Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mobile's Home: The TELUS Store

[Images Redacted]

As reported in my first post for, Canada's second largest telecommunications company has set up shop in the sim of Shinda (view on map | direct teleport). The post said a little about the architecture and a lot about the significance of the first major Canadian corporation, the first major Telco, and the first branded mobile handsets to appear in Second Life.

Let us now invert that discussion and talk about one heck of a build.

As reiterated over at another blog, I did stumble upon the store. There were a couple of reasons for that. First, the build is sited on the mainland. Its hard to accidentally teleport to an island (not that I haven't done my share of double-clicking the map at random). Second, its scoops up eyeballs like a grizzly bear in a salmon run, attracting attention not for the kind of iconic qualities we've examined in previous posts but rather for its subtly refined shading and prim details that place it in vast contrast to the garish structures that comprise its environs.

Lighting and shadow details contribute significantly to the success of the build, and could be easily mistaken for handiwork of SL's resident Master Chef of texture baking, the legendary Aimee Weber - but you would be wrong. This is the work of relative newcomer Scope Cleaver. Arriving with a (seemingly ideal) background in Fine Arts and IT Systems, Scope thus far has only three custom builds under his belt (not to mention a newly launched Prefab business), and you'll be seeing all three of them here in the days to come.

Scope describes his work as 'freestyle', riffing off the possibilities for space and form presented by the medium. TELUS Advertising Manager Sparkle Dale had examples to show him from their flagship stores, but these were simply to reference the look and feel of the brand experience. The actual design of the store was Scope's vision from the ground up.

His penchant for I-beams and facades that "cut like a magazine layout" are salient here in a legible structural order of steel, glass and concrete that would feel perhaps a little too monochrome if it were not for his sophisticated use of colour, the familiar purple and green that I see plastered all over the media and malls of my home town. The end result is a playful, airy and gracious single-level space that resonates with the RL brand but also successfully extends it into virtual space, in this case doing so without wild formal gymnastics or flagrant breaches of the laws of physics. Rather the build, like the TELUS effort as a whole, engages simply by trying to understand what it means to be an avatar, and then making an earnest effort to deliver.

From the perspective of avatar usability one might deem it somewhat more successful than the recently launched and much ballyhooed American Apparel outlet on the island of Lerappa (view on map | direct teleport) by the aforementioned Ms. Webber. While the build itself is more prim efficient than the TELUS build, and somewhat less laggy by virtue of not being located next to The Matrix Nightclub, Aimee's trademark texturing brilliance is slightly overshadowed (if you'll pardon the pun) by the somewhat constricted proportions of the plan and the inclusion of a second storey that is accessed via two perceptually narrow and steep staircases. A generous deck on the roof of the first level serves as a landing point for those who wish to go back outside and fly to up rather than negotiate the stairs. The decision to employ a second floor is interesting given that the store is currently sits alone on the sim. That being said, there is much to admire in the design of the American Apparel store, and the effort is deserved of the accolades that it has been given.

For the moment let us turn our attention back to the mainland. The TELUS Store is at the time of this writing celebrating its Grand Opening, including an event in RL for the Telco's non avatar-based employees. Among the swag you'll find free helium balloons that I am disappointed to say cannot be inhaled, so no high octave party in the mouth.

Just a feast for the eyes.


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