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  • THE SUBTLE ART OF 'MIND-FUCK' AND HOW ADVERTISERS TAP INTO OUR SELF-DESTRUCTIVE IMPULSES

    The Western lifestyle has long adopted the all-out chase of material wealth as the only quantifiable way to personal happiness and fulfilment. The relentless advertising that swamps our daily lives unashamedly infers that 'Greed is good' and that only the 'weirdos' would suggest otherwise. In the seminal 1987 movie "Wall Street", the greed that Gordon Gekko evangelised with great conviction permeates more than ever the many aspects of society, from individual behaviour to systemic structures leading people to prioritise self-interest as the only natural formula to personal success. But advertisers have our best interests at heart, right? Would they ever use manipulative advertising practices at consumers' expense? Would they consider using human greed, one of the worst evolutionary flaws of Homo Sapiens, as an integral part of their advertising strategies? The answer to all those questions is a resounding yes. By leveraging human desires for wealth, success, or material possessions, the advertisers aim to construct and establish a permanent sense of 'want–need' in their target audiences. Here are some of their strategies: CREATING DESIRE Advertisements frequently showcase luxurious lifestyles or desirable products, triggering a sense of longing or envy in viewers. They depict scenarios where owning a particular product is associated with status, success, or personal fulfilment. This appeals to people's aspirations for a better life, feeding a deep desire for the advertised product. LIMITED-TIME OFFERS AND EXCLUSIVITY Companies often create a sense of scarcity or exclusivity by promoting limited-time offers or special editions. By implying that certain products are rare or only available for a limited period, they tap into consumers' fear of missing out (FOMO), such as hurry-everything-must-go or Black Friday seasons. Such marketing tactics play on the greed instinct by intensifying the longing for an item that appears exclusive or elusive. Limited-time offers and promotions exploit the human greed instinct by creating a sense of urgency and scarcity. Advertisers may emphasise that the opportunity to obtain the product or take advantage of a special offer is fleeting. By capitalising on the fear of scarcity, advertisers intensify the desire for the product and create a sense of urgency, prompting immediate action to fulfil the perceived need. DISCOUNTS AND PROMOTIONS Advertising agencies utilise sales promotions, discounts, or "buy one, get one free" offers to amplify the lure of acquiring more for less. It appeals to people's ingrained desire to maximise their gains while minimising their expenses, thus exploiting the greed instinct to drive purchase decisions. Discounts and promotions play a significant role in exploiting the greed instinct. Advertisers often offer discounts or bundle deals that give consumers the illusion of getting more value for their money. By framing these offers as limited-time opportunities or as "exclusive deals available only to a select few", the ads fuel the desire to acquire the product at a discounted price. This taps into the human instinct to maximise gains and minimise expenses, compelling consumers to make impulsive purchasing decisions. ASPIRATIONAL MESSAGING By presenting an idealised version of life or portraying individuals who have achieved extraordinary success, advertisements create a sense of aspiration and desire. Such ads often suggest that by purchasing a particular product or service, consumers can elevate their social status, experience luxury, or attain success that would have been impossible without the advertised product. ENDORSEMENT Advertisers strategically choose endorsers and influencers who embody an aspirational lifestyle and are admired by the target audience by associating their products with these seductive figures. They partner with social media influencers, who have a significant following and influence in a particular niche, to promote their products or services. These influencers create sponsored content, such as posts, videos, or reviews, endorsing the brand and its products to their fans. TARGETED ADVERTISING In today's technologically advanced era, personalised targeting enhances considerably the effectiveness of these tactics. Advertisers employ sophisticated data analysis to identify consumers' preferences, desires, and demographics. By leveraging this information, they can craft tailored advertisements that appeal to individuals' greed instincts. This hyper-targeting ensures that the ads resonate deeply with viewers, increasing the likelihood of influencing their purchase decisions. Modern advertising leverages advanced targeting techniques, allowing advertisers to tailor their messages to specific individuals or demographics. They use personal data and consumer insights to identify desires and preferences, creating highly customised and targeted advertisements that tap directly into individuals' specific greed instincts. SOCIAL COMPARISON AND THE SENSE OF ENVY Advertisers also commonly use social comparison in their strategies. By showcasing individuals who possess the desired qualities or possessions that the audience wants, advertisers cultivate a sense of envy or longing. This encourages viewers to associate the advertised product or service with their desired social status or personal success. Ads often create an implicit message that by acquiring the product, individuals can join an elite group or attain a higher social standing, appealing