The Scourge of Arial

An older excellent article on the prevalence of Arial on computer desktops and a sidebar which shows typographically challenged designers how to tell Arial from the typefaces it was designed to imitate.
“Arial’s ubiquity is not due to its beauty. It’s actually rather homely. Not that homeliness is necessarily a bad thing for a typeface. With typefaces, character and history are just as important. Arial, however, has a rather dubious history and not much character. In fact, Arial is little more than a shameless impostor.”
Read: The Scourge of Arial and How to Spot Arial

BnA: Designing Customer-Centered Organizations

“Organizations increasingly view usability and user-centered design to be a key ingredient in creating high quality products. Designing for ease of use is a well-accepted goal, even if many organizations have far to go to create user-centered products. Even with the present downturn in the economy, more companies, from new media to established banks, have larger usability and design teams than ever before. Should we be content that we have come so far?”
Read: Designing Customer-Centered Organizations

Paul’s Interactions: Spit-Not-So, or What’s in the Layout?

“Many tasks involve the processing of information from different sources. Some information needed resides in the memory of the person. Other information is in physical things: dials, screens even the position of objects. Physical (and similarly virtual) objects act as memory aids. Is that all they do?”
“Physical objects do not just act as memory aids. They allow information to be directly perceived without any explicit interpretation being applied. They physically afford or prohibit behaviours and they change the very nature of the task for the user. Noughts and Crosses is not just easier because the square provides memory cues, it is easier because the cognitive processes involved in spotting winning sets has been changed, for example to ones involving direct perception based on location. Take the representational effect into account when designing interfaces and you can actively simplify a task.” (courtesy of InfoDesign)
Read: Paul’s Interactions: Spit-Not-So, or What’s in the Layout?

Blogging for Business: A presentation by 37signals

“Many companies paid (and still pay) thousands and thousands of dollars for full-blown CMS (content management systems) when many times all they really wanted to do was add a little dynamic content to their web sites. A blog can be seen as a tiny but mighty CMS. thinks so.
Ultimately using blogs in the corporate environment is about giving people who need to communicate the tools to do so easily, quickly, and in an organized manner and in one central location. ”
Read:Blogging for Business: A presentation by 37signals

Visitor experience design

“This model moves away from the solely content or task-oriented approach as this tends to lead to system-centric designs. What is important here is that this model supports the content and task-oriented perspectives, as well as integrating research and immersion. The inclusion of a research perspective provides insights leading to the understanding of motivations and emotions of visitors.” Courtesy of infodesign
Read: Visitor experience design

Learn to blog, blog to learn.

“Blogging pioneer Peter Merholz adds, "the power of Weblogs is their ability to immediately put form to thought. I can get an idea in my head–however [half] baked it might be–and, in seconds, share it with the world. Immediately, I get feedback, refinement, stories, and so forth spurred by my little idea. Never before was this possible."Also, blogs are easily linked and cross-linked to form learning communities. A few days after we met, Ashley emailed, "It was interesting how the next day you posted on your blog about our talk, about which David Carter-Tod commented on in his blog. One of my colleagues, Raymond Yee, noticed it after we had lunch, and I told him about our discussion. Then, Yee wrote a post about our circle on his blog. Of course, then I had to comment about it on my blog. It’s all an interesting little Web that blogs make happen so quickly."”
Read: Learn to blog, blog to learn.

Type basics

“100% practical. Sketches have been made to explain some basic issues in type design during the workshops. They get used to point out some problems which raise while creating a new typeface. Only some foundations are shown, no deep sophisticated details.”
Link: Type basics

A Simplified Model for Facet Analysis

“The purpose of this study is to propose a simplified model for facet analysis that incorporates the principles of facet analysis proposed by both Ranganathan and the CRG. The purpose of this simplified model is to act primarily as a teaching tool to introduce LIS students to a consolidated, and hopefully easy-to-read, classification model that will enable them to understand how faceted classification systems are designed and how they work.”
If you want to learn how to construct a faceted scheme properly you might try reading the following: AIFIA | A Simplified Model for Facet Analysis

Balancing visual and structural complexity in interaction design

People will complain about a visually complex page at the sight of it. But they will also complain if the information they need isn’t immediately available to them when they start using the site.

