June 30, 2003
In the range of things that can be considered information design, the field of information visualization is a very interesting area. It's kind of like info graphics (a la USA Today -- or Tufte) on steroids.
Grokking the infoviz
If Google is God, then information visualization surely has the potential of being at least a minor deity.
June 26, 2003
And still more What's in a name?
In order to differentiate KM from information and data management it needs to be shown that knowledge is different than data and information. Blairs (2002) explication that knowledge is different than data and information is based on the information theory stratification which puts data as the raw thing, then information which means data arranged in a certain way that presents and brings forth an obvious interpretable meaning, and then knowledge as the next level up, mainly stating that knowledge, exhibited through it characteristics, is different because it resides in peoples minds and it is not tangible (p. 1020). ...
I found this an interesting read. As I did this entry from experience curve on same problems, different decade which quotes Victor Papanek as writing in 1971:
...the various sciences and technologies have become woefully compartmentalized and specialized. Often, more complex problems can only be attacked by teams of specialists, who often speak only their own professional jargon. Industrial designers, who are often members of such a team, frequently find that, besides fulfilling their normal design function, they must act as a communication bridge between other team members. Frequently the designer may be the only one who speaks the various technical jargons. Because of his educational background, the role of team interpreter is often forced upon him. So we find the industrial designer in a team situation becoming the "team synthesist."
Ah, back in the good ole days before "design" was a four-letter word :)
But back to knowledge and information. A recent post on the weblog with the cool name (Diary of a Superfluous Man) recently pointed to Nathan Shedroff's New Methods for Experience Design. It's hard to tell for sure, but this seems to be some slides that support some kind of seminar or tutorial (there are multiple exercises in it). But what I can't really figure out (after my comment a week or so ago about professional presentations) is ummm, Nathan's design choices (then again, I never got his website designs either).
But Nathan sure could do some nice infographics, which this one (from Unified Field Theory of Design shows:
I'm still a bit confused by the experience cube, or about the usefulness of yet another term (Shedroff's information interaction design), but I think his document (which is also a chapter in Bob Jacobson's Information design) holds up extremely well for something that is 10 years old (I have a copy I downloaded in 1995, dated 1994) in a rapidly changing field.
June 24, 2003
What's in a name? The sequel
Tired of semantic arguments? Don't care what things are called? Quick! Bail out now...I recommend Dave Barry on synergy.
Still with me? Okay, but you've been warned :).
Not sure if you happened to notice it, but a week or so ago, peterme posted an entry to his weblog about that tricky word, design. In it he comments:
What's wrong with "design"? Well, there's nothing wrong with the practice, but plenty wrong with the word's associations. Right now, particularly in the field of web user experience, the word "design", without a modifier, means visual design. ... "Design" is what happens after the strategy has been settled, the specifications determined, the raison d'etre developed.
That said, he noted that "I see no need to be a champion for the cause of design." Peter isn't the first (nor probably the last) to comment on design's poor connotation. As I mentioned in the most recent what's in a name discussion here, Richard Saul Wurman intentionally chose the phrase information architecture rather than information design:
I selected the term information 'architect' rather than information
'designer' as the term 'designer' continues to be interpreted by the
public as an individual who is hired to come in after the fact to
make some project 'look beter' - as opposed to a professional part
of the initial team creatively solving a problem.
Well, I'm too much of a middle-of-the-roader to be the champion of design, although I must admit to a personal preference to change perceptions rather than create new terminology. But that's not something individual people are well suited to do (though every time someone bails, it certainly makes it harder).
All of this makes this article/response on the domain of design from Dirk Knemeyer to be an interesting read. He writes:
Design is in crisis for a variety of reasons, including:
However, unlike peterme or RSW, Dirk does see the value in championing design, in particular because he sees no real long-term value in terms like user experience, which he suggests are just as prone to being commodified. Given my preference for finding middle ground, I really resonated with this line:
What we need is focus and an acknowledgement that our consensus and collaboration will take us much further than being clever or doing our own thing.