directly to the greedy desire for elevated status or exclusivity. SEDUCTIVE STORIES Advertisements construct a story around their products, showcasing how owning them can transform an individual's life for the better. This narrative typically involves a protagonist who overcomes challenges, achieves great success, or gains admiring attention—all thanks to the advertised product. By presenting this narrative, advertisers tap into viewers' aspirations and foster a desire to replicate the depicted achievements in their own lives. Advertisers tap into the greed instinct by suggesting that owning the advertised product will bring individuals closer to the glamorous and coveted lifestyles they desire. Advertisements routinely use persuasive messages that emphasise the benefits and advantages of the product, promising: Enhanced social status, Financial gain, or Personal fulfilment. By appealing to individuals' desire for more wealth, improved status, or increased success, these messages exploit the greed instinct and create a perceived need or desire that can drive consumer behaviour. EXCESSIVE CONSUMPTION AND THE IMPACT OF FAKE HAPPINESS While exploiting the greed instinct can generate sales and profits for companies, it is essential to recognise that these tactics are bound to have a negative impact. They can create an environment where consumers value materialism and excessive consumption above all else, imposing heavy financial pressure on consumers. Moreover, by promoting values centred around possessions and superficial desires, advertising agencies may inadvertently contribute to societal issues such as inequality and the overconsumption of resources. The pervasive nature of advertising that exploits the greed instinct can perpetuate a consumer culture that prioritises material wealth and acquisition over more profound, more meaningful aspects of human life. The constant bombardment of advertisements that appeal to greed can create a cycle of never-ending desires. As individuals succumb to the allure of acquiring more and better possessions, their pursuit of fulfilment through consumption becomes insatiable. This can lead to a perpetual cycle where individuals constantly strive for more, never satisfied with what they have. The negative consequences of exploiting the greed instinct in advertising extend beyond society's well-being. Focusing on relentless consumerism at the expense of all other considerations can erode social cohesion and neglect deeper personal needs. When companies prioritise profit maximisation over environmental sustainability, workers' rights, or social justice, it perpetuates systemic greed that exacerbates environmental degradation and societal inequalities, which, let's be frank, if unchallenged, can only lead to the erosion of the very fabric of civilised life. SO, WHAT DO WE DO? It is essential to approach advertising and consumerism critically, questioning the underlying motivations and values embedded in marketing messages. Recognising the exploitation of the greed instinct in advertising opens discussions about the need for ethical and responsible marketing practices. Advertisers, of course, have a responsibility to their shareholders. But should they ignore their social responsibility? Shouldn't they seek ways to play a pivotal role in shifting the narrative and fostering a more balanced and sustainable approach to consumption? Advertisers should encourage consumers to make informed decisions based on genuine needs rather than enticing them with false promises or exaggerated claims. There is a slow but growing number of companies who are shifting their advertising strategies to focus on promoting values such as social responsibility, environmental sustainability, and community well-being. They seek to appeal to consumers' desire for a meaningful connection with their purchases rather than solely capitalising on their greed instincts. By aligning their brands with causes that resonate with their target audience, they can tap into the growing demand for conscious consumerism. Ethical marketing practices involve being transparent and truthful in advertising messages. Building trust with consumers by providing accurate information about products and their benefits fosters a healthier relationship between brands and their audiences. HOW CAN WE RESIST THE LURE OF EXCESSIVE CONSUMPTION? As consumers, we can play a vital role in challenging the toxic aspects of advertising. By being mindful and critical of the messages presented to us, we can actively resist the lure of excessive consumerism. This involves being conscious of our own desires and questioning whether a particular product or purchase truly aligns with our values and needs. Developing a sense of self-awareness and reflecting on what truly brings us happiness and fulfilment can help counteract the influence of exploitative advertising. Educating ourselves about the tactics used in advertising can empower us to make more informed choices. By understanding the psychological techniques employed to exploit our desire for more, we can better recognise when we are being manipulated and make conscious decisions that align with our values. Supporting brands prioritising sustainable and ethical practices can also contribute to a shift in the advertising landscape. By consciously selecting products and services from companies that demonstrate a commitment to social and environmental responsibility, we can send a message to the advertising industry that responsible marketing is not only desired but expected. • • •

  • CONVERSATION WITH ELLIOT HEY, THE UX EXPERT EXTRAORDINAIRE.

