Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Week 7 Log: Refinement

This refinement refers to the constraints of time, money, and resources. As well as knowledge. This chapter gets more in depth with how the process of design works. It starts with an idea a research. Then the work flow comes into play. The physical constrains, ie; materials, etc.. affect the process as well as the end product. Speaking in terms of physical controls, we deal with buttons, dials, switches, latches, and motors, ect... Digitally, we speak in terms of scroll bars, drop down menus, check boxes, ect... More advanced interfaces include, Voice, gesture, and presence. 
It can be very fun to design products or interfaces that use many or all of these elements. This chapter really got me thinking about project that I might want to work on in the future. 
Choosing the right elements to give the user the right feedback and affordance can be the creative part. But this can also give new uses for a product when a mistake is made during the design process. A mental model is great, but if a product does not do what we want it to do than the process can be a waste of time. Using research as well as storyboards, and web charts can be a clear way to get the process started. Once we decide to go in a certain direction, the design process starts. Employing all these design factors can make the process much faster and cleaner.

Week 7 Log: Design Research

Research is always a tool that I employ when I design something. It is important to see first what has been successful from past designs first, to make decisions on what I am designing. If I choose to design a web site, I first look at similar sites. While at Pratt Institute, I took a class called "Directed Research." This was exactly what we did in the class. Interviewing, shadowing, and looking, BEFORE designing. But also brainstorming and ideation were important factors that we used to come up with the final design. As it says in the reading, it is rare to find someone that does not have to do research on a subject before delving into it. 
When designing a product for a client, we would first follow them around for an entire day. The assignment was to design something that would improve their life. To do that, we would follow them in their daily activities and document this with photos, video, text ect.. As well as interviewing them and asking many questions. 
I often would think that I would know right off the bat what I wanted to design, but with just a little research, the design would only grow in its success and power. By immersing oneself in subject matter, we only learn more of what is needed and what is not.
Here is an example of a product I designed for a "Client": It was called "Fruity Pillow".  A series of biomorphic pillows that I actually designed and built myslelf. But before doing this, I also had to research HOW to build it. Employing the fashion department and a friend of mine to shwo me the process of sewing and designing a stuffed pillow:

The pillows in action

The pillows by themselves. 
My client was a painter that would do most of her work in her living space and would hang out with friends in the process. The idea was to make portable, modular, functional, and beautiful surfaces that she could use to accommodate herself and her friends while collaborating. 

Week 6 Log: Example of Color

The following are two examples of color. One is a very good use, the other is a failure:

This first site uses color in two very good ways. For one, it choose to use good organic contrasting colors that relate directly to the "Natural" or "organic" aspect of the site. Using a deep red and a vegetable green were good choices for the main image. As well as incorporating well photographed images overlaid over the woody background. It give a natural feel, while not making all of the colors the same, boring tone. This design can be seen as well thought out as well as making good use of contrasting and organic tones.

The second site dubs itself as the "Worst site in the world". It succeeds in doing this, with its horrible use of clashing colors and terrible layout:

The most terrible site in the world. The coral green against the puke orange background can only be described as atrocious. The dotted background and unclear use of colored links makes it very worse. 
SO, as we can see color can be used to both make a site beautiful and functional.

Week 6 Log: Uses of Color

Color can be used in both a design sense and as a means to show importance. It is more complicated than first thought. It can affect both phycological and physical areas of design. But as the reading say, the main problem is that it is UNDERUSED. I believe that people tend to underuse color because they DO NOT KNOW HOW. It can be complicated and requirer MUCH TRAINING and TALENT. Though, it CAN be taught. Deciding what colors go well with each other and what emotional impact they have is not a random act. It takes high levels of skill and time. I will show two examples of color in my next post. 
Color can be a universal object, but also a culturally specific one. As the web grows through every culture and aspect of the world, we will see cultural lines broken down, and a more universal one forming. Globalization and interconnectivity will help bridge the gap. For example, in some cultures RED mean stop. In others, it means GO! Nature tends to be a jumoing off point. Green can be though of a a universal color for the earth, but in some areas, brown might be what is thought of - for exmaple in desert regions. Blue can be though of a the sky- but for cultures living by the sea, it can be seen as the land itself.

