May 15th, 2013
I recently saw an article in Forbes about a Spanish design campaign for the prevention of child abuse.
The bus shelter posters use a lenticular screen to show one image and message to adults and another to children under ten, based on average height. This is a powerful method that considers the needs of the end user and designs to communicate to particular abilities. In this example, that “ability” is based on height. Video, here.
In my web design course, we have been focusing recently on accessibility in design. Last week’s discussions lead me to thinking a lot about how overall design can be better if we consider all needs from the start instead of trying to retroactively make a design work for accessibility. Accessibility should be part of good design, not an addition to it.
Earlier this evening, that class had a presentation by Tyler Williamson, who does system accessibility testing at SAS, where Professor Hemstad also works. I was glad to learn about the resources for limited and low vision as well as color blind testing, screen readers for very low to no vision users, and the importance of non-mouse navigation of any site. We spoke a bit about WCAG 2.0 standards and voice input.
I was surprised and pleased to learn that iOS is quite good at designing its platform with accessibility in mind. That again made me think about how designers need to have forethought about end users instead of creating accessibility after the fact. It seems to make sense that Apple products would have these consideration designed into the operating system to begin with because the products are largely designed to be intuitive and end user experience is key.
This all goes to say that there are multiple factors and multiple end users for design, regardless of media. Accessibility should not be a separate design issue, it should be part of the design process from the beginning when considering our audience.
May 13th, 2013
One thing I love about process books is the glimpse it gives into the process and ideation of a designer. It is fascinating to see the path from beginning to end and all the ways that ideas form for another person. Another thing I love is seeing other designers’ sketches. Sometimes I love sketches more than finished projects: they are so fresh and raw and bubbling forth like the beginning of spring before its youth and newness is baked off by the tired heat of summer. Summer, like a finished project, may be lush and verdant and fully developed, but it is not nearly as exciting as the acid-green emerging buds of the deciduous trees and tender shoots of new flowers.
All three of the process books have that kinetic energy about them. They are about to burst with possibility. The sketching and ideation of all three are lovely, but Jamie Turpin’s is my favorite. The sketches are enviable, as is the final piece. Everything is, while evoking handcrafted process, perfected and finished looking. I love this work.
I am guided through Turpin’s book with keen interest. The layout flows beautifully, the sketches keep me engaged, and the thought processes are explained verbally and illustratively. I just wish that there was more type development than a single page (Turpin 36). Stylistically, I like how Turpin uses a sketchbook as part of the grid in the process book’s layout.
Jane Dorn’s sketches are also beautifully rendered, and the explanation of her process is well-documented. There is a lot going on across the surface of each page. This is where I think the Turpin process book is successful with that well-defined grid that is repetitive and structural in the layout. Some of that type of structure could aid the Dorn sketchbook. That is something that I know that I will have to consider because my sketches tend to be frenetic and dense. (And my handwriting is not half as neat as Dorn’s!)
I appreciate and really like the detailed mock ups and finishing sketches that Dorn does of her final piece. The development really pays off in the final piece. Mock ups are key. That is another thing to take with me.
April Biss’s strengths lie in her fabrication and photography of her project. She is skilled at making her project “real.” Her sketches are well done, and her documentation of development and peer interaction are excellent, but what impresses me most is all the imagery revealing the many steps she takes to fabricate mock ups and final pieces. The communication is visual and very clear. It is easy to get through and not overwhelming.
All three books bring different attributes to be considered and adapted for my own process documentation.
May 8th, 2013
On the topic of creative processes, I have been thinking a lot about “functional fixedness” and how it applies to the creative process.
One angle that needs to be considered in any process is whether that which we have always accepted is really the best means to an end. Are we retro-fitting or doing something out of habit because it is the way it has always been done? Is there a better more clever process or solution?
Fixedness and Forget It!
If we are aware of functional fixedness, we may see the obstacles in our processes. Or we may see the challenges with existing or projected solutions that we are working on.