This isn't just about Wurman coming up with a new term or Adaptive Path dropping 'design' from its marketing literature. IMO, the various niche groups (the IAs, the IDs, the usability folk, and so on) are to some extent all trying to create a market so that they can make a living doing interesting work that they tend to be good at.
Here's my question though. Wouldn't we all have an easier time of it if we worked together to create a paradigm shift in terms of how corporations work? Or what they value? If we did that, maybe the resulting shift would create more work than we all could actually do!
I see at least a tiny parallel to this idea when I read that Don Norman thinks that usability advocates don't understand business:
Until they understand it and how products get made, we will have little progress. In the field of design, people come from three very different backgrounds. They come from art and architecture schools and they know how to make attractive things. Or they trained in computer science and psychology and they know how to make usable things but they don't know how to build anything, they're just good at finding flaws. Or they come from ethnography, and they are superb at understanding what people really need, but don't know how to translate that into products. So all this has to come together, otherwise no decent products will result.
For me, I'd include the others who are also playing in a similar UX/user-centered design space. But there's another issue, which I think Dirk points out as well. Just because it is new media doesn't mean we need to reinvent the wheel. Okay, maybe there are some issues with the stereotype of the snooty, award-seeking graphic designer that is hurting us currently in our efforts to seek respect (and work) in the field of online design. But IMO, getting rid of 'design' is throwing out the baby with the bathwater. There is a rich tradition in the study of design. Just because the web is new or young doesn't mean that no one has ever solved the problems we're now facing. I see considerable value in aligning ourselves with that tradition.
And maybe it is a grass is greener thing, but from my perspective, the fields of product design (or industrial design) do not seem to be having problems with the term, or the process, of design. (Okay, I grant you that maybe some, the computer manufacturers in particular, still need some work on getting the process down :). There are also a number of design-oriented groups, like the Design Management Institute (US), Corporate Design Foundation (US) and the Design Council (UK) that are among many who are looking at the issue of a better integration with business and design, some of which have government support (see the resource list from DMI for more).
So, I am in favor of seeking opportunities for collaboration and consensus that adds to an existing tradition -- design. I suppose that it is possible that I'm somehow caught up in horseless-carriage thinking. But I guess that's why I participate in all these discussions (and why I have comments turned on on my weblog :)
June 23, 2003
It ain't easy being a manual
Over on Usable Help, Gordon Meyer has found a couple of ads that are of the good news and bad news variety. The good news is that product designers are getting more interested in making their products easy to use. The bad news is that they are showing this by dissing manuals!
One ad shows cute little pudgy baby legs with the superimposed tag line "Because you cherish memories, not instruction manuals" (see ad). The other suggests that you make a pillow out of your manual. One's for a digital video cam, the other a digital camera. Hmmm. I sure would like to see one of those that doesn't require a manual!
Here's another one of those 'may be more useful for me than you' features (a la search, mentioned previously). But I'm experimenting with doing my blogroll (over on the right, under categories, key links, and groups) via blogroll.com. I'm doing this because I like the feature that shows you weblogs that have been recently updated (the way I have it configured, that's the last 24 hours).
Of course, this is really a nice feature for you as well as me...there's nothing so annoying as being presented with 80 links in a blogroll and then finding out that they've not been updated in 10 years. Then again, maybe you're all using an RSS newsreader, so this is a moot point?
So...while I'm experimenting, feel free to let me know if you're on my blogroll but I don't have the link that matches your blogroll.com entry, or find out how to ping blogroll.com if you want to show up as an updated blog any weblog that uses the blogroll.com service, or email me if you're wondering why you aren't on my blogroll!
June 20, 2003
Here's something fun that appeared on the DC WebWomen list today: it's the Milko Muscle Machine, where you can create your own workout video starring a fairly likable animated cow. This is brought to you (in Shockwave) by the same folks who previously did the Milko Music Machine, where you can make your own music video starring the same cow.