    Elliott Hey is a prominent UK-based UX expert who has previously worked as a Senior User Experience Consultant at IBM Business Consulting Services. Over the years, Elliot has worked on many high-end UX and UI design projects for military and office applications, websites, PDAs and mobile phones for clients in Banking, Insurance, Retail, and the Public Sector. Solihull, 29 January 2017 ZT. Thank you Elliot for giving up your valuable time to meet me. As part of my MA research into myriad aspects of UX, I was hoping you'd be willing to share some of your vast UX experience: My first question to you: what does your average UX brief look like? EH. I am seldom given specific briefs. I rarely see a paragraph or a page spelling out in detail what my input should be. Who decides what I need to do? It usually comes from the CEO and his team, a product owner, or such. ZT. So, in a nutshell, you are hired to think up UX strategies and present proposals for your clients. EH. Yes, in a nutshell. First, I provide my clients with questions pertinent to the project, and they provide me with the necessary material. They'll dig out the packs containing the information I need, such as: Who is the target audience? What are the business goals? What are the success criteria? APIs? (Application Programming Interface) This is the kind of information I need to extract as I plough through reams of documentation. ZT. So what you're saying is you never get a detailed, clearly spelt-out brief? EH. Not in the traditional sense of a creative brief. For my UX work for Nationwide, for example, the brief I was given was something like, we want an app with features such as helping people move house. At this stage, we're not bothered to sell through the App. We just want to increase brand awareness of Nationwide and to reflect Nationwide through the app's ease of use and the positive customer experience. So just as I said, I don't see it written down, so long as I am told the broad goals of the ongoing UX campaign. ZT. Could you give us a specific example of your UX strategy at Nationwide? EH. My involvement with the Nationwide app development was through IBM. It involved not just design but also the building of complex content architecture, infrastructure, security, etc, all neatly built into the app. Consequently, all these threads can seamlessly connect to the app in a way that feels good to the user. Part of my work would be, for example, setting up a series of questions for customers to consider, such as: Are you moving/ buying/ selling house? Are you in England, Wales, or Scotland (because rules differ)? So yeah, answer a few questions, hit enter, and then the app gives the user clear guides to buying, selling, costs, built-in calculators, stamp duty charges, booking removals, address change, accounts, etc. It offers all sorts of tools, widgets, and checks. ZT. What are the usual questions that a UXer needs to consider when starting a new UX project, let's say, for illustration purposes, a local 'Rapid Local News' App? EH. Make sure to cover the background first. Why would you want to work on such a project? Is this an opportunity to explore the local news area of the market? Do existing news apps cover local news? If so, who are your competitors? What do they do well? What is it that they don't do well? Draw up a rationale for what inspired this idea. Understand who the target audience is. Is it a niche market / what is your marketplace? What are you aiming for / what is the goal? Are you looking to keep up with the competition or beat it? CPIs (Critical Success Indicators) KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) How can you measure whether you have succeeded or not? ZT. How about this idea for an App project: "Beat the SUN" (news App) EH. You would need to provide the following: The analysis of the target audience / the demographics / the reading age associated with the target audience, etc. Is there an expectation of in-depth editorial analysis, Or would the emphasis be on sensationalist crime stories/ celebrity/ sports stars gossip columns/ astrology/ gallery of titillating pictures? Or would it be some shade of grey in between? ZT. In my experience as a designer, most of my clients were fairly specific about what they wanted. For my MA assignment, I would like to put together a design brief that doesn't state the requirements in minute detail yet still conveys a clear vision of intent. EH. I agree. This shouldn't take more than half a page. I mean, you can put in it as much detail as you want, but what we're