My husband is never a victim of functional fixedness. One example of his blatant disregard for an object’s function might be his repurposing of any found object as a plant vessel. Or there is his upcycling of construction materials into fanciful, temporary “walls” and “doors” in our historic and under-restoration house. He has been known to use a slingshot to shoot mothballs into the house’s eaves to discourage squirrels, who reportedly cannot stand the smell. And I will not go into the fox urine, ordered on the internet, to discourage wildlife, though I do not know what the primary function of fox urine would be—other than cleaning out fox kidneys. (And I am not certain how said urine is collected from foxes, but that is a topic for another post. One not on my design blog.)
Often, we refer to finding new processes or uses for materials or objects “creativity.” More often than not, these creative utilities are necessary. (Remember the adages that Necessity is the Mother of Invention and Less is More.) Oftentimes we have so many resources and existing processes and solutions at our disposal, we do not need to be resourceful or creative.
For the man who has everything, or if he doesn’t—makes it out of something else, I have gifted to my husband books in a series that document handmade repurposed objects, one of which is Home-Made: Contemporary Russian Folk Artifacts by Vladimir Arkhipov. The book is amazing. Another book is entitled Home-Made Europe: Contemporary Folk Artifacts, also by Vladimir Arkhipov. These are image collections of people making do, creating something new from something discarded, re-thinking the purpose of an object, materials, or process.
Not a Quick Fix.
This train of thought about necessity and process reminded me of a professor that I had when I was working on my BFA in painting. She would force us to put limitations on ourselves, such as limiting size or a color palatte or tools or materials, to force us to push the limits on whatever we were working on. Originally I thought it was a forced pedagogical trick to throw a wrench into the works—and perhaps it was, to an extent. But wouldn’t you know, I still use that trick to this day, whenever I need to focus a process?
Looking at our processes and seeing what we are leaving to assumptions and traditions is one way to improve our creative heuristics. And then, of course, infusing our processes with some un-fixed functionality.
May 8th, 2013
Having been in academia as well as previously working for design agencies and a Fortune 500 company that was constantly changing processes, I have either willingly or been submitted to trying many of these processes covered in “How Do You Design?” I have been through lean sensei and kaizen training as well as more esoteric systems like “The Artist’s Way.” I confess that I have also read “How Do You Design?” for another class and for an organization’s leadership training.
Each time I approach this topic, and Dubberly’s work, I see it through eyes that are focused by new and developed opinions and situations. One time, I may be overwhelmed by the amount of little boxes and arrows. Another reading at another time, I yearn for the order created by such systems. Right now, I am seeing it through the eyes of a person whose relationship to her profession has been repositioned after having a child and being more interested in scholarly pursuits than in the design job to which she has become jaded. (Apparently, this woman also writes about herself in third person. Weird.)
I have used the process of designing solutions after Clement Mok and Keith Yamashita (2003) to teach university students about the process of design and have referenced it when explaining the process to non-designers.
I really appreciate the diagram for the process “Overall, the design process must converge” after Nigel Cross. It is a nice visual to accompany my own process portion that I call “pulling it together.” (I have a less demure name for it when I am actually in the process.) It encompasses the process of focusing attention as one moves closer to a solution.
The process on which I am focused this go-round is Alice Agogino’s “Design, Build, Test” series, mostly because I am obsessed with trial and error as a process. And I love mock ups. Especially if they are not full size, like little design artifacts for rodents. I am going to try all three of her processes soon. Just not this quarter, because I am already struggling with new process changes that are essential—and working—but slowing me down.
April 29th, 2013
I have heard of the concept of Flow before this course because it has come up several times in journal articles about design and because I do a fair bit of research into psychology for an ongoing art project that I have been working on—currently on hiatus, but still in the works.
I have experienced Flow when drawing or painting, working on something that I am very involved in, dancing, hiking, biking, canoeing, nursing my baby.
The process of achieving Flow is focusing on achieving concentration and awareness on a particular action. I believe it requires one to allow oneself to surrender to the experiential and sensory moment. I do think that surroundings play a part in it. I know for me, I can control my attention by working in a tidy, well-lit, cool, quiet area. I also think that technology and constant external sensory stimulation makes it more difficult to experience Flow.
We are less practiced, have fewer opportunities, and quite possibly have less desire to be present in a moment without sensory stimulation. We are numbed by it and bored and lost without it.