An article dispelling many of the overused misunderstood principles of simplicity that people believe (my self included at one time) would greatly aid the usability of a web site.

But from Edward Tufte:

High density is good: the human eye/brain can select, filter, edit, group, structure, highlight, focus, blend, outline, cluster, itemize, winnow, sort, abstract, smooth, isolate, idealize, summarize, etc. Give people the data so they can exercise their full powers — don’t limit them.

Clutter/confusion are failures of design and not complexity.

Read: Balancing visual and structural complexity in interaction design

Faceted Classification

A faceted classification uses clearly defined, mutually exclusive, and collectively exhaustive aspects, properties, or characteristics (a.k.a. facets) of a class or specific subject (Taylor, 2000). The idea for a faceted classification really began with the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) in which a standard number representing place (location) was appended to a subject number by a device now known as a facet indicator. However, Dewey did not develop the idea further and in the early 1930s, Ranganathan formalized the use of the fully faceted approach with his Colon Classification. Other classification schemes such as Universal Decimal Classification, now provide facets for places, time periods and forms. More recently, work has been undertaken to develop the Bliss Bibliographic Classification (BC2) into a fully faceted classification scheme.
Read: Faceted Classification

Technology to make you go ‘wow’

“I want to make products like this fountain pen that creates such joy when you see it, and you say ‘oh wow’ and the first thing you want to do is try it.”
Beauty, pleasure and simplicity of use are what people care about now when it comes to technology, according to the design guru.
“Life is about pleasure and enjoyment, and if we are not enjoying what we are doing, then why are we doing it?”
Link: Technology to make you go ‘wow’

Life in Taiwan 11

I’ve often looked for a solution to a problem which has perplexed me for much of my time here in Taiwan. I have noticed an overall lack of interest in community standards that would govern how we interact and treat one another Standards which in creating a more harmonious environment might raise the quality of life. In Canada a number of these standards, some of which are law, some of which are social, govern things such as aesthetics, cleanliness, basic services, and noise. Being a guest here I can grow somewhat accustomed to the general ugliness of the urban environment, the dirt that comes with so many Asian cities, and even the suprising lack of basic services like good water (pressure). But the one thing that I have a hard time with is noise.
I tend to enjoy living in cities. I like the sounds of life one hears in the city. But in Taiwan these sounds are taken to new heights not be the city itself but by your neighbours.
Since moving to Hsinchu I’ve put up with the constant noise of illegal fireworks going off outside my bedroom window by some guy training pigeons, bad karaoke at 2am Monday morning, trucks going down the street laying on their horns for no known reason, 8 am Sunday picture hanging fests. (drilling into concrete), loud prayer meetings, crashing of doors at all hours, and the list could go on and on. The latest activity is the remodeling of a building 6 houses down from me. This has to be without a doubt the longest house remodelling project in history. Because they are taking down the concrete walls day after day has been filled with the constant defining drone of small jackhammer against concrete wall. During working hours this wouldn’t be much of a problem, except that these people like to start work at 7am on Saturday and Sunday. And no one says anything! Either people here love living in an environment that is a constant source of irritation and stress or their is something else at work. In my experience this is beyond rude and in most other countries would result in the police showing up at your door.
Usually the answer I get on this problem from locals is simply, “This is Taiwan, it’s different” or “It’s like that everywhere”. There is a discussion on a local community web site which seems to have a plausable answer.
“I think that about 90% of the problems in Taibei stem from one thing: apathy. People don’t care about police corruption, or at least feel powerless to change it. The same goes for political corruption. The same goes for the dehumanizing exam system. And for illegal buildings. And Mercedes parked in front of fire hydrants. And all the myriad forms of sidewalk violations. And many, many, many other problems. ”
“In the debate over universal love vs. family-centered love, Confucianism won out. Mozi said that people should love all people equally; Mencius argued that it’s natural for people to love their parents more than strangers. The amount you should care about someone is inversely proportional to the distance of their relationship to you. You should love your parents more than life itself, but total strangers don’t even come onto the radar screen.”
“… that because of the “Five Relationships”, people driving literally cannot see other drivers or pedestrians when they’re driving, because those people do not fall into that person’s “Five Relationships” (i.e. they’re not his ruler, wife/husband, child, teacher, or friend), so to that person they don’t exist. In that driver’s eyes, he is really the only mofo driving down that street. Same goes for the guy who cuts in front of you in line at the store. Everyone else simply doesn’t exist in their world, they’re invisible. When I’ve said this before, it’s obviously tongue-in-cheek, but surprisingly, most of my Taiwanese friends have said that, basically, that’s the way it is. Unless people outside of those aforementioned relationships directly comes into contact with you, they’re not even there.”
Follow the discussion here: Confucianism – the source of local apathy

