January 30, 2003
Master of Design Methods
Here's something that's showed up on a few lists today. It's a new program from the Illinois Institute of Technology:
The Master of Design Methods (MDM) is a professional Master's degree for exceptional design professionals who seek to add to their competency a deeper knowledge of methods and frameworks. It concentrates on the design theories and methods developed and taught at the Institute of Design, in areas like user observation and research, prototyping, interaction design, visualization and strategic design planning.
January 27, 2003
The graded weblog
I've been meaning to think about and perhaps write about life cycles and weblogs, particularly technical or professional ones. If you've been weblog surfing for a while, you've probably noticed that weblogs come and go. Some of them just barely get started and the author loses motivation or time, and they lay dormant with their one or two initial entries.
Others are authored by those who are both inspired and a bit "hungry." These are the folks who are sometimes able to use their weblog to build a solid enough reputation (and readership) that their workload increases with more consulting gigs, conference tours, and even book publishing. At some point in time, they may be so successful that one of two things happens. Their new project sucks up so much time that their weblog languishes, leaving visitors to either check back every so often to see if it comes back or to check out F*cked Weblog to see if it is gone for good. Or, like peterme, you tire of the same old same old, and "mothball" your weblog.
You may, like Peter, warn folks that your revival is who knows when. Or you may, like moi, tell folks the new improved version will be back in January and then finally re-launch in September :(.
I went thru this a bit recently myself after having only been back to full-time weblogging for a few months. But then I had a bit of an aha moment and realized that this was just too much of a great opportunity for me to just journal the things that I found interesting or curious or wanted to save. So, while I will keep checking out my webstats to see if anyone is showing up :), I will no longer set any huge expectations for myself to be the next Doc Searls. And I will try and avoid going offline for 2/3 of a year in the event that I decide to redesign the whole thing!
I will, however, get a nice perk out of doing IDblog for the next few months. One of the courses I'm taking this spring for the University of Baltimore's doctorate of communication design program is Digital Economy. This course looks at "economic and social issues relating to communications design in an age of digital networks." (Ah, takes me back to the MA I did at Georgetown.) As a program that originated out of print publishing, the DCD profs are still finding it useful/necessaryy to get folks exposed to Internet technologies, so...10% of our grade is publishing twice a week to a weblog! Methinks I've got this part covered :).
January 23, 2003
New MA in information design
The University of Reading has announced a new MA in Information Design course (as they say across the pond). This is an excellent opportunity for any would-be student of information design; the program's director, Paul Stiff, is a true luminary in the field, having been the editor of the Information Design Journal for a decade.
If the UK doesn't suit your geography, you may want to consider other programs in information design, a list that I compiled for the STC ID SIG.
January 22, 2003
All things in moderation?
Phew! Things seem back to normal on the sigia email list after a brief moment of chaos. What to do when tensions ride high in an unmoderated list? One side frowns on any type of censorship, while the other side frowns on giving free rein to (real or perceived) disruptive discussions.
Here are a couple of things that I go back and forth about. Sure, "censorship" is easy to bash. But it's easier to talk about censorship being a "bad" thing when it isn't you being harassed by a disruptive element. The other is that, all things considered, there seems to be some value in having someone, anyone, help "vet" an email or post as being worth the trouble to read. This seems to be the sentiment of an article that recently made the rounds of a few weblogs on desire and customers. Here's an interesting conclusion from the article:
I'll admit, a lot of people don't like the sound of [submitting to a higher authority]. But this trend is fueled by our greatest passion: a passion for genuine tranquility, for real peace of mind. In the model of a marketplace dominated by metabrands, consumers yearn for fewer choices, not more choices, and they will yield to a trusted advocate who will clear a path through the chaos for them. Maybe that's unimaginable. It is also inevitable.
In other words, what does the audience need or want? Some may really be into the give and take, the high traffic, the "vibrancy." Others may well be content with a bit less drama, a bit more signal-to-noise, and...a bit more peace of mind!
