Another good article from Boxes and Arrows:
Perhaps no other design element has as much influence on how we feel in a space (a website, a home, etc.) as color.
The World Wide Web is awash with sterile design solutions. Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Dell, Microsoft, and countless others are virtually indistinguishable from each other (similar layout, similar color scheme). Though one might say that this uniformity makes web browsing easier by virtue of a standardized interface, the reality is such sites create mundane experiences for their users and fail to make a positive connection with their audience.
In a meeting last week I asked the group I was presenting to how many experiences that they had on a web site do they remember the next day, week, or year. Of course everyone replied none. There are a number of factors which would cause this kind of response, web sites are well… only web sites… they can’t compete (yet) with the kind of rich emotional experiences that we have in “real” life. But one the sure ways you can connect with your audience is through the intelligent use of colour. As this article points out few web sites, and in fact off line design as well, seem to do this so it can be an extremely effective means to connect with your audience. I see this on a somewhat daily basis. I work with an artist whose strength is in crafting colour solutions that take an otherwise find design to something special and I think more memorable. Her work is based primarily on instinct as an artist – imagine how effective her solutions would be if paired with the concrete knowledge of what is appropriate for the intended viewer. It’s time to get rid of corporate blue and try something more intelligent.
Natural Selections: Colors Found in Nature and Interface Design
The myth goes that creatives either lie back and let the muse come to them, or force it out through hard work and lengthy trial and error. The reality is somewhere between the two – a combination of inspiration and evaluation, of being able to let an idea come to you and then crafting it into shape.
The pdf versions might be easier to see. Creativity and the Creative Process in pdf format.
Images carry messages
A gut reaction to the work based on subjective opinions
A determination of the work based on the mediums timeline
The relationship between light, the recording medium used to capture the work and the medium used to present the work.
Moral and ethical responsibilities that the producer, the subject, and the viewer have of the work.
An analysis of the symbols used in the work to convey social meaning at a certain time.
The issues that transcend a particular image and shape a reasoned personal reaction. Not synical.
A general introduction to the concept of designing for “good experiences” given to a group of producers and project managers.
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang has some excellent advice on her weblog for the young and I guess in my case not so young graduate student. I’ll quote a few of the best tips from the two entries:
- Start keeping a notebook, or research journal, or whatever you want to call it. It’s the place you’ll write down library call numbers, the names of interesting-sounding things that you come across in footnotes, impressions of what you’re reading, research paper ideas, etc., etc.. I started doing this when I was writing my dissertation, and was dogged the sinking feeling that I was looking up stuff, then having the same idea two weeks later. You’re going to be thinking about a lot of stuff. You need a way to keep track of it.
- Go to the gym, or go running, or something, every day. It’ll give your mind a break, and your mind will need breaks. (Every now and then you’ll find that your mind just turns off for 24-48 hours. Don’t fight it. Just do laundry until your brain comes back online.) Every Saturday or Sunday, do some reading in the morning, then take the rest of the day off.
- Realize that it is a job. It can consume you or you can manage it. I spent every moment reading stuff, and I can honestly say it was the wrong approach. So make sure you have a life in grad school.
- Only work on things that interest you , not the things that interest your advisor. I cannot imagine anything worse than working on something that is of little interest to me.
- Publish. Publish crap. The one thing I learned from [name of institution removed] was that writing great essays or articles is a waste. All that matters is the number. As far as I can tell no one reads anyway, so it doesn’t matter what you say.
- If you really want to do this, then do it right. That means avoiding some of the earlier advice, especially about having much of a life. Read, and read alot. Spend time with the journals, find authors you like and read them. Find people who write well and emulate their style. And start doing your own research early.
I wish I had read some of the advice when I started grad school a year and half ago. Of course everyone has a different experience. I started my current program working fairly regularly with a professor and devouring a great deal of written material. The second semester was devoted to course work and projects. This past semester was probably the least productive with absolutely no interaction with faculty and little with fellow students. Now faced with starting my thesis and feeling a little removed from the whole process I feel a certain sense of panic setting in. Hopefully I can use this feeling to jump into action.
Link:Advice to a young graduate student, Advice to a young graduate student (2)
From my inbox:
1. Invent yourself.
Create a unique cluster of personal talents. Own your image. Manage it. Build momentum. Leave school early, if you want, but never stop learning. Dance as if no one is looking. Break the rules. Be clear about your own assets and talents. They are unique. And they are all you have.
