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Students “blitzing” retail and dining services in Chalmers

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

LAWRENCE — University of Kansas students from the departments of Architecture and Design and the schools of Business and Engineering will take a crash course in retail and dining design during a 36-hour “design blitz” this weekend.

They hope the design solutions they harvest will yield new insights and possibilities currently fulfilled by the Jaybreak, a café at the north end of Chalmers Hall, which has been in business for about 30 years. While the popular gathering space, which draws students from the departments of Architecture, Design, Urban Planning and Visual Arts, would remain, without some great ideas the Memorial Unions may discontinue providing food service here at the end of the academic year.

“Two schools operate here as a creative collective,” said David Mucci, director of the Memorial Unions. “The challenge for us is to provide suitable retail and dining services in a financially sustainable manner. The Blitz exercise will aid us in finding entrepreneurial solutions that meet the communal needs of our students, faculty and staff at this site.”

“The café is clearly important to our culture as a central place for socializing,” said Tyler Galloway, associate professor of design. “Students need a say on what it could be. To elevate the space’s ownership so they can work together as a community is really important.”

The idea of a blitz is to teach participants rapid-cycle design techniques, leadership practices and to raise social consciousness. Galloway and designer and entrepreneur John Bielenberg, who runs a San Francisco-based organization called Future Partners that teaches “thinking wrong,” are facilitating the blitz. 

Bielenberg, who recently won a American Institute of Graphic Arts Gold Medal, takes an imaginative approach to helping blitz participants make the world a better place. He tries to get them to discard convention and to jump what he calls the innovation gap. He challenges them “be bold, get out, think wrong, make stuff, bet small and move fast.”

This blitz was initiated at the suggestion of School of Architecture, Design & Planning’s Dean Mahesh Daas. “The food and retail services in the Chalmers-Marvin Hall Complex isn’t just a matter of convenience,” he said. “Food and drink bring people together, and this place is an essential element of our culture.

"Even the best operations need a boost that can come from applying design-thinking to the needs of our people. That includes two other nearby amenities important to our community, the Chalmers Gallery and graphics supply store, the Art and Design Shop.

“This will be a big challenge," Daas said, "and I’m very excited to see what can come of ‘thinking wrong’ about this extremely important amenity that serves more than 1,500 people.”  

The blitz will begin at 10 a.m. Friday, April 8, at The Forum in Marvin Hall and conclude the next day at noon when the students present their solutions.

John Bielenberg’s Future Partners website can be found here.

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