I think Flow is similar to the meditation practice of mindfulness, which is a part of my current methodology and life. I started studying meditation and mindfulness years ago to deal with anxiety and other issues. Being aware and mindful of our placement and our reactions to our environment is a step, at least for me, to harness the Flow.
April 29th, 2013
This is a diagram of my current creative process, which is constantly in flux. Well, my personal process is. I have different processes for my professional (read: conservative) position and my role as a university educator. My client work, my work for myself, and my work for school are much more fluid. I can take some risks and try new tactics.
My process (starting from the upper left corner) begins with thinking, jotting down notes, setting some parameters, and setting up a final outcome, which depends on how concrete the project is.
I then start to research and take notes and sketch. I make a lot of lists, and I breakdown and collect like information.
The circular part of my diagram is often repetitive and fluid in its direction, but it moves from unstructured to structured as the project gets more definition.
I take breaks to give my brain a rest. These could be walks or naps or something completely unrelated to my work. Or it could be an energizing research trip for some primary sources or to view existing solutions to the challenge that I am facing.
I then create thumbnails, comps, mock ups, and I also throw in some “what the hey” options that are not conventional.
I speak with my stakeholders and make sure I am on the right path.
I then start the process of making the project happen. This may include design work or contacting vendors or delegating portions of the project.
Finally, the project is refines and, if necessary, revised.
My process is effective, as I have produced good work with it, but it is not efficient. I don’t know if efficiency is always the goal with the creative process. I need to make the time for it.
I change my process to my needs and have actively studied and molded it. When I collaborate with others, I generally follow the lead of others’ processes if they are more fixed in their ways. On my own, I like things just so, but with others, I am more flexible.
I would like to collaborate with web and mobile experience designers on a major design project because that media is not my strong point, and I am having real difficulty letting go of some of my print hang ups, like controlling typography on the screen. Really, controlling anything on the screen is hard for me to give up.
I love the possibility of the screen and the future of our profession, but I love print and typography and real objects. I am also frustrated by the lack of attention span expected of the audience. Sometimes I think we are sucking our very souls through our senses.
My strengths are in writing and concept. I have refined aesthetics; I have a fine art and art history background. I willfully avoid technology. I try to balance technology in my life with my luddite desires. Time is my greatest challenge right now, but that is more circumstantial than a trait.
I also get mired in details and have perfectionism issues that will keep me in a loop of sisyphean proportions.
I think that I would also like to work with someone who works very differently than myself in order to learn about other processes.
Graphic Design Definition Revisited, The Sacred and Profane Memories of a Graphic Design MFA Student*
April 22nd, 2013
In 1963, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, in his opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio, famously described pornography as “I know it when I see it” (Stewart). This statement has since been called the Stewart test. Similarly, in 1999, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani blasted the Brooklyn Museum’s exhibition Sensation: Young British Artists From the Saatchi Collection with his description of art, “Anything that I can do isn’t art,” he said. “If I can do it, it’s not art, because I’m not much of an artist. And I could figure out how to put this together. You know, if you want to throw dung at something, I could figure out how to do that,” (Goodnough).
Graphic design is an imprecise label, as many labels are. I named my SCAD blog Umami to reflect that indescribable quality. The flavor umami is described many ways, all of which do not entirely capture the essence of the taste experience. It has been called savory, meaty, earthy, and delicious and distinct from salty. It is difficult to pin down.
Gui Bonsiepe stated so well nearly twenty years ago what I am considering today, “The term “graphic design” and its corresponding term “graphic designer” have strong ties with a particular technology, i.e. printing. Therefore, graphic design runs the risk of not covering new phenomena that result from technological innovations, particularly computers and computerization,” (Bonsiepe 47). He goes on to talk about “managing the constitutive elements of the retinal space (color, texture, size, orientation, contrast, transitions in time, transformation, rhythm, etc.)” (Ibid. 50).
While Bonsiepe’s article toys with the esoteric, it is still applicable today: it is fascinating how the discussion of the topic has not changed all that much since he wrote this article. Graphic designers are still grappling with their profession and titles with the same questions, and our job descriptions are as enigmatic as ever. Bonsiepe writes of the designer’s capabilities in, “selecting and structuring information and building coherent bodies of knowledge,” that is similarly focused in the contemporary design discussion on systems and design research (Ibid 50).
