Blog Category: Read&Respond

Designing With the Environmental Impact in Mind

By Erika Goering,

Cradle to Cradle made a good point about the origins and life cycles of materials and how we should take them into consideration when designing.

One thing I took away from the reading—and I’m sure this was intentional—was the fact that our industry is really wasteful by nature. We sketch, we throw paper away, we print off mockups, and throw them away, and we use endless amounts of ink and toner on everything. I feel pretty guilty about the amount of waste I produce as a designer, and the amount of thought I haven’t put into my methods. I’m as guilty as the consumers, if not more so.

Question: Is it possible for a designer to be 100% environmentally neutral? I don’t think it is. But we can try,

  Filed under: KCAI, Learning, Read&Respond, Visual Advocacy
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Tangential Reflection

By Erika Goering,

I seem to have gotten myself into a bit of a tangent. Like, a whole blog post’s worth.

When I saw the line in Human Dignity & Human Rights that said, “I believe we all recognized the significant transformation of the old design theme of ‘form and function’ into the new theme of ‘form and content,'” I had an elusive “a-ha” moment. (Now that I think about it, this also applies to the Are Humanitarian Designers Imperialists? article as well.)

You really need all three. Especially in a multimedia, information architecture-based field. Form, function, and content are all dependent on each other.

Like Maslow’s hierarchy, or the old-school food guide pyramid (not the weird, new one), there’s a foundation, some intermediates, and the nice-to-haves at the top. Content is near the base of design. Function depends on that content to have any reason for existing, and form is driven by that function.

So, the Goering Hierarchy of Design looks something like this (with the least important/urgent aspect on the top):

[ aesthetics ] (elements of art, prettification & polish)
[ form ] (UI comes into play here. This is where sketches and wireframes happen. This is all based on the function, content, and needs, and gives the user a means to come into contact with the function.)
[ function ] (This is where channels come in. This is how and why we communicate. UX also goes here.)
[ content ] (This is the stuff that we gather from researching the needs and wants. This is what we design around.)
[ needs & wants ] (This is the research, which influences the content and provides the whole reason for designing in the first place.)

If your design misses any of these elements, you’ve failed. Probably not on an epic level (depending on your area of discrepancy), but on a level detectable by other worthwhile designers.

As with the obesity epidemic (relating to the food guide pyramid) and our egotistical/ignorant/jackass culture (relating to Maslow’s Hierarchy), our priorities tend to lie on the wrong end of the pyramid. We live at the top and over-indulge as a way to replace the foundations that we lack. The same goes for shitty designers. This is why places like CrappyDesign exist. People are too worried about making things flashy instead of being genuinely concerned with communicating a message, and the results are less than satisfactory, to say the least.

It’s our duty as designers (here’s where the advocacy thing ties in) to enforce that the users/clients/communities have their needs met, first and foremost.

  Filed under: KCAI, Learning, Read&Respond, Visual Advocacy
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Taking Visual Advocacy Into Your Own Hands

By Erika Goering,

Sometimes to make a point, and to make it well, you have to literally make a mark on your environment. When traditional channels don’t fill the needs, you’ve got to take it into your own hands. There’s no doubt that a guerrilla-style campaign can be immensely effective. As an artist and a designer, you can reach your audience on a much more immersive level, and penetrate their lives in a way that will “stick” like other methods can’t.

The issue then becomes whether it’s actually ethical or not to vandalize property for the sake of social awareness or improvement. Is the trade-off worth it? Is the good of humanity heavier on your conscious than a few brick walls or light posts? Is potential property damage truly worth the message you send? Is it worth the risk of jail?

I think, a lot of times, it may not be ethical, but it may very well be necessary. If the issue is important enough, and you’re passionate enough, it’s worth whatever the cost.