Having recently worked with Apple's iMovie (which I really liked), I was quite impressed with all the controls for the Milko products. Alas, since I am unlikely to buy Swedish milk (not stocked by most US supermarkets), I'm not sure that my being impressed does too much for Milko. But I managed to kill a bit of time with it! And I think it shouldn't be hard to imagine how this kind of interaction could be extended in a, shall we say, more productive way.
If you play, be sure to mouseover all the moves...in particular, I most enjoyed seeing the "Travolta" (circa Saturday Night Fever) followed by the "Pulp Fiction" (above right) in the Music Machine. And if you really like your composition, you can email it to someone who might also be inspired!
June 19, 2003
Cross that off the list!
Finally! I've upgraded to the latest version of Movable Type. I have to (perish the thought) read the manual to find out what else I may want to tweak, but I've already gone ahead and added the search capability to IDblog (see top of right nav area). I'm not sure if anyone besides me will find it useful, but if so, enjoy!
June 17, 2003
Rolling a certification
I'm not really a big advocate for certification in the UX/ID/IA/ED/TW fields. Certification may be helpful if you want to learn CPR or Novell's LAN technology, but I just don't know how valuable it is for writers or IAs or web designers.
So, as most of us know by now, Tufte is extremely dismayed by the "trillions of slides" being turned out by presentation tools like PowerPoint. So much so, he wrote an essay on the subject, which he'll happily sell you for just a few bucks. If you'd like to get a preview before you consider plunking down your cash, I'd check out Aaron Swartz's funny (well, I thought it funny) PowerPoint Remix, Tufte's essay presented in essentially PowerPoint form.
But here are a few presentations I've come across recently whose slides really make me wish I'd been at the events. But the actual artifacts are pretty nice, and while I'd love more context, I found all of these interesting and informative.
Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? (PDF) by Jean-luc Doumont, at the inaugural meeting of STC's chapter in Eindhoven, the Netherlands (8 Mar 2001). I was lucky to get the opportunity to meet Jean-luc this past May at STC's conference in Dallas, where he presented a very popular workshop (twice, per my request) on understanding visual communication.
Sharing Knowledge is Better than Having It (PPT) by Peter Bogaards at STC Belgium's chapter meeting (23 May 2003). The sub-title is "Structure, Content, and Form in the Information Design/Architecture of Information Artifacts" and leads off by introducing what's in a name? What more could you ask for :)
IA as Conversation: It's Not Just What You Say but How You Say it (PDF) by George Olsen at the IA Summit in Portland (23 Mar 2003). George looks at how the metaphor of conversation can be used to do better designs.
The subjects are all interesting and relevant, but what is particularly nice is to see what happens when someone with good graphic/visual/comm design sense approaches their slides. BTW, Marc Rettig's interaction design history in a teeny little nut shell (presented at CMU in February 2003) is in this category too; I mentioned it back in March.
June 11, 2003
Designs & Destinations
Boy, I wish this conference was a car- or train-ride away (a two-day conference and an across-the-pond venue aren't exactly complementary). But folks near London may want to check out Designs & Destinations, which is being held July 3rd and 4th. Here are the themes:
Can better communication and well-designed information have
an impact on the bottom line?
Their website is a bit curious (no web conventions for them), but the sessions look worthwhile. If you're nearby and can afford 500 pounds, it might be worthwhile to go and rub elbows with Erik Spiekermann :)
June 09, 2003
Whither visual design?
Here's another highlight from Design Research News (see earlier entry today) that I felt deserved special focus. Book review editor Ken Friedman chose to showcase the University of California at Irvine's Proposal for a School of Design (hefty PDF!) in the books section of DRN. Here is a just a bit of Ken's comments:
When one of the world's great universities plans a major,
new design school, the planning process is as interesting -
and important - as the result. ...