What does my definition of graphic design look like now that I am halfway through this course? Has it evolved, changed, or stayed the same? I am going to approach this question in two parts by first writing a new definition now and discussing it before going back to see what I wrote over a month ago and reflecting on it.
Graphic design is a label used to describe the communication arts, which are rapidly changing and evolving with the new and evolving means of communication, requiring both broad and specific skill sets. Graphic design requires education, research, and creative problem solving to convey messages and meaning through primarily visual means requiring a diverse team of communication specialists.
As Sharon Poggenpohl explains, “Today’s design context requires more than formal aesthetic or technical skills—it requires the ability to operate critically in an ever-growing information environment, the global economy and within inter- and multidisciplinary teams” (Poggenpohl 214). She goes on to say, “… contemporary design work goes beyond form-making and aesthetic decisions to the earliest stages of developing a possibility, addressing a felt need for something that does not yet exist, that could be made better or that could form a core business idea,” (Poggenpohl 218).
More than ever, design is a team profession, even with the growing resources for one person to do everything from one spot. Those are just tools, and design requires the knowledge and chops to work those tools.
About a month ago, I wrote a definition of Graphic Design:
My concept of graphic design is not separate from other forms of design. I opine that all design is the same, and the labeling of sub-fields of design is one of necessity because of specialized skills, certification, and employment. I hesitate to label myself a graphic designer because it does not encompass what I can, am able, and would like to do. While graphic design is the design sub-field that deals with typography, it is so much more—and continues to expand with the changes and advancements in communication.
Graphic design is a process of problem solving and creating communication. Graphic design connects variables and creates cohesiveness; it instructs, directs, and explains—or it poses questions and creates dialogue. Graphic design makes real the thoughts and ideas that would be otherwise nebulous. It creates order. It creates a voice. It links ideas, images, language, and space to guide an audience through a narrative. It has the power to reveal and the power to deceive. It has the power to influence and manipulate. It can be used for the good, the bad, and the benign and therefore requires a moral compass.
Good graphic design goes beyond the aesthetic to tactical and thoughtful creation—it has the power to influence and inspire. It reveals truths. It incites dialogue. This, however, is true of all design and fine arts as well. What sets graphic design apart is the verbal and narrative qualities. Visual language is a distinctive responsibility of the graphic designer.
Although the definition that I wrote today is shorter and more focused on application than theory, I still agree with what I wrote then. My focus now, however, appears to be on collaboration and less on myself. I appreciate my desire to look outward, something I was unaware of until just now. However, I see that it is true. I am more focused on community and interaction and our need to work with others.
This evolution is partly an effect of my research and our readings and discussions, but the interaction through discussion has opened my eyes to different practices and approaches. I have learned a lot so far about non-design elements as well as things that I was expecting of the course.
The topics of discussion have brought up individualized topics that I have found fascinating. Different views give me 365 degree perspectives on discussions. Additionally, my web design and management course has quickly put into sharp focus my talents and shortcomings and my need for collaboration. I knew much of this before, but the past month has made it all more concrete.
Bonsiepe, Gui. “A Step Towards the Reinvention of Graphic Design.” Design Issues 10.1 (1994): 47-52. Print.
Goodnough, Abby. “Giuliani Threatens to Evict Museum Over Art Exhibit.” Giuliani Threatens to Evict Museum Over Art Exhibit. The New York Times Company, 24 Sept. 1999. Web. 22 Apr. 2013.
Poggenpohl, Sharon Helmer. “Design Literacy, Discourse and Communities of Practice.” Visible Lanugage 42.3 (September 2008): 213-36. Print.
Stewart, Potter, S. C. Justice. “Jacobellis v. Ohio; STEWART, J., Concurring Opinion.” Jacobellis v. Ohio. Cornell University Law School, 26 Mar. 1963. Web. 22 Apr. 2013.