2. Put the priority on ideas, not data.
Create and grow your own creative imagination. Build a personal balance sheet of intellectual capital. Understand patents, copyright, trademarks and other intellectual property laws that protect ideas. Entrepreneurs in the creative economy are more worried if they lose their ability to think than if their company loses money. Think about it.
3. Be nomadic
Nomads are at home in every country. You can choose your own path and means of travel, and choose how long you stay. Being nomadic does not mean being alon; most monads travel in groups, especailly at night. Writer Charles Handy says leaders must combine ‘a love of peoploe’ and a ‘capacity for aloofness’. Nomads apreciate both the desert and the oasis; likewise creatives need both solitude and the crowd, and thinking alone and working together.
I just uploaded a shortened presentation that I give to non-practioners on information design. I say nothing new so for the initiated there might be nothing for you. It does raise a few points that have led to some interesting discussions in the past. My primary area of interest is information design for the web or information systems. Whether they be intranets, corporate sites, “portals”, web applications, or etc.
With the ongoing war in Iraq we have been deluged with a multitude of high quality examples of information design that usually focus on one viewpoint. The ability of information designers to influence the general publics opinion on important matters such as this makes for an interesting and lively discussion.
Link: Introduction to Information Design
“Personas, like all powerful tools, can be grasped in an instant but can take months or years to master. Interaction designers at Cooper spend weeks of study and months of practice before we consider them to be capable of creating and using personas at a professional level. Many practicing designers have used the brief 25-page description of personas in Inmates as a
A shortened presentation that I gave to non-practioners on information design. I say nothing new so for the initiated there might be nothing for you. It does raise a few points that have led to some interesting discussions in the past.
“While there is a lot of talk these days about the Semantic Web being the crack-addled pipe dream of a few academic naifs, in reality it’s a lot closer to realization than you might be thinking. Now I want to be clear about this point: I’m not suggesting that we stand on the brink of a fully achieved, widespread Semantic Web. I am suggesting that some of the major pieces of the puzzle are now or will soon be in place. OWL, along with RDF, upon which it builds, are two such very major pieces of the Semantic Web puzzle.”
Link: The Semantic Web is Closer Than You Think
“In Make in Bigger, Scher candidly reveals her thoughts on design practice, drawing on her own experiences as one of the leading designers in the United States, and possibly the most famous female graphic designer in the world. Pointed and funny, it is an instructive guide for all those who navigate the difficult path between clients, employees, corporate structures, artists, and design professionals…”
” The rapid growth of the design industry and the introduction of desktop publishing in the eighties precipitated an equally rapid lifecycle for design styles. Designs appeared dated in astonishingly short order. It was easy for a designer to be considered “good” by his peers for five years, harder for ten, nearly impossible for fifteen. To maintain any creative longevity a designer today must reinvent his or her work every five years. This does not mean simply changing style. It means reassessing one’s approach — again, design is an art of planning — and finding a way that is new yet still reflects on one’s core ethic and aesthetic. This entails a reevaluation of one’s visual vocabulary, new technologies, the cultural zeitgeist, and the scale on which one works. Reinvention is personal growth.”
Link: Style Wars: Paula Scher
“You know, the groups and programs that we don’t want to push are doing lots of publishing on the intranet and public website. That’s because they’re trying to justify their existence.” This is a statement from a senior executive from a major organization. “Those groups and programs that we really want to promote, we can’t get them to publish enough. They’re too busy.”
Professional web publishing is not about getting lots of stuff up. It’s about getting the right stuff up. There’s a world of a difference between the two. Content can create value. Content can also destroy value. It can damage your reputation.
Link: Quality publishing is about saying no
“We live in an age of alsos, adapting to alternatives. because we have greater access to information, many of us have become more involved in researching, and making our own decisions, rather than relying on experts. The opportunity is that there is so much information, the catastrophe is that 99% of it isn’t meaningful or understandable. We need to rethink how we present information because the information appetites of people are much more refined. Success in our connected world requires that we isolate the specific information we need and get it to those we work with.”