My apologies if my editing misleads (see DRN for Ken's full review).
But this was what caught my attention. At the BA level, the UCI program will offer degrees in Design Studies, Interaction Design, Product Design, and Spatial Design. At the MA level, the program will cover Interaction Design, Vehicle Design, Product Design, Spatial Design, Universal Design, and Design Management.
Is it just me, or is it really curious that no flavor of visual design (e.g., graphic design, information design, or communication design etc.) are offered in a project proposal that "has already taken three years from the initial commission to the consultation and consensus process needed for the immense investment required by a new school of design."
I realize that no single school can be all to everyone. And perhaps because I haven't read their entire 188-pg report, I'm missing some context that would explain their focus. But this isn't the first time I've gotten the feeling that visual design (in its non-product, non-interactive sense) is the poor step-child to design in the physical sense.
Today's design reader
David Durling has come out with the June issue of the Design Research News. If you haven't already, you may want to subscribe, but if the last thing you need is another subscription, here are a few highlights I found interesting.
Interdisciplines. I'm not sure what this site is really about, as explanation "a website for interdisciplinary research in the humanities" leaves a bit to be desired. But I liked the looks of some of the offerings on their page of links, which you may be into if you care about the overlap of technology, art, and the social sciences.
NextDesign Leadership Institute. This is a new initiative which is building their offerings. Here is their mission:
Part 1: To help raise awareness regarding how the challenges of design leadership have radically changed at the leading edge of the marketplace.
They do have a preliminary online journal going, so you may want to start with that if design leadership is an interest area.
June 08, 2003
Root of information design?
Interesting. I've often told people that information design is what happens when graphic design marries usability. Of course, I don't really mean that explicitly, since I think information design encompasses much more than just usable graphic design.
Anyways, I thought of this when I read peterme's recent comment on empathy in user experience: "non-empathic geeks become engineers, and empathic geeks become information designers."
I think that usability folk tend to be an empathic lot as well! I suppose one could care about the end user without "feeling" for the end user, but the two just do seem to go together. Anyways, check out Peter's comments for why we might want to extend this empathy to our colleagues and clients.
Design process and standards
The fine folks at Digital Web Magazine have pointed to a great article by Doug Bowman at stopdesign titled In the Garden: A Design Process Revealed, where he uses his entry for the CSS Zen Garden as fodder for a design process case study. A very nice read for designers and non-designers alike.
Afterwards, you'd be well served by taking a stroll thru the CSS Zen Garden:
The css Zen Garden invites you to relax and meditate on the important lessons of the masters. Begin to see with clarity. Learn to use the (yet to be) timehonored techniques in new and invigorating fashion. Become one with the web.
Once done with that, do check out web guru Zeldman's silver lining in the depressing news about AOL's surrender to Microsoft:
If you cant see the good, here it is: what IE6 is capable of makes a far better platform for standards-based design than what Netscape 4 can do, which was where many of us were trapped the last time the browser space froze.
I see his point, but pardon me for thinking, "hmm, that's damning with faint praise."
June 06, 2003
I just spent the last three days at a WebTrends class. Since we've been using WebTrendsLive for two years, the first two days were a total wash (yep, I know the difference between a 'hit' and a 'page view'). Fortunately, on day three we got to the advanced stuff (and the things that were different between WTL and the new WebTrends Reporting Service we were being migrated to).
Since my company had moved to web-accessible Outlook, I spent the better part of those first two days on email, dealing with work stuff. I had a great PC, with all the Windows 2000 bells and trappings that the training center could muster.
Know what I really missed? My AmphetaDesk RSS reader.
Yes, I had a web browser with broadband access to the web. But without my nice little RSS subscriptions (I think I'm at 50+ weblogs now), it was just impossible to do my daily check up on all but my faves.
So, it was kind of amusing today (now that I could surf thru all my subscriptions) to see this blogged by Doc Searls: RSS newsreaders are TiVo for blogs.