January 21, 2003
Kiss bad ads goodbye
Gunnar Swanson seems to be saying useful things on nearly every list I'm on (and that's a lot of lists). Today on the citizendesign list, he pointed out Andy Goodman's Why Bad Ads Happen to Good Causes:
Whether your work involves creating print ads from scratch or reviewing finished products, Why Bad Ads Happen to Good Causes can help you work smarter. Based on an unprecedented 10-year study of public interest advertising, and incorporating interviews with leading practitioners in the field, this book will help you understand once and for all what readers are looking for and whether or not your ad is giving it to them.
I haven't had a chance to give this a really solid look-through, but I won't be surprised if some of this is valuable to designers of information products other than ads. There's a free download, so I'd be sure to take a look!
STC's 50th Annual Conference
The conference will be May 18-21, in Dallas, Texas. More as we get closer!
January 18, 2003
IA Summit in Portland
Looking for a good conference? If you want to know what's going on in the world of information architecture or if you're in a peripheral field but close to Portland, Oregon, then be sure to check out IA Summit 2003: Making Connections.
What's fabulous is that the good folks at ASIST are again giving the member registration rate to members of the STC Information Design SIG, AIFIA, UPA, AIGA, and SIG CHI. Be sure to check it out!
January 15, 2003
Silly me...I thought under construction was such a 1995 thing. But apparently not for the folks at uparents.com:
I'd bookmarked this site just a day or so ago. Good thing I wasn't ready to place my online order for my diploma frame today! Maybe I won't when they go back online either...if their technology involves taking down their entire site to do a refresh, I'm not sure I want to give them my credit card. Of course, my diploma has been sitting in its cardboard envelope for over a year, so who am I to judge :).
January 14, 2003
Fun with stats
Alright, the web tells me that "mishegas" is Yiddish for craziness. Not sure this entry applies, but as a former WBCN listener, I just like the word and figured it'd make a good title. So sue me if this isn't really "crazy." Shall we say it's just a bit more freeform than these entries have been in the recent past? Let's begin!
First of all, one of these days I am really going to have to do some kind of commentary about the weblog. One thing that struck me recently is how compelling a personal weblog is when it is dotted with even low-res photos (see Mike Lee's personal blog on Hiptop Nation as a terrific example). Mike does his normal design/IA blog at curiousLee. This blogging thing can be scary...my co-worker Amy (who is Mike's wife) is getting used to hearing about her personal life from her friends, family, and co-workers who are checking in on Mike :).
Anyways, I'm so glad I've been keeping up with Mike on Hiptop, as he posted a link to this fabulous story about a guy with a waterlogged camera that is now taking magic pictures. If you are a visual type, this is worth checking out.
Other things that have been compelling: a link from the folks at xblog that has led to a couple of interesting tidbits. First there's a neat idea for using a scanner to do illustrations. There's also a great page on using type as design. If you like these, you may want to check out their other tips as well.
This final entry compels me to ask...are IAs to PCs as IDs are to Macs? Anyways, Thomas suggests that the new 17" Powerbook has a heavy-duty lust factor. That was true in my office until I whipped out a piece of tabloid-sized paper, and the reaction was "gee, that wouldn't fit in my backpack." I think this plus-sized laptop may be nice for designers who need to do lots of on-the-road presentations. But it seems a tad large to be really "portable."
January 09, 2003
For some lighter reading, check out some pithy quotes on usability, design, and assorted other topics.
January 08, 2003
I continue to be fascinated by the US Mint's state quarters. So I followed the pointer peterme provided to a site that encourages California residents to vote for their favorite out of 20 semi-finalists. Kudos to Governor Davis who "believes that it is important to have commentary from the public to help realize this vision." They don't actually get to choose, but at least they get to provide some feedback.
Both peterme (and later Christina) wondered about some of the designs, noting that one or more were, ahem, not exactly the standard you'd expect for this stage of the process. The one in the upper right is my choice (here's the large version of it).
My rationale? First, only one of the first 20 states has used an image on their state's design that was specific to a single city within that state--New York, which used the Statue of Liberty. Oh, perhaps the race car on Indiana's is city-specific. And I see that the Illinois quarter (not in circulation yet?) has a tiny Chicago skyline on theirs. I just wonder if I was a California resident of San Diego, LA, or Sacramento (or any other city other than San Fran) whether I'd be happy if the Golden Gate Bridge was the primary symbol on the quarter. And I think those that tried to fit in multiple symbols (like film or trees or animals along with the bridge) were too cluttered...not elegant.