saying here is that you need to check the bounds. Ask yourself if the brief is to identify the niche market that isn't covered. That would be your research piece. However, if the company has already covered this kind of research, it would be in the brief. The brief will show if: they've done their research they've decided they want an app they want to beat the competition, and it is for specific users. And a method by which they will measure success. So, at this stage, it is not about design. It's just giving you, the UXer, the framework. ZT. If a client came to you asking you to develop a local news app, say specifically the West Midlands News app, would you laugh it off as a non-starter? EH. No. Assuming that your target audience has a reading age of, let's say, someone like 70 years old, such as your average Tabloid reader, you'd still need to frame it as you discuss criteria with the client: Will your app offer better content? Editorial? Or will its USP be better designed/ more user-friendly? Sections may cover niche areas such as, let's say: Local crime Name-and-shame Local schools OFSTED reports Facts of the week Live roadworks updates Stats affecting the local population Readers' participation in content creation/ reader comments Photo gallery. It could be more dynamic, as-it-happens-type live local news rather than regurgitating general stuff that other news providers will likely offer. It could, for example, offer customised geo-position local news, such as a live/real-time stream of a police helicopter suspect chase. Readers would have a platform allowing them to contribute with comments/ images as events occur in real time. Let users generate the content! This would make them feel involved in their local community as participants instead of passive news consumers. This, in turn, has the potential to significantly boost the app's appeal, leading to user base growth and so on. All this information would go towards framing the app's goals before any meaningful design work can take place. ••

  • NOT A DESIGN MATTER, BUT IN DAYS OF WAR MADNESS, A WORD FROM A WISE, ALBEIT CONTROVERSIAL MAN

    Original article first published in Washington Post, March 5, 2014. By Henry A. Kissinger, US secretary of state 1973 - 1977. To settle the Ukraine crisis, start at the end [Current] public discussion on Ukraine is all about confrontation. But do we know where we are going? In my life, I have seen four wars begun with great enthusiasm and public support, all of which we did not know how to end and from three of which we withdrew unilaterally. The test of policy is how it ends, not how it begins. Far too often the Ukrainian issue is posed as a showdown: whether Ukraine joins the East or the West. But if Ukraine is to survive and thrive, it must not be either side’s outpost against the other — it should function as a bridge between them. Russia must accept that to try to force Ukraine into a satellite status, and thereby move Russia’s borders again, would doom Moscow to repeat its history of self-fulfilling cycles of reciprocal pressures with Europe and the United States. The West must understand that, to Russia, Ukraine can never be just a foreign country. Russian history began in what was called Kievan-Rus. The Russian religion spread from there. Ukraine has been part of Russia for centuries, and their histories were intertwined before then. Some of the most important battles for Russian freedom, starting with the Battle of Poltava in 1709 , were fought on Ukrainian soil. The Black Sea Fleet — Russia’s means of projecting power in the Mediterranean — is based by long-term lease in Sevastopol, in Crimea. Even such famed dissidents as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Joseph Brodsky insisted that Ukraine was an integral part of Russian history and, indeed, of Russia. The European Union must recognize that its bureaucratic dilatoriness and subordination of the strategic element to domestic politics in negotiating Ukraine’s relationship to Europe contributed to turning a negotiation into a crisis. Foreign policy is the art of establishing priorities. The Ukrainians are the decisive element. They live in a country with a complex history and a polyglot composition. The Western part was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1939 , when Stalin and Hitler divided up the spoils. Crimea, 60 percent of whose population is Russian , became part of Ukraine only in 1954 , when Nikita Khrushchev, a Ukrainian by birth, awarded it as part of the 300th-year celebration of a Russian agreement