Week 5 Log 2: Designing a better billboard

When looking at how we can make a site more usable, we can think of it for several different areas; Standardizing, grouping, feedback, and minimal-ization (My own made up word). When making something standard, we think of other sites that work and make sense for the user. Conventions that we see over a wide range of successful web sites. In grouping, we talk about breaking up a page into areas that have a similar subject matter. Users can then think less about where everything is, and more about what the material that they are looking at is saying. Furthermore, using feedback is making the site interactive, or making it easy for the user to navigate through the site. Finally, minimizing the noise, is to make the site minimal and clean. Getting rid of superfluous information. Using color, sound, and movment can be good ways to help the user navigate through a site. This can give the user feedback as to the flow of information.
I will show a good example of what is meant by this:

Wired.com is a good example of a well thought out design. The hierarchy is clear and the design is minimal. What is clickable is animated and changes when the mouse is moved over it. Also, the noise level is almost at zero, only what needs to be shown is shown.

Week 5 Log 1: How we really use the web

What I find interesting about this reading is how our brain only sees what we want to see. Seeking out the information that we are looking for is a process of fast elimination. Scanning through a web page for what we are seeking can be done much faster and more easily when the hierarchy is clear and the noise level is low. It tends to be a problem of both design and what the designer thinks the user is actually looking at the page for. People tend to scan and only see what they want to. 
Having a clear hierarchy can help; ie, when a page is designed to have the most general and important information large, and on the top of the page. Also, the noise level is all the superfluous design elements and text that need not be placed all on the same page. To quote for the reading, "I think the answer is simple: If your audience is going to act like you're designing billboards, then design great billboards." - I think that the author is basically saying to dumb it down for web users. But I don't believe that the web is a place for that. The web is much deeper than that, and to say that one must dumb down design is to lower expectations for the web, the designer and the user. Maybe this means a new type of design thought process - To re-think how we design for the web. New technologies and interface will make this possible, as we move forward to the future of technology as a means of communication. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Web SIte RE- Design

I decided to redesign "Project Rescue" a non profit site. Here are screen shots of before and after. As well as "Mana Food Bank", a site that I though was designed well. 
The main problem with the Project Rescue site was that it seemed cluttered and not clean. I decided to redesign it using a minimal and easy to read format.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Week 4 Log 2

Designers are often fussy and do not take kindly to criticism. As in Frank Lloyd Wright- "...called Wright to say that his roof was leaking all over a dinner guest, the architect is said to have responded, 'Tell him to move his chair.'"  The problem is often that they are more interested in making something look good rather than function. I am very aware of this problem, as I used to be an Industrial Design major. But I remember that when people would design something that would function properly that in itself was beautiful. It seems that in design, often less is more. 
The three main reasons that designer often fail are, they put aesthetics first, they are not the typical user of the object, and the client that they are designing for may not be the actual user of the product. While the look of an object is very important, the function is just as important. When designing for someone, they often don't exactly know what they want themselves. Designers are not mind readers. Communication is the most important aspect of any design collaboration. 

Week 4 Log 1

I found the structure levels very interesting- IE - Wide structure, shallow, and narrow. I play chess and never thought of all the possible combinations that could be imagined. Deep structure is a vast decision tree of possibilities. The counter move of one player always alters the next possible number of combinations, and so on... DOET describes this as, "... a vast, spreading network of possibilities..." It is true that everyday activities don't require this kind of complex decision making.
 This is where a menu at a restaurant comes in. It can be described as a shallow structure. This is because the possible number of decisions is much smaller. I sometimes find myself looking at a menu for a long time - I have trouble making decisions. But in chess - it seems that I make the next move fairly quickly, almost on instinct. 
The lowest on the levels is a narrow structure, like a recipe in a cookbook. Though there may be many steps, the possible deviation from the recipe is very small. 
It is as if the brain needs to work faster when engaged in deep or wide structure decision making. I believe this is why the creative process often uses deep structure - This is why it can be described as "creative" and is usually not boring. 

Week 4 Log 1