Blog Category: Read&Respond

Subcultures and Ethnography

By Erika Goering,

Our culture as a whole has evolved from  being one mass market, to being a collection of lots of niches, subcultures, and genres. This is why research is important. No one will fully understand a subculture by just assuming. We’re all vastly different. We have to immerse ourselves in aspects of those subcultures to find the nuances and the identities of those groups.

Statistical data is helpful because it gives a designer/researcher a concrete view of measurable elements. It’s easy to transfer between people, and pretty easy to take at face value. This kind of data is in the realm of demographic information, surveys, and questionnaires.

Qualitative data is the hard part. It’s invisible, but palpable. It takes a variety of research methods to develop an understanding of the more abstract elements. This includes things like oral tradition, histories, responses, and attitude.

These types of information are helpful for design because, like in page layout (where it’s important to know the content you’re designing for), it just makes sense to truly understand the people you’re designing for.

Design is all about conveying information that is audience-appropriate. So, naturally, research plays a big role.

  Filed under: KCAI, Learning, Read&Respond, User Experience
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Blessedly Full of Problems to Solve

By Erika Goering,

10 New Year’s Resolutions for Designers

This article made me feel like I should adopt this list as my own personal roadmap as a designer. I should make it my mission to always push myself further. This isn’t just a goal for college; this is a goal for life. I’ve found that I make almost all of the mistakes mentioned in this article. And I’m proud of that. Because I’m learning from it.

The one that really hit close to home was number four. “Stop being your own obstacle.” This is basically what I was doing sophomore year. I designed the way I thought was “right” or what I thought the teachers and my classmates wanted. I also got really depressed. Go figure.

Stop designing the compromises you expect to have to make. Your fear of being wrong wins out over your fear of having to convince someone you’re right. Your client is in your head with you. Telling you to make the photo smaller, the logo bigger, paginating the multi-page article. You’re choosing the typeface you think your client will like, not the one that solves the problem best.

I’m happy to say I’ve pretty much tackled number four. Since last summer, I’ve been designing for the situation; not the client/boss/teacher. And my work has gotten a lot better. And so have my grades. And my mood, as well.

Number six was pretty much how I tackled last semester. And I felt like a BAMF.

Don’t be the designer who gets proficient and then stops. It’s easy to make a steady living doing that one thing you’re really good at. Until something comes along and obliterates it. Aim higher. Remember those guys who were really good at Debabelizer? (Ask your parents.) Don’t spend your career satisfied with doing things you’re good at – try to do things you’re not good at. You’ll eventually be good at more things, and you’ll know what you honestly suck at. And you’ll have a longer career.

There’s a ton of great shit coming down the pike this year, including stuff that’s gonna surprise us. Not to mention the stuff we’re still getting used to from last year. The future’s not only fun, it’s messy. Welcome it with open arms.

I talked specifically about getting messy with experimentation last semester. And it really did pay off. I’m learning who I am as a designer and as a person. I’m aware of my own growth now. It’s pretty sweet.

Moral of the story: Do lots of things. Do them wholeheartedly. Read, write, articulate. Stand up for your work. It’ll stand up for you. Design with passion. Design with balls. Good things will come.


Web Design is 95% Typography

The title of this article was the first thing to get me thinking. Because it’s true. The vast majority of the web is text. And that text is how information is spread. And how that text is designed can influence the interpretation and even the perceived credibility of the source.

And that’s what I gathered before I even read the thing.

When I started paying more attention, more nuggets of knowledge started to emerge.

The typographer shouldn’t care too much what kind of fonts he has at his disposal. Actually the choice of fonts shouldn’t be his major concern. He should use what is available at the time and use it the best he can.

This implies that, CSS3 font hacks aside, because the web and its users may be limited in the way of typefaces, web designers must use what they have to their best potential. Hierarchy and contrast come to mind. Use those header tags!

Also, treating “text as a user interface” is a really brilliant way of describing the content-user relationship when it comes to typography. When a person reads, they need to be able to navigate throughout the article/website with the same ease as an intuitive GUI. It’s all about putting things in easy-to-find places, with easy-to-recognize hierarchy. I’m not saying users should be treated as though they’re stupid; they should be treated as though they are human. People recognize patterns. Use that to your advantage.


Reactions to Web Design is 95% Typography

It’s true: Most people still do not understand the medium. Clients with random Internet experience often have the misconception that a website is like a cheap TV-ad that leads their customers directly into the store. All I have to say here: Explain to them what the medium is about. It’s about information. It’s not about shopping, it’s not about advertisement, it’s not linear. It’s about communication in one of its most competitive forms. Communication and not effects – that is what we should be concerned about as designers.

