Monday, November 29, 2010

Design is Dangerous


Design in the twenty-first century has drastically changed.  Ever since the industrial revolution, mass production and factories have become the normal means for manufacturing almost everything.  Society has become accustomed to using a product and then throwing it away.  Everything from plastic utensils to clothing, designed objects these days are meant to be used and discarded.

Sustainability has become a whole new branch of design.  It is a thought process that is not entirely based on consumption.  Sustainable design is a way of preserving resources for future generations.  Take our auto industry for example. Auto makers worldwide are making vehicles that run off of gasoline, a diminishing resource, and the gasoline being burned is in turn poisoning the environment.  Many auto makers are moving to manufacture cars that run on bio-fuels or hybrid electric cars.  This is a move towards sustainability.  If all of the auto manufactures incorporated sustainable design into their business models, it would do the world good.

Recycling is another way of incorporating sustainability into a product.  If the designer uses materials that are easily recyclable, then down the line when the product breaks/gets old/is no longer wanted it can be easily broken down and recycled. This would help to lessen our impact on the environment and conserve resources for future generations.

The dangers from being a throw away society are obvious.  We need to take it upon ourselves as designers to incorporate sustainability into our work.

Design in Society- Utopian Design


The Nintendo Wii is a video game system that defies conventional video game logic.  It uses a controller like the other game consoles, but the controller relies on motion sensors to play the game.  Nintendo knows that people are going to play video games and the company is excellent at making money from this.  Until the invention of the Wii, video game players were sedentary.  Video gamers were becoming synonymous with laziness and obesity.  This was becoming a problem among young people in the US.

Granted, childhood obesity was not one of the biggest concerns for Nintendo when they were designing the Wii.  Making money would probably be on top of the list.  But burning calories was a definite plus.  They are producing a variety of sports and fitness games, and even have a balance-board like controller called the Wii Fit.

By being innovative Nintendo was able to corner the market with motion based video games.  Playstation and Xbox have both released motion based game controllers/ cameras, but they are roughly four years later than Nintendo. The PS3 and XBox360 output higher video resolutions than the Wii, but the Wii has seen the best sales of the three consoles.  The innovative design of the Wii was not originally designed to be Utopian, but it ended up that way.

Color Transforms


Color design is found throughout day to day life.  Color influences mood and can be used to express different meanings.  Color has a psychological effect on people.  Cool hues can calm someone down, while vibrant red or yellow hues excite or stimulate.  Color design is evident in police caution tape.  It is a combination of form and color known worldwide.  

The combination of a stark yellow and a dark black creates a tension that catches your eye.  This is what the caution tape is designed to do.  The color draws your eye and the form conveys the message of caution.  Caution tape is used to create a perimeter around a crime scene.  It is meant to be seen and it's message is clearly printed on the tape.

Similar to Albers Homage to the Square, caution tape creates an illusion of depth and movement.  It uses two different hues and values but the effect is similar.

Monday, November 15, 2010

UCD's many websites

The University of California Davis has a different website for many different tasks.  They have a MyAdmissions page that helps new students meet admission deadlines.  They have a SISweb portal for registration and other tasks.  They also have MyUCDavis web page that helps keep a students life in order. There is also a SmartSite that helps students stay up to date with all of their classes.  Why cant they just simplify all these sites into one, maybe two different pages.

It would make a students life easier if the school consolidated all these systems into one central system that streamlined the process of going to college.  The design of the current system is discombobulated and difficult to navigate.  It puts extra stress on students to navigate through different webpages.  If the Universities of California grouped together and used one system it could cut overall costs of network maintenance and potentially allow more people to go to college.

I also understand security is a concern for the University.  If they consolidated all of these systems into one, hackers could steal more information from one place.  It also would be a concern for different majors.  A chemistry major is not going to have the same needs in regards to school as a design major.

As a transfer student from community college I know that schools use different systems.  It would make my life simpler if I could buy a parking pass, register for classes, check my school email, and check my scores from tests/ homework all from one page.

Magic Mouse

The company Apple has been on the leading edge of new products that are easy to use, aesthetically pleasing, and ergonomic.  The product that i will be analyzing is the Magic Mouse.  It is a bluetooth enabled computer mouse that is wireless, nimble, and accurate.  It can be used on pretty much any surface and is very durable.( I personally have one and have dropped it many times)

Dealing with ergonomics specifically, the Magic Mouse shines in all fields.  The five areas that compose ergonomic research are safety, comfort, ease of use, performance, and aesthetics.  There is no one field in which the Magic Mouse lacks any of these areas.  This is why I consider the mouse well designed.  