I had to laugh, as I'm also a TiVo devotee now. I hadn't been that tempted by their offering, but I figured my TV-happy sister would love it, so I bought one off of eBay one November (there weren't any available in stores that close to Christmas) and then decided to make sure it was working.
I hooked it up, and three days later, I knew I wasn't giving her the one that I had bought. It was just way too cool to be able to pause live TV so you could go to the loo or answer the phone. Couple that with the way that it could easily record the programs you were interested in, and that was it...I'm a DVR lifer!
RSS has been much the same. I don't tend to read my weblogs via the RSS interface. But it helps me know when one of the weblogs I like has new content, and thus saves me all that "oh drat, hasn't been updated" effort to stay current.
RSS=TiVo? Maybe not, but I'd sure hate to give up either.
June 05, 2003
How Designers Work
I haven't had a chance to check this out, what with travel and training recently, but it seems worth passing along! It is Henryk Gedenryd's doctoral dissertation How Designers Work.
Ken Friedman, who alerted folks on the PhD-Design list, had this to say:
As mentioned in earlier notes, this dissertation is interesting and worth reading. The bibliography is especially helpful to those who are exploring the area of design practice and the situated thinking that designers use as they design.
If you're into design dissertations, you may also like this resource that Ken shared with the list: doctoral dissertations from the Center for Design Research at Stanford University.
Here's some good news. Eric Scheid (of Sydney, Australia) has resolved the myriad hardware problems that have kept the IAwiki offline recently. Big yay! I think wikis are fabulous, and this one is my favorite. If you've not checked it out, then please do!
June 04, 2003
Reclaiming the public domain
I just signed Lessig's petition to Reclaim the Public Domain. Here's a bit about it:
We have launched a petition to build support for the Public Domain Enhancement Act. That act would require American copyright holders to pay $1 fifty years after a work was published. If they pay the $1, the copyright continues. If they donít, the work passes into the public domain. Historical estimates would suggest 98% of works would pass into the pubilc domain after 50 years. The Act would do a great deal to reclaim a public domain.
If this resonates with you, please consider signing and/or passing the word.
June 02, 2003
Usability vs market research
A post by Whitney Quesenbery on the experience design list pointed me to a (newish?) article on her website where she provides a nice overview of the difference between usability and market research. Quoting from her email:
Market research helps a company find out what its customers or users want. Usability evaluation helps you determine whether you have meet those needs and wants.
She's got some other great articles as well, including one which paints a much broader picture of usability--the 5 E's of usability. (Now if only we could get her to do a weblog :)
June 01, 2003
A laugh riot, fish-style
Hmmm, how can I make the following relevant to an information design weblog?
Probably not. But there absolutely must be an experience design tie in some how. All I know is that Finding Nemo is probably the best movie I've seen with my 8-yr-old nieces. Yes, the visual design is spectacular, and there's a cute story, but I suppose I should be embarassed to admit just how funny I found this movie (e.g., I laughed out loud when I heard the 'volcano' in the fish tank is named "Mt. Hock-a-Loogie"). In particular, Ellen DeGeneres' character (above right, blue, who plays off beautifully against Albert Brooks character, above left) has most of the great lines...I almost totally lost it during the whale scene.
If you know a kid, take them. If not, you can either go for the humor (some of which is low-brow...the fart joke scene is pretty funny too) or just the fabulous animation work.
Dilbert does Mars vs Venus
Hmm, not sure if this is Dilbet being behind the times or getting on the usability bandwagon, but it was amusing to see a variation of the Mars vs Venus (read: usability vs design) played out on the comic stage:
Google contender -- not?
From the Register (UK):
You're not going to believe this, but a new search engine has just appeared and, well, it may be better than Google.
Our search function is currently disabled. We are experiencing a very high load. Please try again later.
Contender to Google? I bet Turbo10's backers hope the aphorism "you never get a second chance to make a first impression" isn't true in their case.
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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