This is exactly the problem with the web. While the experience of reading text is usually linear, the internet medium itself is not. At all. So, the big design problem is: how do we fit a square peg into a shapeless hole?

Our job as designers is to shape that hole. Build a plan, a system, a structure. We are information architects.

  Filed under: Information Architecture, KCAI, Learning, Read&Respond
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History of Motion Graphics

By Erika Goering,

It’s longer than you think.

In a beautiful piece of motion design itself, this video gives a lot of insight on the long, rich history of motion graphics.

Honestly, when I think of motion graphics, I think of all of the contemporary work that’s all around us right now. I tend to forget about the past. But the history of motion graphics is filled with experimentation and discovery.

Motion graphics is all about finding new ways to bring visual information to life.

While it’s easy to forget about, motion graphics (like most any other art form) has its roots in analog media. From the innovators such as Georges Méliès to the cutting edge of firms like MK12, there has always been explorers treading the frontier of moving pictures and embracing an appreciation for and manipulation of the tangible media.

Digital media has paved the way for motion’s explosive growth. So many things now are animated and supplemented by movement. Digital media, as it tends to do, has made the art of movement both more convenient to do and more complex. But in our oversaturated world, it’s easy to forget its importance.

We are lucky to be design students in a time when such exponential growth is taking place. We get to literally watch it morph and change before our eyes. Definitions of “analog” and “digital” are blurred beyond recognition, and we are using every resource we can think of.

In the history of motion graphics, we are living in a very important and influential chapter, filled with innovation, experimentation, and rebellion. But we should always remember where we came from, and fully appreciate every step of the way.

  Filed under: KCAI, Narrative/Sound&Motion, Read&Respond
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R&R: What Should Food Look Like?

By Erika Goering,

Response to

I love the idea of packaging influencing and attracting certain people to use (or not use) a product. That’s one of the great things about design. We can’t read minds but we sure as hell can persuade them. That’s why I think every designer should take a few psychology classes. Get inside the human mind. Learn to manipulate it.

…But enough about that.

Food packaging in particular is a means to strategically create a very specific mood for the customer. If I use a rounded slab-serif instead of something monospaced and typewriter-esque, what does that make the customer think or feel about the product? Is one more classy than the other? Is one more friendly? Does it convey a sense of value or frugality? Does it look too posh for the audience to the point where they won’t go near it because it’s probably too expensive? Should they just stick to the yellow store-brand?

Great design can be off-putting to the wrong audience. If it looks too generic, people will see it as a lower-quality product and might walk right past it. And if it’s too fancy, the majority of the audience might just ignore it because they’ll feel it’s out of their price range.

Appealing to a wide, diverse audience is a difficult, but important task. The key is to target the majority of people without creating a mediocre, generic design. And that’s why package design requires such a tactful outlook.

And that’s my challenge for this project.

  Filed under: KCAI, Read&Respond, VisLang
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R&R: Tropicana Redesign

By Erika Goering,

In response to this post:

While the new (2009) Tropicana package design felt clean and fresh, it did lose a lot of its personality when the familiar imagery was replaced. No one can deny that an orange with a straw in it is a pretty clever way of portraying freshness and purity.

I do applaud the redesign as an exercise/experiment in showing purity and freshness in a different way, but I think what the design gained in clarity, it lost in personality and cleverness. I think Tropicana made a gutsy move, and it definitely got people talking. But package design can be a dirty game. A well-known brand will always have devoted followers, and they don’t like change, whether it’s a good idea or not.

Yes, the design is technically successful in that it clearly shows pure, 100% orange juice. Yes, it works as a clean, fresh design. But it fails to show a sense of humanity. It fails to show a sense of warmth and trust. (I know it’s not exactly supposed to go full-on pathos, but it needs to be a whole lot less cold and sterile.)

I would’ve liked to see them work harder to keep the personality and familiarity of the brand while still keeping that clean, fresh, pure look and feel. That’s what makes a package design great, especially for such a well-known, well-respected, and well-loved product.

That’s just my two cents.

  Filed under: KCAI, Read&Respond, VisLang
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R&R: Pictograms

By Erika Goering,

Pictograms are supposed to be simple forms that give the viewer a sense of understanding. The pictogram directly represents an object, action, or emotion. The way the image is presented (with framing, positive/negative space, and composition) should give viewers all the information they need to come to a conclusion about the graphic. Does the image make them feel happy? Determined? Hopeless?

A good pictogram can make a person understand, with absolute clarity, a complete concept. A bad pictogram will leave the viewer confused and/or unaffected.

The water icons above are bad pictograms, because they rely too much on color to illustrate heat, and cliche symbols to represent hot and cold, which leads to a humorous conclusion by the viewer.

