Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Better Skills Through Better Research

Stephen Heller

HELLER, S. (2006) Better Skills Through Better Research. In: A. BENNETT, ed. Design Studies: Theory and Research in Graphic Design - A Reader. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, p10-13

"The term 'graphic designer,' as coined by W. A. Dwiggins in 1922, was meant to confer a loftier professional standing than the more common and now archaic 'commercial artist'." (p10)

It was in Heller's essay that I first came across Dwiggins' name and the origin of a term that I had been so familiar with for 25+ years. The fact that it was coined in the twenties during the period of so many Modernist art movements that heavily influenced the development of graphic design was notable.

Lost and Found: Critical Voices in New British Design

Rick Poynor

Poynor, R. (1999) Made in Britain: The Ambiguous Image. In N. Barley, S. Coates, M. Field and C. Roux. Lost and Found: Critical Voices in New British Design. London: Birkhauser Verlag AG/The British Council. Pp 28-31

“As both a profession and a form of practice, graphic design is in a state of flux. While the activities it encompasses can be traced back to the invention of writing itself, the term was not coined until the early 1920s and it is only in the postwar years that it became a commonly accepted form of designation amongst designers themselves. It has never reached the point of universal public understanding and lexicographers have been notoriously slow to allow it into the dictionary. Now, perhaps, it is already too late. Graphic design is evolving, mutating, merging with other forms of communication.” (Poynor, p28)

This quote was really useful in linking both the origin of the discipline with its future direction.

“If ‘graphic design’ now strikes some designers and design-watchers as too rigid a term, this is partly because it sounds like a largely technical procedure, but particularly because it fails to suggest the expanded possibilities of contemporary visual culture. Within graphic design, there has been much discussion of these issues in recent years, and British designers, despite a general reluctance to theorise their work, have played a central role in these changes.” (Poynor, p28)

This quote explores the rigidity of graphic design's definition within the digital information age suggesting a re-evaluation of the parameters that defines the discipline to date.

“The fundamental difference from the traditional model is that this is a content supplied by the designers [Jonathan Barnbrook, Tomato or Designers Republic] that is extra to the client’s basic message. The client buys into the designer’s personal vision in the belief that, commercially, this is the right thing for their service or product. If they don’t believe this to be the case then they look for a different designer.” (Poynor, p29)

This quote draws together the practioners Barnbrook, Tomato and Designers Republic into the same conversation.

“Tomato speak of relinquishing the world of fixed meanings. Barnbrook and The Designers Republic use ambiguity to unsettle and provoke. Paul Elliman believes a graphic message can either clarify or confound, so long as it contains a vital animating spirit. Sunbather’s Audiorom extends Tomato’s ideas about processes (…) by allowing viewers to enter the process, interact, and generate their own music and poetry. The desire to offer readers, viewers and users open-ended tools with which to create their own meanings is now pervasive within visual communication. It is a measure of this idea’s growing cultural impact that industrial designers are beginning to think in the same way. In an essay on ‘Design Noir’, Tony Dunne conjectures that in product design the challenging could soon shift “from concerns of physical interaction (passive button pushing), to the potential psychological experiences inherent in the product. The user becomes a protagonist and the designer becomes the co-author of the experience.” This is the approach already taken by Tomato, Anti-Rom, The Designers Republic, Fuel and Sunbather.” (Poynor, p31)

This quote references a range of practioners and commentators that future research can explore.

Norman Cooking

Graeme Aymer

Aymer, G. (2001). Norman Cooking. Create Online. Issue 8, January. p38-40

On GUIs limited prospect:
“It really is a good design, but it really didn’t scale well. Where’s it not appropriate is when there are huge amounts of information. The website, if you like, is an entirely graphical interface, but as it gets more complex, the user gets overwhelmed.” (Dr Donald Norman quoted p32)

Another article in Create magazine by Graeme Aymer this time profiling Donald Norman. It was a useful primer to Norman's work. Since reading this I have got around to buying the 2002 edition of "The Design of Everyday Things".

