My name is Jack Moffett
. I am an Interaction Designer with over ten years of experience. According to Herb Simon
, that makes me an expert, so I must have something worth sharing. I have started this venture as an exercise to spur critical thinking about my chosen profession. I hope that others may find it thought provoking as well.
DesignAday will present a brief thought about Design every weekday.
Lindsey Estep is one of my graduate students. She came to the program with not only a degree in Graphic Design, but business as well. It should be no surprise, then, that she is exploring design entrepreneurship. She has been focusing this semester on self-publishing through Kickstarter.
Rather than me telling the whole story, I invite you to view her video. Perhaps you may even feel moved to visit her campaign page and contribute to this worthy endeavor. She is nearing her goal, with 16 days to go.
I arrived at OCAD Sunday morning and registered before having lunch and getting ready for my workshop. In addition to the schwag I detailed yesterday, I received my program book and badge. It’s a program book. It’s a badge. These are not two different items.
The design of the program book was alright. It could have been better, but it sufficed. The design of the badge, on the other hand, was pretty bad. The cover of the book displayed my first and last name, my company, and three words I used to describe myself when I registered for the conference (passionate, dedicated, creative). These words were directly below the company name, which made them appear to be a company slogan. Then, below all of that was my Twitter handle, @jackmoffett, in a small, light font. An orange sticker at the very bottom labeled me as a speaker. The book had a hole punched in the top-left corner so that it could be hung from the lanyard in our schwag bag.
Of course, this meant that at least 50% of the time, the book was hanging with my name against my stomach. When it was out, it was difficult to read. The name wasn’t quite large enough, and since the background was gray, the contrast was low. To make matters worse, you couldn’t easily read the book while it was hanging around your neck. There wasn’t enough lead on the lanyard for the size of the book.
It didn’t take long for the conference organizers to acknowledge that we didn’t like the badges. They hinted at some problem they had in production, but they wouldn’t give us their excuse. Instead, they challenged us to “hack the badge”, turning it into a competition. I’m not sure how many entries they received, but not many used the #hackthebadge hash tag. I’m afraid I came down with a stomach flu early Thursday morning and missed the entire last day of the conference, so I haven’t heard who won.
Apple released a new version of iTunes, and while I haven’t spent an enormous amount of time with it yet, there is one bit of polish that I’m probably overly impressed with. In the new album view, clicking an album results in a detail view directly below, much like a group of apps opens in iOS.
This is a superior method of presentation that retains context and doesn’t require any fiddly UI bits. Beyond that, it is done so beautifully. They use the album art on the right side, slightly faded, and they pick the predominant color from the left edge of the album art to use as the background, blending the art into it. That is a brilliant piece of visual design, but it becomes apparent just how clever they are being when you select the album Sounds of Earth.
iTunes is actually sampling the colors in the album art to select the colors for the text, creating an entire color scheme for the album display with appropriate contrast for readability. This is visual user interface design at its best. Kudos to the designers and engineers that thought of this and made it work. It’s beautiful.
Here’s a simple question. Why is the MPAA rating screen shown before every film so poorly designed? White text with a black shadow creates enough contrast on a green background to vibrate. The text is in ALL CAPS, making it more difficult to read. Then there is the small, compressed type shoe-horned into a thick-bordered table without enough padding. Everything is center-aligned, but due to the table layout, some of it is offset. The only positive is that the most important information is bigger and bolder, clearly standing out from the rest.
They line the hallway, the one that leads
to the studio in which I learned my trade.
Black on white, positive and negative
plays on space. Symbols and marks.
A leaf, its curves delicately balanced,
thicks and thins and points, but ah…
There’s a bump. And I recall
the repetitions, tiny tremors in the wrist.
He was just an old man. The gruff voice
of not good enough, his breath stank
of coffee and cigarettes. The red ink,
as if he cut my work as deeply as my pride.
Design. I barely new the meaning
of the word. I didn’t recognize
the privilege of learning from a legend,
Rob Roy Kelly, mocked by a sophomore.
But I know now, looking at a slight
swelling on a leaf, the loss of tension,
and I remember the pride in passing
inspection. The smell of Plaka.
Kofi Opoku took on the divide of energy and the environment for his Designing for the Divide poster, and he did an outstanding job of it. The main visualization is a comparison of energy consumption per capita and energy production between France, the UK, Russia, the USA, China, Canada, and Germany. The size of the circle represents total production, while the color of the circle represents consumption per capita. Geographic landmasses are relatively sized, so one can also compare production and consumption based on area. The US is high in both production and consumption, but what’s more interesting is China, which produces and consumes the most energy, but has the lowest consumption per capita. Canada is also of interest, in that it has much lower production and consumption, but its consumption per capita is the highest.
Energy is broken out into sources for the US: coal, crude oil, natural gas, and renewable. The same measures are used, and the circle sizes are proportional to the country totals. Information about carbon emissions from fuel consumption is also presented per country, charted from 1992-2009. Other than China, all countries represented are declining. The large graph spanning the bottom width of the poster depicts US energy consumption by source and carbon emissions per capita from 1980 to 2009. There are quite a bit of additional facts and figures, as well as tips on how to save energy.
Kofi did an admirable job presenting the data in a way that allows the viewer to make comparisons, learn, and draw conclusions. Beyond that, he created an aesthetically pleasing design that draws attention and pulls you into the details. The poster was even included in J. Ford Huffman’s presentation during the conference. I’m very proud of Kofi’s work.
The latest project in my information visualization class was directly tied to the Designing for the Divide conference. The chair, Eve Faulkes, wanted a number of large-format posters that addressed the divides that would be discussed during the conference. Lindsey Estep chose to focus on the economy. She selected four pairs of competing stances, each pair composed of a liberal and conservative view. Each pair also addressed economics from a different level of granularity: global, national, community, and personal. The poster is divided into four columns dealing with those levels. After presenting the argument, the “Meanwhile…” section presents several bullet points illustrating what has been happening while our representatives argue. For example, the U.S. has dropped to 5th in global economic competitiveness while we debate how to decrease our debt. This is then followed by data visualizations presenting evidence of the claims. Finally, at the bottom of each column is a section labeled “But I’m only one person… What can I do?” where readers can learn how they can help by doing their homework, lending a hand, and sharing their voice.
Lindsey really knocked this one out of the park. The overall concept is solid. The details of the individual graphs are exquisitely crafted. The overall aesthetic is perfect for the subject matter. I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out.
Lindsey Estep decided to research Melanoma for her time series project, and she found some interesting data.
Although melanoma of the skin appears less significant than other major cancers, its incidence rates have been steadily increasing. Perhaps surprising, the effects of this stealthy cancer are not limited to sunny, coastal areas.
Her graphs show that while the occurrence of melanoma is much lower than other cancers, it has steadily increased over several decades at a rate many times higher than any other cancer. The final chart compares melanoma incidence and death rates in West Virginia and California against the U.S. average.