  Filed under: KCAI, Learning, Read&Respond, Visual Advocacy
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The First Step is Giving a Shit, Then You Do the Hokey-Pokey

By Erika Goering,

Design with Intent

User-centered design is a method of designing for function and ease-of-use before anything else. The problem with this is that the designers involved are encouraged to not impose their biases onto the design process. This ties in with what we’ve already been talking about in class, which is whether it’s appropriate or even necessary for a designer to be an advocate for what he/she does. I think it actually boils down to whether a designer is passionate about design or not. A designer should always be an advocate on some level; design is problem-solving, and to solve a problem well, you must first give a shit. My point is that user-centered design is supposed to integrate seamlessly with the user’s needs and lifestyle. That’s something to advocate for, even if you leave your other personal biases out of it.

So then, is neutrality even possible as a designer? Can a designer truly be neutral? We’re always advocating for something; whether it’s “big” or “small.” I would argue that the only way to be truly neutral is to be apathetic. To be a designer is to give a shit about something, from the smallest aesthetic element to the largest conceptual project.


The Designer as Producer

The power of the future lies in the hands of designers who are also entrepreneurs. They can change the market. Hell, they can change the fucking world. I’ve always believed that straddling the line between design and, really, anything else is the key to success. For me, I try to keep one foot in design, while the other foot hops between development/programming and entrepreneurship (I do the hokey-pokey). This cross-discipline dance brings some new perspectives and innovation in each field I’ve stepped in. (That’s what it’s all about.)


Graphic Authorship

An author is a creator with a voice. Which, yet again, ties into our semester-long conversation on design as an involved activity, rather than a passive, apathetic experience.

Authorship implies ownership, and ownership leads to a feeling of pride for one’s work. As the reading said so well, author = authority.

Another take on graphic authorship is the literal author who writes about design. In which case, all of us hold this position. (I mean, we all have blogs, do we not?)

  Filed under: KCAI, Learning, Read&Respond, Visual Advocacy
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Social Dissent and Graphic Propaganda

By Erika Goering,

One of the reasons why I love graphic design is because we have the ability to voice our opinions through our unique means of communicating. We are experts at representing a concept with something visual or usable.

Dissent is the force that drives this intense visual design. When people disagree, their opinions intensify. This tension can be great for design, and even greater for progress. Having that deep desire to change something in society is what perpetuates progress and improvement.

Protest graphics and propaganda media are really strong ways to make an opinion known. Sometimes so strong, in fact, that people become highly offended or agitated. Hitting people in the gut, so to speak, is a very effective way to make a memorable impression.

Specifically, the Constructivist movement gave striking visuals to a strong point of view. The relationship between Constructivism and political/social awareness was a symbiotic one; messages became stronger as visuals became more intense. And creating & using symbols for groups of people gave designers visual elements to represent the people they focused on.

But have we become desensitized to the bold, striking visuals of propaganda posters and Constructivism? Our culture is becoming increasingly louder, more intense, bigger. We’ve begun occupying the digital space, where we can now target who we want to speak to, as well as how.

Guerilla marketing and grassroots efforts can take us back to those roots of propaganda posters and small-scale activism. But extending that to a digital, online space can potentially be the happy medium between mass media and highly targeted awareness. And with the Internet, our natural human persistence is even stronger because of our ability to post in multiple places and “go viral.”

  Filed under: KCAI, Learning, Read&Respond, Visual Advocacy
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The Stuff of Growth

By Erika Goering,

1: Makeup Tutorial

I’ve learned that one’s appearance as a teenage girl in high school or college is very important. However, as a jaded mid-20-something-year-old who’s been in college entirely too long, I choose to rock my dreadlocks and pseudo-professional attire in lieu of sweatpants, a messy bun, and a shit-ton of eye makeup.

That’s just how I roll (which is pretty much the point of this entire post). And my brain isn’t so bad either.

2: Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Let’s start this semester off with a personal backstory:

I’ve lived my entire life thinking I was “weird.” I was in my school district’s gifted program from 4th grade to 10th grade, so once a week I was confined to a bubble of established-but-unspoken superiority comprised entirely of pre-pubescent misfits (pretty much wedgies and pocket protectors all around, in contrast to and in result of our supposedly brilliant minds). Throughout middle school and high school, I mostly kept to myself, even while among my own similar breed of academic success.