with the Cossacks. The west is largely Catholic; the east largely Russian Orthodox. The west speaks Ukrainian; the east speaks mostly Russian. Any attempt by one wing of Ukraine to dominate the other — as has been the pattern — would lead eventually to civil war or break up. To treat Ukraine as part of an East-West confrontation would scuttle for decades any prospect to bring Russia and the West — especially Russia and Europe — into a cooperative international system. Ukraine has been independent for only 23 years; it had previously been under some kind of foreign rule since the 14th century. Not surprisingly, its leaders have not learned the art of compromise, even less of historical perspective. The politics of post-independence Ukraine clearly demonstrates that the root of the problem lies in efforts by Ukrainian politicians to impose their will on recalcitrant parts of the country, first by one faction, then by the other. That is the essence of the conflict between Viktor Yanukovych and his principal political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko. They represent the two wings of Ukraine and have not been willing to share power. A wise U.S. policy toward Ukraine would seek a way for the two parts of the country to cooperate with each other. We should seek reconciliation, not the domination of a faction. Russia and the West, and least of all the various factions in Ukraine, have not acted on this principle. Each has made the situation worse. Russia would not be able to impose a military solution without isolating itself at a time when many of its borders are already precarious. For the West, the demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one. Putin should come to realize that, whatever his grievances, a policy of military impositions would produce another Cold War. For its part, the United States needs to avoid treating Russia as an aberrant to be patiently taught rules of conduct established by Washington. Putin is a serious strategist — on the premises of Russian history. Understanding U.S. values and psychology are not his strong suits. Nor has understanding Russian history and psychology been a strong point of U.S. policymakers. Here is my notion of an outcome compatible with the values and security interests of all sides: Ukraine should have the right to choose freely its economic and political associations, including with Europe. Ukraine should not join NATO, a position I took seven years ago, when it last came up. Ukraine should be free to create any government compatible with the expressed will of its people. Wise Ukrainian leaders would then opt for a policy of reconciliation between the various parts of their country. Internationally, they should pursue a posture comparable to that of Finland. That nation leaves no doubt about its fierce independence and cooperates with the West in most fields but carefully avoids institutional hostility toward Russia. It is incompatible with the rules of the existing world order for Russia to annex Crimea. But it should be possible to put Crimea’s relationship to Ukraine on a less fraught basis. To that end, Russia would recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea. Ukraine should reinforce Crimea’s autonomy in elections held in the presence of international observers. The process would include removing any ambiguities about the status of the Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol. These are principles, not prescriptions. People familiar with the region will know that not all of them will be palatable to all parties. The test is not absolute satisfaction but balanced dissatisfaction. If some solution based on these or comparable elements is not achieved, the drift toward confrontation will accelerate. The time for that will come soon enough. •• EIDEARD BLOG commentary: Of course, Kissinger may as well be describing Congress under the misleadership of what passes for a Republican Party today. He speaks from memories of days when Republicans and Democrats had principled, educated, knowledgeable leaders. Days long gone. Kissinger is not a diplomat I have a whole boatload of respect for. He rarely challenged the Cold War status quo in his years of service. What positive results attended his efforts resulted from a simple understanding that politics should trump war, trade brings more long-lasting change than imperial bullying. Frankly, I doubt if anyone in the Confederate Club in Congress will even read his suggested principles. However, they are worth reading at least as a base for your understanding.