Mental Models for producers

Theories of mental representations in general, and mental models in particular, deal with form and function of individual knowledge. The central question is how human beings represent information mentally, and how they use that information to interact with the world in adaptive ways. Users’ knowledge about computer systems are a specific type of mental representations. Mental representations have been investigated by researchers in philosophy, cognitive psychology and – more recently – cognitive science.

Sources: Mental models: a gentle guide for outsiders, What’s Your Idea of a Mental Model?, Eliciting and Describing Users

IA Tools

Below you will find document templates, process map posters and other tools to help you in your practice. The documents, which have been donated by various people in the organization, have been found to be useful at one time or another. Items can be used in combination or alone as needed.
Link: AIFIA Tools

Reading list 1

Reading List

Information Architecture
Information Design
Project Management
Visual Design

Origin of the Phrase, “Information Architecture”

“The phrase “information architecture” appears to have been coined, or at least brought to wide attention, by Richard Saul Wurman, a man trained as an architect but who has become also a skilled graphic designer and the author, editor, and/or publisher of numerous books that employ fine graphics in the presentation of information in a variety of fields. In the 1960s, early in his career as an architect, he became interested in matters concerning the ways in which buildings, transport, utilities, and people worked and interacted with each other in urban environments. This led him to develop further interests in the ways in which information about urban environments could be gathered, organized, and presented in meaningful ways to architects, to urban planners, to utility and transport engineers, and especially to people living in or visiting cities. The similarity of these interests to the concerns of the LIS professions is patent. ”
Link: Origin of the Phrase, “Information Architecture”

CSCA Lecture: Some Ways Graphics Communicate

“External representations are in essence cognitive tools.
Cognitive artifacts (e.g. graphics) are human only. There are no examples of animals using cognitive tools.
A lot of human collaboration goes without words. The dyads in the research produced more abstract instructions than the individuals. However, they also produced less diagrams and more language for the instructions.
Graphics augment cognition. It enables new ideas. Ambiguity helps. When reconfiguration occurs more new ideas were generated. Graphics facilitate collaboration. Externalize common ground.”
Link: Barbara Tversky: Some Ways Graphics Communicate

No Fear

“Every time you worry, you practice to be weak. Every time you act on your strength, you practice to be strong. You practice what you really want to achieve, and you don’t have to live in fear.”
“Fear is raw and primal. Even after eons of evolution, we can still be immoblized by it almost before our brains have processed whether there is any reason to be afraid. But far more often, fear itself is the enemy. Rather than an instinctive response to a real threat, fear has become an anticipation of scary things. We fret; we imagine monsters under the bed; we recall past frights. Now, we simply have a bad habit. We call it “worry” and “anxiety.””
Link: Rethinking Fear

A Simple Classification of Interactive Visual Explainers

“Visual representations have been used since the dawn of human civilization to communicate – to reveal the hidden, illustrate the intricate, explain the complex and illuminate the obscure.
Constructing visual representation of information is not mere translation of what can be read to what can be seen. It entails filtering the information, establishing relationships, discerning patterns and representing them in a manner that enables a consumer of that information construct meaningful knowledge.”
“There is a subtle movement taking shape in online journalism. It is movement that is borne out of the desperate need to engage and excite news consumers in the post-information age. Dissemination of information and news breaking has given way to interaction, participation and involvement of consumers in news making. It is called interactive journalism or visual journalism.”
Link: Interactive Visual Explainers

Models of Collaboration

“The goal of this article is to help you determine which model(s) of collaboration are important to your organization. Figure 1 (below) shows how each of these models relates to each other based on the size of the population that uses them and the level of interactivity. As you can see we go from the Library model, which is really reciprocal data/content that can be accessed by a large number of people and not really inter-active, to the Team and Process Support Models, which usually are used by smaller and more interactive groups of people. Each of the model types is explained in greater detail below.”
Link: Models of Collaboration