April 16th, 2013
Processes, sources, and methods of research are all essential to design practice, but application and utilization are tests of these learned skills with the factors of focus, limitations, and time management. The latter is the most difficult for me—not because of time allotment, misuse of time, or procrastination—but rather because I overload and overshoot my time limitations.
This was very apparent last quarter in my Studio course of Graphic Design Methodological Practice: I wanted to make my projects massive and detailed beyond my time limitations. In the end, I had work of which I was proud, but I was unable to work on every detail that I had hoped. I always wish to do more and have unrealistic ideas about my capabilities, particularly when it comes to how fast I can work and how little sleep I can endure.
Working on my research last week was like herding cats inside my skull. I knew exactly where I was going, but I could not make a straight line of travel there. This was, in part, because I had some significant outside distractions that took up time and prevented me from focusing. It was also because I needed to better focus where my research was taking me and limit myself sooner. I got stuck in the inquisitive and play portion of my process too long, and I thought out loud for what seemed like forever.
If I had the possibility for an out-of-body experience, maybe I could have put some blinders on myself and pushed her in a more direct path. Time management: I need to focus on this.
I feel that there is a ton of mass-marketed books and hints to time management, but there is little I could find that is scholarly or more than advice based in little to no research. Common advice seems to be about making lists and setting priorities, which is basically my morning routine, but nothing about setting limitations or realistic expectations. Also, I should mention, I abhor self-help books.
I did find this little nugget aimed at grad students based on guidelines written by Stephen Covey.1 I feel like I already know and do most of these things, but it was a good reminder to “sharpen the saw.” Entrepreneur has a checklist that also has some good reminders.2 However, this little gem from Psychology Today really hit the nail on the head.3
As I read and learn more, I will revisit this topic in my open topic blog posts.
1. Nick Repak, “Time Management.” Time Management. Grad Resources, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.
2. Joe Mathews, Don Debolt, and Deb Percival. “10 Time Management Tips That Work.” Entrepreneur. Entrepreneur Media, Inc., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.
3. Ira Hyman, “Sorry I’m Late, Again.” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC, 28 Sept. 2012. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.
April 15th, 2013
One of the most fascinating of the Bootcamp Bootleg design-thinking methods, and the one I would most like to try, is the Wizard of Oz Prototyping. In this method, a test is performed using a mocked up version of a final that is not completed but rather facilitated by unobserved controllers.
I think that this is an excellent test for systems, even if it were to be used in a transparent way in which it was not a ruse to make users believe that it is genuine and not manually operated. Sometimes a system or theory or idea just needs to be experimented with, and even if it could not be tested opaquely, a transparent version could start the testing when there are many unanswerable questions.
This method is easily applied to digital systems, but with a little ingenuity, all types of testing could use a man-behind-the-curtain approach. I would love to do a physical version of something like the vending machine mentioned in the text. I think it appeals to me because it is similar to performance art.
The method could best answer questions about fluidity of a process or system and end user needs or comprehension of the product. Trip-ups that may have been glossed-over in planning and theory would be glaringly obvious when tested with a genuine user. Comprehension by the user would be easily tested and better understood through practical application. It is best to get these elements under control before committing to expensive and work-intensive development.
I have never tried this method myself, but I could see it being very useful for web and corporate infrastructure testing. In a case of system building for file management, for example, a test before committing to a system would be very beneficial because the end users ultimately know hat is needed. I have been on the user end of established systems that were not user-driven or based, and it is terribly frustrating.
Another technique that appeals to me is the Prototype to Test method. To an extent, I already use this method by creating mock-ups. I am a big fan of multiple iterations, and this type of testing is not without precedent. Seamstresses, for example, make muslins before committing to a final design. Test models are very useful.
What is different about the Bootcamp Bootleg approach, however, is that it is performed at the very beginning of a design—with a bare-bones developed artifact—and the design approach is physical. The process starts with the physical elements and an immediate 3D approach. Additionally, the method is required to be used in the appropriate situation by an end-user.
This method is the perfect test and development of the physical application of any artifact. By using a low-resolution prototype, the designer can see structural issues from the beginning. This might be something physical, like a three-dimensional system or object, or it might be as simple as understanding the users’ approach to a mail piece or codex. When handled, the artifact may be observed by designers as to how the user manipulates the object and receives the information.