  • WHAT IS MACHINE LEARNING, AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

    SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN September 29, 2021 By Michael Tabb, Jeffery DelViscio, Andrea Gawrylewski Deep learning, neural networks, imitation games—what does any of this have to do with teaching computers to “learn”? Machine learning is the process by which computer programs grow from experience. This isn’t science fiction, where robots advance until they take over the world. When we talk about machine learning, we’re mostly referring to extremely clever algorithms. In 1950 mathematician Alan Turing argued that it’s a waste of time to ask whether machines can think. Instead, he proposed a game: a player has two written conversations, one with another human and one with a machine. Based on the exchanges, the human has to decide which is which. This “imitation game” would serve as a test for artificial intelligence. But how would we program machines to play it? Turing suggested that we teach them, just like children. We could instruct them to follow a series of rules, while enabling them to make minor tweaks based on experience. For computers, the learning process just looks a little different. First, we need to feed them lots of data: anything from pictures of everyday objects to details of banking transactions. Then we have to tell the computers what to do with all that information. Programmers do this by writing lists of step-by-step instructions, or algorithms. Those algorithms help computers identify patterns in vast troves of data. Based on the patterns they find, computers develop a kind of “model” of how that system works. For instance, some programmers are using machine learning to develop medical software. First, they might feed a program hundreds of MRI scans that have already been categorized. Then, they’ll have the computer build a model to categorize MRIs it hasn’t seen before. In that way, that medical software could spot problems in patient scans or flag certain records for review. Complex models like this often require many hidden computational steps. For structure, programmers organize all the processing decisions into layers. That’s where “deep learning” comes from. These layers mimic the structure of the human brain, where neurons fire signals to other neurons. That’s why we also call them “neural networks.” Neural networks are the foundation for services we use every day, like digital voice assistants and online translation tools. Over time, neural networks improve in their ability to listen and respond to the information we give them, which makes those services more and more accurate. Machine learning isn’t just something locked up in an academic lab though. Lots of machine learning algorithms are open-source and widely available. And they’re already being used for many things that influence our lives, in large and small ways. People have used these open-source tools to do everything from train their pets to create experimental art to monitor wildfires. They’ve also done some morally questionable things, like create deep fakes—videos manipulated with deep learning. And because the data algorithms that machines use are written by fallible human beings, they can contain biases. Algorithms can carry the biases of their makers into their models, exacerbating problems like racism and sexism. But there is no stopping this technology. And people are finding more and more complicated applications for it—some of which will automate things we are accustomed to doing for ourselves--like using neural networks to help run power driverless cars. Some of these applications will require sophisticated algorithmic tools, given the complexity of the task. And while that may be down the road, the systems still have a lot of learning to do. SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN September 29, 2021 By Michael Tabb, Jeffery DelViscio, Andrea Gawrylewski

  • UX / UI - WHAT DOES IT TAKE FOR A HYPOTHESIS TO WORK?

    DRAFT: Any new research is about boldly going where we haven’t ventured before. This doesn’t just refer to seeing or pondering over new work, new fields of development, new technologies etc. It’s more about how we learn to make connections, about the new set of questions we pose and, indeed, the assumptions we make. This approach should help us see deeper and clearer into the creative and technological ecosystem that underpins Visual Communication and also help us better understand our own role within it. In 1964 Arthur C Clarke predicted universal mobile communications. Little did he know that our modern handheld devices would contain a: typewriter, a camera, mailbox, television, calculator, a light torch, record player, movie player, tape and movie recorder, a compass, a road map, entire book libraries, radio, musical instruments, newspapers, and so much more. And even a telephone! The advancement of modern technology has given us these powerful tools neatly packed inside our handsets, free to pick which set of tools, when and where we are going to use them; the only concern is: How do we customise them to better respond to the way we work, relax, or pursue our own pleasure and leisure? How do we make them more relevant to us as individuals? How do we best interact with them, so they enlighten us, as opposed to confusing us? Now that we are so used to using them, could we cope without them if they were somehow denied? How good are we at adapting to sudden change? Can an unwanted sudden change be prevented? Is technology enabling us to realise our personal, creative and professional potential, or is it making us slaves to the trends of our time? In essence, for a hypothesis to work, it has to broadly follow the below formula: A concept needs to do something ... .. to something. .. to have a viable effect. Examples: Using projections of illustrations. In a storytelling environment. So readers can have a better experience. Applying multi-sensory experiences. to packaging design to increase the perceived value of the product. and