From Richard Saul Wurman’s “Information Anxiety 2”
I spent a great deal of my initial college years unlearning years of improper breathing activity. We would spend hours analysing, studying, and practicing this most fundamental human activities. While I am sure that I have reverted to my evil breathing ways many of the techniques I learned to develop proper breathing I still use to help control various instances of performance anxiety I might occaisionally face. Nothing like some deep breathing to help you prepare for an important presentation. Just make sure you do it in private!
The following are some notes taken from a Arnold Jacobs masterclass back in August of 1990. Some interesting commentary and I have linked to a .pdf file containing breathing exercises to “help develop efficiency,coordination and flexibility in your breathing.”
“My approach to music is expressed as Song and Wind. This is very important to communicate a musical message to the audience.”
“This approach is one of simplicity as the structure and function of the human being is very complex, but we function in a simple manner. When we bring it to the art form it becomes very simple.”
“Song, to me, involves about 85 percent of the intellectual concentration of playing an instrument, based on what you want the audience to hear.”
“You cannot get anywhere without wind. If you think of a car, the wheels will not turn without an energy source
About 6 months ago I thought it would be healthy if I had a “real” outlet to express my creativity. I had been getting bogged down with routine challenges and showing some signs of burn out. This “real” outlet would be in contrast to creating product for the screen which, having the potential to create an emotive experience, does not always feel so tangible to me. Digital experiences lack a sense of permanence, they can disappear on whim, are too repeatable, and many seem far too attuned to peoples ever decreasing attention spans. When creating them you lose this tactile sensibility that you have when creating sculpture with your hands, finishing furniture, or breathing and struggling with a brass instrument.
Anyway that has been my thinking lately.
As a result I am very slowly beginning to become interested in playing and maybe performing music again. For over 15 years music defined everything that I was. I was a musician or more specifically a trumpet player – nothing else seemed to matter (almost nothing). Any conversations invariably led to what I was doing at the moment with music, or what gig I was on, or if I was even playing at all, all of which probably could partially be attributed to the fact that most of the people I knew were either other musicians or artists. I couldn’t take a holiday, seldom travelled, and would never take long absences from playing in fear of losing my “chops”. I can even remember in High School refusing to kiss my then girlfriend, who was lovely, as trumpet players always had the best looking girlfriends, in fear that somehow it would affect my playing the next day. This near obsessive behaviour undoubtedly produced the most joyous and perhaps the most creative period of my life. But I never did quite make it as an artist, for reasons too lengthy to get into here. So it stands to reason that it took a herculean effort to leave that life and start over first as a designer in a small team in Canada and then my current role here in Taiwan.
A few months a go at great expensive I had my instrument shipped to Taiwan. And it has sat there relatively undisturbed until I returned from holiday this week.
So far the experience of reintroducing myself to what I use to refer to as my “mistress” has been quite physically painful. I actually think I pulled a muscle in my ribs when I took a breath to play my first note. The brain remembers the sensation and required action but the body is old and out of shape.
Last night I video taped myself playing. I’ll not do that again. This introduced another kind of distress – emotional. My God I will never let any child of mine play the trumpet. The sound is glorious when played by a professional but give it to a beginner and its heart breaking. It broke my heart last night to hear what used to sound so fine come out like a the sound of bellowing cow. How could someone who would wake at 6am to play a studio engagement across town at 8am sound so infantile?
“How far the mighty can fall”.
I’ll keep at it in the hope of eventual progress. I hear there aren’t a lot trumpet players playing the karaoke bars in downtown Hsinchu – maybe I can brush up my rendition of “the stripper” and get those girls movin’ to a jazz thing.
Intuitively we all know what a story is, although we may not be able to articulate all its elements. Generally, a story is an organization of experience which draws together many aspects of our spatial, temporal, and causal perception.
“A story is… “that which has a beginning, a middle, and an end. A beginning is that which does not itself follow anything by causal necessity, but after which something naturally is or comes to be. An end, on the contrary, is that which itself follows some other thing, either by necessity, or as a rule, but has nothing following it. A middle is that which follows something as some other thing follows it. A well-constructed plot, therefore, must neither begin nor end at haphazard, but conform to these principles.”
— Aristotle, Poetics
From Chientai who quoted it from somewhere else:
“Art is valued for its originality and expressiveness. Its focus is on individual artifacts crafted through the manual and aesthetic virtuosity of the artist. Design, in contrast, is valued for its fitness to a particular user and task. Certainly, design is concerned with producing a life-enhancing aesthetic experience where possible, but the design aesthetic is always related to the intended function of the resulting product.”