I frequently make mock ups, particularly for multi-paged artifacts that require pagination: I design in reader’s spreads but always check pagination before sending off to the printer. I get an idea about the flow of the piece that way and better understand the object and its feel. I never show anyone low-level mock ups, though. This is something that I would like to try.
When I interned in the design department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I was taught to create exquisite mock ups. It is an art there. For any project that we were working on, we made several mock-ups of each iteration of a design, of which there were many. These mock-ups were handled by department heads, curators, exhibit designers, trustees, and other upper-level share holders. Even an opening invitation would be tested and re-tested. Paper samples were reviewed with the end-users. Cross-design development of the graphic designers with exhibit designers, lighting designers, curators was a part of their method. In that environment I learned the importance of cross-design development, user-interaction, and refinement.
In that manner, there are parallels between the methods discussed in this unit and those I have practiced. Another element discussed in this unit, in the course lecture material, is learning to see. I know how important and underused this quality is through working in agencies and in-house design departments.
Because we are so used to instant gratification and swiftly-updating media, we have learned to process information superficially and quickly. Additionally, there is great respect and demand for speed over other qualities of responses, and thoughtful observation is often interpreted as slow and bothersome.
I see this in the news, particularly after an incident like today’s bombing at the Boston Marathon. Everyone wants information quickly, and it is coming at everyone so quickly, that many errors are reported at first. I see that after every disaster or tragedy. Likewise, at election time. Everyday, I witness this approach, on a smaller and less significant level, in the office. Speed is often desired over clarity and thoroughness.
My methodology aligns fairly closely with the methodology presented in this unit, and I think that reflects my upbringing in academia and my studies and degrees in art history and visual arts. I am particularly process oriented, so the research presented during this unit and in this course has offered new insights into variations and processes for me. The ideas in the Bootleg Bootcamp are just one of the inspirations for changes in my heuristics.
April 8th, 2013
I was reading and enjoying immensely a blog and discussion post by my classmate Stephanie.
It was very thorough, immensely detailed, and entirely personally-invested with a great deal of thought, time, and creative energy into the subject. Her emphasis on interdisciplinary fusion of different fields working together toward a singular conclusion spoke to me in particular.
System theory and interdisciplinary design is the future of design, and Stephanie hit the nail right on the head in the way she wrote about its necessary inclusion in preparatory design education—specifically, she writes about the necessary design education elements for international students studying with universities based in the United States.
One reason I so admire her post is her concentration on interdisciplinary design. Designers and design leaders must be able to work with other disciplines, speak the operative languages of those disciplines, and be knowledgeable about the strengths and weaknesses of those disciplines in order to delegate and utilize all available resources to be successful in our united tasks.
Today, there is so much specialization that no one person or field can do it all: therefore, we must learn about the areas that converge so that we can work together through systemic design and interdisciplinary collaboration. It is also important to be able to speak the same technological language between disciplines, so design education truly does need interdisciplinary electives that at least skim the surface of other practices that are applicable to our own profession and practice.
Moreover, designers also need understanding in business and social sciences such as psychology and socio-political studies to understand user psychology and needs. Designers must be able to think outside of the design community, otherwise we become redundant and ideologically incestuous. We cannot only listen and design for ourselves.
But how do we fit all of these requisite courses into design curriculum? Perhaps it can be based in part in independent study and research. Perhaps it is through requisite continuing education for designers, a concept that I think needs to be visited.
Stephanie’s insight into cultural perspective is deeply important to all designers as the international community becomes more integrally connected through digital experience and communication. This is another area that needs to be addressed in design education and practice. The world is increasingly smaller because of our shared internet connectivity, and with that intimacy comes new design and communication challenges.
Furthermore, true research and developed understanding needs to be focused on disabilities, with a focus on educating designers on requisite accommodations for disabled users accessing design throughout all media. Right now, this type of training is available for those who wish to learn it for their own edification, and perhaps through government agencies requiring accessibility, but it is not addressed—to my knowledge—as a regular part of design education.
When we consider our role as designers—to communicate—we must realize that communication takes multiple forms even to relate just one idea. The time has come to talk of all these needs.