Despite my achievements, the public school system had failed me.

Elementary school housed a completely different Erika. One that I currently strive for and long to become again. I was warm and caring, creative and uniquely myself. It was during this time in my life when I was more myself than I had ever been and probably ever will be again.

Somewhere down the line, between 4th and 10th grade, I was forced into this mold of what an ideal student was. I lost my original self, and my grades suffered. I stopped caring and I forgot how to be engaged in my own education.

I didn’t stand a chance unless I re-learned how to learn in a way that worked for me.

3: My Own Learning Style

Over the course of my life as a student (and validated by the learning style assessment we did for MX class), I somehow discovered that I’m pretty much all over the place when it comes to learning. I can do pretty well with both the abstract and concrete, but I tend to lean more towards the concrete (thus my mad skillz in standardized testing). This explains my interest and aptitude for geeky things that involve absolute answers (such as coding/programming). I’m definitely more reflective than active, which makes for some interesting dynamics between my geeky side and my artsy side. I’m very much into the philosophy of why things happen. But I also like to break things down and see how they work.

Knowing that people’s brains work differently is crucial in utilizing educational tools. Duh, y’all.

4: Education Paradigm TED Talk

Collaboration is the stuff of growth. True dat. Different types of thinkers bring unique perspectives to the table. But if we don’t nurture these perspectives, we all go bland. We get uninspired, depressed, hollow. We try to occupy our minds with distractions, regardless of the repercussions.

I think my saving grace in my high school and early college years was that I surrounded myself with people who had different traits than my own. I knew I needed some balance, and I believe that balance is what helped me succeed.

5: Paradigm Shifts of the Future

I’m expecting and anticipating some exponential growth and changes in education and technology. The trends are there.

Back in my day, the Internet was a new concept. My first computer was a gray box running Windows 3.1 (later upgraded to 3.11, I might add). Dot-matrix printer. The whole shebang.

As a child, I was fascinated with that machine. I absorbed every aspect of how that magical thing worked.

My second computer was a Compaq Presario desktop running Windows ME. (This was back when you didn’t need a shiny new device every other year. Any progress worth a damn took time. There was almost a decade between the two PCs of my childhood.) The Presario was my gateway drug to programming and design. It was on this monstrous device that I discovered HTML and Photoshop. We all know how that ended up.

I used the tools at my disposal to self-teach. Because that’s just who I am.

Fast-forward to today. I’m typing this post on a 15-inch, wafer-thin supercomputer that’s worth more than my car. To my left is an even smaller 7-inch supercomputer, with a quad-core processor and hardly any physical buttons. In my pocket is a smartphone of similar (albiet a bit outdated) capacity. I have the internet in my pocket, on my lap, and at my side. I literally have the world at my fingertips. How friggin’ cool is that?

It blows my mind every day that I’ve got cutting-edge technology at my disposal that was just a twinkle in someone’s eye a few years ago. I am learning both crucial and useless information every day at my own volition. Because it’s engaging. Maybe even habit-forming.

I can learn anything I want at anytime I want. That’s hella powerful.

As far as paradigm shifts go, we’re definitely in one.

The merging of education and technology is in itself a huge leap forward. With something as simple as the addition of tablets in the classroom, textbooks are no longer a limitation; they’re now interactive and engaging and dynamic. And this is just what we need to make learning worthwhile.

  Filed under: Find&Share, KCAI, Learning, Multimedia Experience, Read&Respond
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Two Approaches to Social Design: Focused Advocacy & the Big Picture

By Erika Goering,

Response to Good Citizenship and Design Thinking: A Useful Myth

The  main points made in the two readings were very different. One leaned heavily to the belief in focused, perhaps even biased design. The other was all about looking at a design problem as a component of a larger issue. Both of these strategies have legitimate importance, and I think it’s always wise to keep an open mind about which approach is the one to take for a particular project.

I will emphasize that it should be on a per-project basis and not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Social design and visual advocacy, as with any topic in design, is a highly varied and variable subject, and should be handled with care and consideration specific to the project’s own needs.