So many times when creating commercial product we focus too much on self and not on the intended participant. It’s so incredibly simple and fundamental, yet we all too often forget this important concept.
I have been spending the last couple of days recovering from a 16 day trip in Laos and Thailand. I’m still getting used to “have to get up for work” sleep patterns and bland tasting food. Bland food is a welcome respite after a 3 day bout of mild food poisoning from eating spicy squid off the street.
One of the highlights of the trip was the surprise of eating such amazing food in Luang Prabang. My God it was good. Here I was in this sleepy tourist town surrounded by jungle, river, and mountains, eating mighty fine French cuisine for the price of some small weird western concoction with rice and cheese here in Hsinchu. And the bread! You can see the French influence as the bread was lovely, fresh, and as God intended it to be – not sweet! Ate excellent pizza. Perhaps one of the best pies I have ever had. The Lao food was fresh and interesting. With my limited culinary vocabulary, I can only describe it as a milder than Thai. or perhaps a cross between Thai. and what I have eaten in the wilds of Taiwan. Naturally some of he food was unique to the area. Lao beer may not win at the World beer cup but the wheaty beer certainly quenches your thirst after a long day of walking. It goes down smooth and before you know it 3 large bottles have been emptied. Though the city deserves to be on some culinary tour of Asia list it I certainly had to do something work off all those calories. I had some great walks through out the town, had some really interesting conversations with some young monks, and a wicked game of badminton with some kids at a remote Wat. I’m already thinking about the next trip.
Most of my time on this trip was spent in Thailand where I am constantly amazed by how kind, friendly, and gentle the people seem to be. After spending time here I found that my all too familiar serious expression was replaced by smiles, laughter, and relaxation. I felt more balanced, much like when I used to play music, and how it would lift my spirits. Naturally, it’s easy to be happy there when you meet the right people. On this trip I met some amazing people who will influence my thinking about life for some time to come.
While in Thailand most of my time was spent in Bangkok – with some time in Pattaya, Chiang Mai, and a short trip to Petchaboon. A bit of a change or me as I usually spend my time hiking in the North. But the sedate activity of siting at a computer all year has made me soft and fat. I thought best to just hike up escalators instead of jungle trails this trip. If you are ever in Bangkok and you have some extra cash you must eat in the restaurant at the top of the Banyan Tree. The views are absolutely incredible and the food is fine. Just don’t wear a hat as it tends to be a bit windy. Pattaya lived up to it’s reputation as a party and girls meca. All of which I just observed. Really. Chiang Mai never seems to change much, which is part of it’s charm. I had my obligatory dinner at the Riverside, a restaurant with westernized Thai. food and live music, drank Singha at ba ba bo bo, and felt like a king as I was pampered with between 2 – 3 hrs of massage a day.
All around a good trip.
“Put Weblogs to Work” (Macworld) is a good introduction to how to start a weblog. It discusses hosting options, single vs. multiple authors, interactive features, notifications, syndication, searching, and more.
Link: Put Weblogs to Work
“A short form is a good form. The shorter and more simple you can keep it, the more likely a user is to fill it out properly. If possible cut fields from the form, and whatever you do, don’t duplicate fields. The key here is to make sure the form is only collecting information that will be used. If you don’t need an address, don’t ask for one and never ask for something twice.”
Link: Better Web Forms
Don’t really have a proper category for this old tidbit which I found reviewing some old papers. The following are a couple excerpts from a conference paper I participated in way back in 1998. That paper was the final deliverable for a position I held at UPEI starting I believe in 1997. Though at the time I remember being completely exasperated it was a great job that helped close the door once and for all on my music career. Despite the technical teams’ inexperience and only budding skill I still think that the team make-up was one of the best I have seen in e-learning product development since.