In addition, I don't know if I penalized the ones that didn't render their design in realistic fashion and/or give points to the ones that did. I appreciated the coin-like rendering, but I particularly liked those that incorporated the state-specific copy (California - 1850 on top, 2005, E PLURIBUS UNUM on the bottom). It's not a penalty if they weren't instructed to deliver their designs this way (and thus something the state should have thought of, perhaps). But I think it's that same lesson I learned years ago at the Four Seasons in Austin. Not eveyone will notice attention paid to little details. But if they do notice, they will likely think better of you (and your product). Either way, an interesting lesson, methinks.
Finally, I think that some of the designs had details that looked okay in their large versions but would get lost actual size...or as the Mint says, wouldn't be "coinable." But I love the idea of a quarter with the sequoia's rings radiating out from the center of the quarter; if they could coin the branches of that awesome charter oak for Connecticut, the rings should be easy). California's decision-makers may well decide that some other symbols (state border? gold rush? Hollywood?) need to be there. But for my money, I'll take #17!
Design Research News
From Ken Friedman:
DRN is now the largest design research publication in the world -- and one of the most successful electronic newsletters in any field. Despite the success of DRN, circulation is below critical mass for our field. Given the number of scholars, teachers, and research students active in design research around the world, we must grow several times more to approach critical mass.
January 07, 2003
So much for your HTML email
Am I the only one whose mailbox is cluttered with this kind of badly formatted email messages?
Could this be a mail sniffer problem? Yes, my vendor does provide a web option for reading email, but I use the 3.1 version of Eudora Lite, so I download my mail. Perhaps it's more a case of just assuming that HTML email is preferred. Well guess what? If I wanted your HTML email (and your ability to determine that I opened your email), I'd ask for it. Argh.
January 04, 2003
Loop Number 6, Archiving ED
One of the highlights is a virtual roundtable (i.e., all participants via email in traditional roundtable format) that included Challis, Nathan Shedroff, Brenda Laurel, and Peter Morville among the participants. The subject for the roundtable was the "critical question" of how those in the field could preserve (or archive) the field's artifacts.
I've not had the time to give this the thorough attention it deserves, but a few things caught my eye. One was that Loop's publishers built in the ability for readers to add their own comments. While this mechanism doesn't always lend itself to a necessarily high signal-to-noise ratio, I think that the ability for readers to interact with (and provide feedback to) authors in such a direct form is one of the reasons that the web contributes to what peterme called the inexorable march away from rigid, high cost journals and towards a wider, less costly distribution. It takes some courage for a journal to put out its prose and invite something between literary response and graffiti, so kudos to AIGA.
I did think it was curious that question one paired experience design and interaction design together in a way that suggested the terms were interchangeable ("Do you see value in explicitly addressing the history of Experience/Interaction Design?"). Nathan addressed this in his response to question 1:
When I use the term, Experience Design, Im not just using it as a euphemism for Digital Design. I mean the deliberate approach to building objects, services, environments, events and experiences with a focus (or, at least, an acknowledgement) of the experience that people have with these things (as opposed to focusing only on the traditional aspects of these solutions).
The panelists spend a good deal of time talking about the challenges of dealing with the issues of the user and context. For example, Brenda Laurel writes:
I would be surprised if anyone felt it were possible to record experience design without recording some of the experiences themselves with participation and responses from their contemporary audiences ...
That's a serious challenge. Another one seems to be the technological challenge. As the participants note, how do you archive an interactive experience without the hardware and software needed to enable the design?
January 01, 2003
What's in a name, revisited
Wow...there's one heck of an interesting discussion going on over on Christina's weblog regarding differences between ED, IA, and ID. I had to point out a similar discussion that we did for the ID SIG (see What's In a Name?") back in April 2001. I actually understand why there's a theory that IA and ID are the same. Maybe in principle they should be. But when I look at what the folks who call themselves IAs do versus what those who call themselves IDs do (and apparently Nathan and I know different IDs), we're focused on the differences rather than the similarities.
IDblog is Beth Mazur tilting at power law windmills. A little bit Internet, a little bit technology, a little bit society, and a lot about designing useful information products. Send your cards and letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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