The Magic Mouse is definitely safe.  It has a smooth rounded top and lacks any sharp edges.  It would be quite difficult to cut yourself on this mouse.  It runs on two AA batteries that lack enough juice to electrocute you so that is not a concern, not that electrocution by computer mouse is all that common. 

Comfort is evident in the Magic Mouse.  It has a glossy finish on the top that your hand can smoothly scroll over.  It is wireless as well so you can use it pretty much anywhere.  Be it on your couch, bed, chair, floor, etc the mouse functions on almost all surfaces. It's round shape fits well within your hand.  There is no one thing that makes this mouse uncomfortable.  

Ease of use is one of Apple's calling cards.  The Magic Mouse is no different.  It is identifiable by its relative size and shape.  It is very straightforward in its use.  Just point and click like pretty much every other mouse out there.  The wireless Bluetooth adapter is built in and is very easy to connect to your computer.  Even changing the batteries is simple.  You push one button on the bottom of the mouse and a cover pops off exposing the batteries.  

Performance is on par with four different wired mouses that I have tried.  It is good for fine selections in Photoshop and surfing the web.  It has features built into the mouse that allows the user to navigate web pages easier.  It has a swipe feature that lets the user go back and forth between web pages.  Scrolling down on the mouse also scrolls down web pages as well.  Clicking is very intuitive and smooth because the mouse doesn't have individual buttons.  It is a monolithic design.  My only gripe about the design is the symmetry of the mouse.  Sometimes I grab the mouse upside down and it works poorly.  They have an apple logo to help orient the mouse, but something tangible would have been considerate.  

Aesthetics are always apparent in Apple's designs.  The Magic Mouse is white and grey.  It has a glossy white finish on the top of the mouse and a half inch wide Apple logo where your palm holds the mouse.  

Apple is known worldwide for good ergonomic design.  Their products create a buzz because of the way it looks, how easily people can interact with it, and originality in design.  The design process at Apple is comprehensive and deals with most constraints. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Super Bowl Ads

Super bowl advertisements cost millions of dollars for a few minutes time.  The design/goal behind super bowl ads is simple, get people to buy stuff.  That is what a majority of the advertisements are for the super bowl.  The ads definitely cater to a certain populace and the stupidity of the commercials often reflect this.

If a company is willing to pay millions of dollars for a coveted few minutes of advertisement time during the super bowl their message had better be clear.  In recent years the commercials have been dumbed down almost to a degree of complete absurdity.  The funnier the commercial, the more memorable the message.  This constitutes successful design in advertising.

Contests for 30 second spots during the super bowl spur very interesting designs.  Fans can create commercials and if their idea gets selected it can be aired during the super bowl.  This creates fresh ideas and memorable ads.  There are also awards for best super bowl commercial as well. 

The NFL and most professional sports in general are cash cows.  The money from advertisements fuels the player salaries and helps stadium construction efforts.

Brian Fies

Word and image definitely played a part in Brian Fies lecture.  He spoke about his book/comic Mom's Cancer, and the design process behind it.  He talked about how he was dealing with his mom's illness and that he had also wanted to be a comic artist. He spoke about the editorial process, and the different views between him and the editor. 

Just for the cover alone for Brian Fies' comic there were probably hundreds of sample designs and revisions.  He adjusted everything from the colors used to different fonts.  He cropped them differently and showed his mother from different angles.  He also threw in a few off the wall samples that were an example of play in his design process. 

He also spoke about the differences between RGB and CMYK color palettes.  He said that he had originally done the entire book on the computer in RGB.  When he went into the beginning stages of the printing process he switched the colors to CMYK and he was not happy with how the colors translated. So he ended up completely recoloring the book in CMYK.  He also said that each chapter had its own distinct color.  The use of color, especially in comics, helps to tell the story visually.

Word & Image

The New York Times newspaper and website are both places where word and image are combined.  That really is the true essence of any newspaper, printed type and images meeting to aid in telling the news.  The design of the website for the New York Times is also very straightforward and easy to navigate.  They use different fonts and color to signify different areas of the website. The important shortcuts are listed clearly at the top of the page and the different sections are listed below that.

Newspapers and websites alike profit from advertisements.  That is one of their main cash cows.  In the Times there is plenty of space for ads.  The website as well is plastered with advertisements. As newspaper companies transition to a more digital format the ability to navigate their websites will be very important.  If it is difficult or cumbersome to move through a website to access the information then that website may not be designed successfully. 

Newspapers are full of design.  Websites as well are designed entirely by an individual or group of people.  From the front page to the comics every inch of a newspaper has been created and then edited by some type of designer.