“The development process began from several philosophical and practical principles:
- interaction was the key to learning journals, bulletin boards, within-group email, discussion groups
- courses had to be visually attractive, easy to use, interesting and challenging
- the resources of the group, the Internet and the Library would be incorporated into the learning process
- the teaching strengths of the individual faculty members had to be reflected in the design of each course
- the bandwidth demands of the final version had to be small enough to accommodate typical computer equipment and browsers
- materials had to be cross-platform stable
- the course design would be modular and allow for open access and exit as much as possible,
- no pay-to-use operating software would be used and unique programming solutions would be developed as needed
- the project would be a team effort faculty controlled content, open learning manager directed educational design, project administrator found resources as needed and the technical members developed visual and technical solutions to solve educational and content needs
- as much as possible, solutions found for one course would be adapted for use in the other course”
“… to undertake the transformation process I follow in moving a face-to-face course into a flexible delivery mode. The transformer "is the skilled professional who mediates between the expert and the reader. Their job is to put the experts message in a form that reader can understand and to look after the readers interest in general. For example, any reasonable query the reader might have should be thought about and catered for in a proper manner." (M. MacDonald-Ross and R. Walker, The Transformer The Penrose Annual , 1976). Tranformation was developed as a concept for the presentation of information in the 1930s by Otto Neurath and has been an interest of educational research since that time.
Transformation draws on the practices of educational technology, instructional design, graphic art, editing and flexible education, and makes a contribution, which is distinctive and individual. Theorists place less emphasis on behaviorist strategies than do some educational designers and may place less emphasis on aesthetic criteria than do artists and graphic designers. Their view is to facilitate the transformation of information and ensure that communication is improved and learning enhanced. This all takes time the one thing we did not have.
The transformation process I follow involves auditing the face-to-face lessons, transforming the face-to-face reality into a distance education mode. I then discuss this transformation with the professor and, where possible, students. The trick here is to capture the magic of the individual facilitator and transform it into the electronic mode. The next stage is to work closely with the team to undertake the final transformation to an on-line course. This entails coding the interactive components of the face-to-face lesson into self- assessment exercises and information sharing for the on-line learner.”
From "The Making of Practical Logic 111"
Neb Kujundzic, Clark MacLeod, Dale Mattock, Mike O’Brien, Bill Robertson
I created a short book of fonts as part of a typographic study I was working on. It’s largely just a print out of some type I was using at that time. Its a bit of a large download at 5megs.
Download Font Book
Yet another article presenting yet another definition of information design. Perhaps the most interesting part of which is the lively discussion that follows.
But within the article there are some valuable, if somewhat basic, points:
“Remember that information only has value when it is successfully communicated. If it cannot be accessed or understood it does not have value.”
I would change that to say that data has no value until it is designed and it’s value is enhanced when successfully presented within the context.
“Understand the information domain. … context is critical to providing strong information solutions. … Participants are influenced by history, by the market and by cultural factors.”
Yes most certainly but as well what gives me certain pause in pursuing information design more aggressively within the definition I support in my place of work is the fact that you must become quite intimate with the data. You must thoroughly understand the data being represented. Unfortunately technical elements of biotechnology are far removed from my life experience.
In terms of a definition of information design as a great integrator or an umbrella term for all design…. I cannot agree. I much prefer the mantle introduced in the discussion that of product design. We are creating a product, so lets call it that, of which information design is but one component needed to create it. I much prefer to form teams around the type of product being developed filled with people that have the competencies required to successfully complete the project. The term product design, when used to describe something like a website elicits some confusion at first but when explained becomes easily understood. Building a product is something that most business people here can understand – building great information design is not.
Link:Information Design: The Understanding Discipline
“The power of a well-defined process is the creation of order amidst chaos. When it works, it can be like a fine-tuned machine, and our design work is better for it.
On the flip side, problems happen when people get complacent about the structure they are working within. Expanding phases excessively, becoming rigid about the order or duration of each phase, or even over-documenting the elements within a phase can backfire on a team. There are also problems when one team decides to work in a totally different way than another within the same group. Suddenly, no one knows what to expect, what the level of thinking or quality of the product will be, and internal fighting over whose process is best ensues.”
Link: The Power of Process, The Perils of Process
“In the final throws of writing a doctoral thesis the struggle was to find a structure for presenting the vast amounts of literature that had to be integrated and synthesised to form a coherent whole and linking psychology and music, the basis for my thesis. As a systems theorist and adherent to social constructionist views, the metaphor plays an important role in constructing realities, and the framework that came to mind for structuring and presenting my thesis was that of the concerto from the Western classical music genre. In this paper I will explain how this metaphor was used for organising and structuring my research and presenting a systems paradigm as a coherent whole.”
Link: Music as a Metaphor for Thesis Writing