Interaction Guaranteed

Graeme Aymer

Aymer, G. (2001). Interaction Guaranteed. Create Online. Issue 10, March. p32-33

“Originally I was a graphic designer. (…) I thought graphic designers ought to be involved in designing software. That was 1983. Now they are involved, but its taken nearly 20 years for it to happen. That’s really how I started.” (Dr Gillian Crampton Smith quoted p32)

“The danger is, if you use the words ‘interactive design’, its as if the design is interactive. But if we think of graphic design, that applies both to what something looks like and to the design strategy of how you structure this information. And I think interaction design is similar. It’s not just designing the individual interactions that people have with software; it’s designing what a package is and what it does, and then designing what it will be like.” (Dr Gillian Crampton Smith quoted p33)

I found this article profiling Gillian Crampton Smith, ex-director of Ivrea. It was a brilliant find as she discusses not only graphic design and interaction design but also because the revelation that she was a graphic designer, a fact that was extremely useful to my first paper .

More Than Words

Gillian Roach

Roach, G. (2002). More Than Words. Create Online. Issue 27, July. pp48-51

On industry demands for employing designers:
“Well, you can’t be good at everything. You might be a great programmer but that doesn’t necessarily mean you know anything about the craft of typography. It’s quite an involved area and is heavily based around traditional graphic design, whereas Web design is heavily technology-based. The two are very different – just because you’re good at one doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good at the other.” (Jonathan Barnbrook quoted p50)

Jonathan Barnbrook's name as a graphic designer came up within my research. I located this quote from Create magazine whilst looking for something else. I never actually found a use for it in my paper.

Monday, 26 January 2009

The Big IDEO

Graeme Aymer

Aymer, G. (2002). The Big IDEO. Create Online. Issue 29, September. P48-51

“My definition was to find the equivalent of industrial design within the electronic and software world, rather than the physical world. I felt that if you looked at existing disciplines, industrial design and mechanical engineering were obvious partners in terms of being physical things. If you looked at what was happening in software, human factors were there, but on the testing side rather than the creative design side, and the computer science was present. So there seemed a gap in terms someone who was going to look out for the user from the point of view of what they would really enjoy, what would give them satisfaction and pleasure – in other words, the more subjective side of it. And that’s the side of it that I wanted to try and fill with interaction design.” (Bill Moggridge quoted pp49-50)

This quote by Bill Moggridge, quoted in Create magazine, expands upon his defining of 'interaction design' that he discussed in Designing Interactions: Introduction.

The Xerox "Star": A Retrospective

Jeff Johnson and Teresa L. Roberts, U S WEST Advanced Technologies
William Verplank, IDTwo
David C. Smith, Cognition, Inc.
Charles Irby and Marian Beard, Metaphor Computer Systems
Kevin Mackey, Xerox Corporation

Johnson, J., Roberts, T.L., Verplank, W., Smith, D.C., Irby, C., Beard, M.
and Mackey, K. (1989) The Xerox "Star": A Retrospective. [online] (accessed on the World Wide Web 4/1/2009 http://www.digibarn.com/friends/curbow/star/retrospect/)

"One of the most obvious contributions of good graphic design is to provide appropriate visual order and focus to the screen. For example, intensity and contrast, when appropriately applied, draw the user's attention to the most important features of the display.”

"Screen graphics designed by computer programmers will not satisfy customers. The Star designers recognized their limitations in this regard and hired the right people for the job."

This interesting paper about the development of the Xerox "Star" computer GUI in the early 1980s, discussed the role played by graphic designers in the development of its GUI. Above are two quotes that I found very useful.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

No More Rules: Graphic Design and Postmodernism

Rick Poynor

Poynor, R. (2003) No More Rules: Graphic Design and Postmodernism, Laurence King Publishing Ltd.

"Graphic design as a profession has long had an aversion to theory" p10

“No More Rules’ central argument is that one of the most significant developments in graphic design, during the last two decades, has been designers’ overt challenges to the conventions or rules that were once widely regarded as constituting good practice.”
(Poynor, p12)

“The last 20 years “has seen an explosion of creative activity in visual communication, as designers re-examined existing rules and forged new approaches. Graphic design is a much more open, diverse, inclusive and, perhaps too, inventive field as a result of these challenges. (…) As a professional activity, graphic design faces an uncertain future now that the new technology has opened up graphic production and expression to many more people.”
(Poynor, p17)

I never read the entire book as it wasn't fully relevant to my initial area of enquiry regarding graphical user interface design. This enquiry is written up as a paper that can be downloaded here as a pdf. The three quotes above were useful to me to assess the factors that graphic design, as a discipline, is having to address in order to develop and grow.