There is a time and a place to present your own focused set of values to a client or project. Concentrating on your own beliefs and values works very well when you have a vested interest in your design and its circumstances. Inversely, “big picture” problem solving is a good way to reach outside of a niche and find/address the other working parts of the social machine.

These two readings are hard and soft, subjective and objective, local and global, respectively. And there’s a legitimate purpose for each in their own realms.

Objectivity doesn’t mean soulless or distant. There will always be a piece of you in what you design.

  Filed under: KCAI, Learning, Read&Respond, Visual Advocacy
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“Design” vs. Design

By Erika Goering,

I recently read an article on TechCrunch about user experience and what it takes to succeed in the competitive world of tailored/targeted apps. While the article specifically talks about the digital/interactive realm, this same thinking can be applied to other design problems.

Jamie described this issue last year as “skeleton vs. skin,” where the skeleton is the structural, functional side of a project, and the skin is the styling and aesthetics (and content is the guts that make it all viable in the first place). A skeleton can stand on its own if it needs to, but a pile of skin is an empty, shallow, lump. (However, a bare-bones [pun intended] design can get boring and feel naked or unfinished if left skinless.) Structure gives design a way to cater to a user’s needs without collapsing under the pressure of user interaction. A “pile of skin” may be well-groomed and sexy, but no skeleton means a lifeless experience. A skeleton and skin together provide a beautiful balance of structure and beauty, where a user can enjoy a smooth experience while having something sexy to look at.

So, let’s break it down… … Continue reading

  Filed under: Find&Share, Information Architecture, KCAI, Learning, Living, Read&Respond, User Experience
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Turning Data in to Information

By Erika Goering,

Response to Wurman reading.

One thing that we all have to deal with, now more than ever, is the over-saturation of data. We can easily get immersed in it, without ever gaining any actual useful information from it.

It’s our jobs as designers (and information architects) to take those sloppy chunks of data and sculpt them into usable information. We need to build some sort of structure from it all and organize things into some sort of logical order.

I’ve thought about equating this issue to the obesity epidemic. People are getting plenty to eat, but actual nutrition is horrible. There’s plenty of stuff, but little actual substance. The way to fix this is to find an appealing and efficient way of acquiring adequate nutrition.

This is how I look at information architecture. We have plenty to pull from; we just need to figure out how to bring out the good stuff. We can do that by organizing data into categories and spectrums and using that to structure our communication of information. A large determining factor of how something is organized is how we as designers want that information to be understood. If I want to show a time-based set of data, then I’d better make a timeline of some sort. Or I could find another common aspect of that data and use that as the means of organizing it.

Being an information architect is about creating structures to hold data. Those structures then turn that data into information. And that’s what we’re here to learn.

  Filed under: Information Architecture, KCAI, Learning, Read&Respond
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The Web is Changing

By Erika Goering,

The big point in this A List Apart post that I really find interesting and exciting is that web design is no longer just print design made digital. It’s become its own medium.

Pages are becoming less static. In fact, users can move things around now! That’s a far cry from the ’90s internet I grew up with. You had a page with text. Maybe some images. Frames were innovative. That was the web for me.

I first learned HTML in the ’90s. And as a result, sometimes, I still get stuck in that static mode. I have to remind myself that I don’t have to design in rectangles and think in static blocks of links, images, and text.

Now, the web “page” is starting to become a looser term. It’s possible to have an entire website on one “page” but that “page” is a dynamic, ever-changing, customizable, growing, evolving space. And that’s really cool.

Mobile media is the new big thing. Smartphones, app integration, and lack of Flash make the mobile web a unique place. The web is no longer just for computers. Screens of all sizes must be taken into consideration. As a coder, I no longer just have to worry about Internet Explorer compatibility; I have a whole entire new platform to worry about. Mobile screens can be both vertical and horizontal, are touch-sensitive, and usually don’t have Flash players or GIF support. That’s a huge deal. The web is different for every screen. No more static, one-note websites!

  Filed under: Information Architecture, KCAI, Learning, Read&Respond
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