibilty of splitting up rental units and having mini markets within larger retail spaces. This shows that this project has some real backing already, and, although the idea of splitting up retail units isn’t new, this could really pave the way for a new York and introducing vibrancy and colour to a very historic yet tired city.

Ok, so the above speech was 4 minutes long…!!!

I initially started in after effects creating the typewriter effect for my writing. I wanted words on screen but also my voiceover to make sure the issue, solution and analysis was a clear as possible.

I then transferred this into Premiere Pro as I prefer working with audio and clipping in this software:

With my 4 minute audio cut down to 2 minutes, my final piece is complete:

Click here to view my video on Youtube!

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