The Olympic pictograms have changed over the years, but they’ve always tried to be simple, cohesive shapes that transcend natural language. (The whole point of a pictogram is that there’s nothing to read; it’s universal for everyone.) The most successful Olympic pictograms have been the ones that have functional clarity and pleasing shapes. We, as viewers, can determine what the pictograms mean, and relate to their human forms. The less successful Olympic pictograms have vague meaning and overly-abstracted/overly-stylized human forms.

Good. Dynamic and illustrative without being complex. There’s a good sense of motion here without needing “motion lines” or anything ornamental. Simplified to its essential parts.

  Filed under: KCAI, Read&Respond, VisCom2
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Gathering Artifacts: R&R

By Erika Goering,

Response to How Does the Smithsonian Collect Artifacts?

An artifact is meant to be like a time machine. It can transport you to a place and time where the object would be experienced. An artifact gives you insight to the type of people who might use the object. So, an artifact is not just the object itself, but how it was used and who used it. A good artifact should provide a full sense of history. A sense of environment.

That is what I’m trying to do with my hardware modder book, Inner Workings. It shows hardware and tools that such a person would use. It also showcases broken and disassembled hardware to evoke the sense of curiosity that hardware modders have toward technology.

  Filed under: KCAI, Read&Respond, VisCom2
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Making the Invisible Visible: Read & Response

By Erika Goering,

Response to Making the Invisible Visible:

The point of planning when doing a project is so that you can create a design based on a concept that is closely tied to the client’s needs. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, it tends to be something that a lot of designers and committees overlook.

When you have a client who needs a job done, the first thing you should do is address that need with a strong concept/solution. Then, keeping that solution in mind, come up with a pleasing design to contain and convey that solution. I realize this all sounds very abstract. But as someone who has worked with needy clients before, I know that you could have the prettiest design in the world, but if the client doesn’t feel it fits their needs, your sketches get sent to the shredder.

Projects start with a theme. Find out how to identify the project’s purpose and focus on that throughout the project. That will ensure that the project won’t end up being something totally unrelated to the original objective.

This fits in well with my book on hardware modders. The first part of the project was interrupted by an uncertainty of theme. Was I targeting hackers? Geeks? What was I doing? Once I finally settled on hardware modders, things started happening more easily. I started focusing on the things that make hardware modders specifically different from software hackers and general computer geeks. Well, hardware, for one. But also tools that are specific to computer repairs and upgrades, like soldering irons, screwdrivers, and broken computer parts.

Establishing a theme is probably the most important aspect of design. Because if you keep in mind where you’re going, the design will naturally follow.

  Filed under: KCAI, Read&Respond, VisCom2
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Lupton: Linearity vs. Spatial Arrangement

By Erika Goering,

Response to Thinking with Type:

Linearity is something that happens when text is presented in a straight line, such as a news ticker or a banner. There’s no dimension to it, therefore it’s not as engaging as something more spatial. For example, a PowerPoint presentation is linear because, one frame after another, you’re given a little bit of information that is drawn out over time. It doesn’t give the viewer much in the way of interaction, though. And that’s why it’s so boring.

Spatial arrangement of text gives the viewer something to interact with. The viewer is more engaged and interested, because there’s something deeper than just one layer of information. This is seen often in the internet (think blogs or news sites with tags and categories, or searchable keywords). The internet is so engaging because information is being utilized in such a way that is specifically meant to be user-friendly.

With online typography and information distribution, content has become more accessible and legible. Technology has not killed typography; it has actually helped it evolve. Type has grown to become more fluid and flexible to accomodate the content and the user/viewer, as opposed to more concrete and static printed text.

The density of information that is happening now has encouraged interaction and intimacy among people and ideas. The transfer and transmission of information is so important. Typography helps it stay coherent and cohesive.

  Filed under: KCAI, Read&Respond, Typography2
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Read & Respond: Experimental Typography

By Erika Goering,

Experimental typography is an interesting kind of work, where letterforms and words become more than just a way to communicate. They become the communication themselves. I know that’s kind of hard to understand, but so is the webpage I just read. So bear with me, here.

Experiments and processes go hand-in-hand. They both result in a final outcome that leaves the designer more enlightened than before. In the process of experimentation, there is a goal to reach and a method to be explored. Experimental typography isn’t experimental once it’s finished. Because any finished work is no longer an experiment. Got it? Good.

Experiments are meant to be for gaining experience and knowledge about a topic. And the person performing the experiment gains the most knowledge from it, on a very intimate level. This is why it’s important for me to play around with typography and see how things work together when I’m starting a project. I’m experimenting. And I’m learning. And that’s what process is for.

  Filed under: KCAI, Read&Respond, Typography2
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