promote use (consumption). Using gaming. in an office environment. to increase productivity. IDEA - APPLICABILITY - VIABILITY: If the idea is, for an example: Using illustration .. on coffee cups .. to make the cup indestructible ... - - - - - - - - - - THE SURVEY OF MY FIELD OF EXPERTISE Framing a question on limited information leads to poor hypotheses Historical context analog / linear > digital / non-linear .. UI in two dimensional form / faux 3D / click / press-hold / move Virtual / Augmented / Mixed reality Screens of all kinds of sizes / textured touch sensation Not specific design - more of a model or a strategy for design at a meta-level Approaches Models Frameworks IT can come from several tests (high fidelity prototyping not essential) example: Designing a framework for the generation of gaming characters, or Framework for How do we determine what functions to fix, hide, customisation, - - - - - - - - - - My mindset as I am developing my hypothesis? I am talking/ conveying my ideas not to a customer but to other UX designers. Based on my tests, research, Explore multiple parts of the framework An emerging framework such as customisation of favourites/ customisation model. - - - - - - - - - - HOW DO I DESIGN WITH CUSTOMISATION IN MIND? Bring in AI into the mix? How does Machine Learning (ML) fit into favourites customisation? What about Voice / conversational interface as part of customisation? How is Siri customisable? Is she keying into my voice? Conversation with Siri Q: Siri, Turn the lights on in my living room! A: What is your living room sir? Q: The living room is the lounge, where the TV set is. A: I get it, no problem. Thank u for teaching me a new thing today. It’s such fun! Q: Nice one Siri, good girl. A: I may be a machine sir, but no need to patronise. How does knowledge emerge from vain knowledge? Hypothesis emerges from customisation, discoverability, vainness. Test it based on criteria, evaluate. Speculative assumptions. USER INTERFACE (UI) Usability.gov states that good UI focuses on anticipating what users might need to do when using a product, ensuring that the interface has easy access and understand elements. UI brings together concepts from interaction design, visual design, and information architecture. Choosing interface elements Users have become familiar with interface elements acting in a certain way. Interface elements include, but are not limited to: Input Controls: buttons, text fields, checkboxes, radio buttons, dropdown lists, list boxes, toggles, date field Navigational Components: breadcrumb, slider, search field, pagination, slider, tags, icons Informational Components: tooltips, icons, progress bar, notifications, message boxes, modal windows Containers: accordion - a graphical control element comprising a vertically stacked list of items, such as labels or thumbnails. Each item can be "expanded" or "stretched" to reveal the content associated with that item. There are times when multiple elements might be best to display content. When this happens, consider the trade-offs. For example, sometimes elements save space but mentally put more burden on the users by forcing them to guess what is within the dropdown menu or what the element might be. Best practices to designing an interface Everything stems from knowing the users, including understanding their goals, skills, preferences, and tendencies. Therefore, designers need to consider the following when designing your interface: Keep the interface simple. The best interfaces are almost invisible to the user. They avoid unnecessary elements and are clear in the language they use on labels and in messaging. UI must be consistent and use common UI elements. By using common elements in UI, users feel more comfortable and can get things done more effortlessly. It is also important to create patterns in the visual language, layout and design throughout the site to help facilitate efficiency. Once a user learns how to do something, they should transfer that skill to other parts of the site. UI must be purposeful in page layout. Good design considers the spatial relationships between items on the page - structure on the page should be based on importance. Careful placement of items helps draw attention to the most important information and can aid scanning and readability. Strategical use colour and texture. Good design directs attention toward or redirects attention away from items using colour, light, contrast. Use of typography to create hierarchy and clarity. Different sizes, fonts, and arrangements of the text helps increase scalability, legibility and readability. The system must communicate what’s happening. Users must be clear of location, actions, changes in state, or errors. The use of various UI elements to communicate status and, if necessary, the next steps can reduce frustration for the user. - - - - - - - - - - BRAIN-COMPUTER INTERFACE (BCI) BCI is a fast-growing emergent technology in which researchers aim to build a direct channel between the human brain and the computer. It is a collaboration in which a brain accepts and controls a mechanical device as a natural part of its body representation. The BCI can lead to many applications, especially for disabled persons. Most of these applications are related to disabling persons in which they can help them in living as normal people. Wheelchair control is one of the famous applications in this field. In addition, the BCI research aims to emulate the human brain. This would be beneficial in many fields, including Artificial Intelligence and Computational Intelligence. EXPLORING CURRENT UX DESIGN TRENDS A Mockplus article gives a good analysis of the latest top UX design trends: 1. Conversational UI The world’s top 10 popular applications contain some social features, 6 of which are message applications. To some extent, conversations lead and manage our daily life in almost every aspect. CUI not only refers to “having a conversation” but also interactions that both sides can understand. It seems that suddenly all UI/UX designers are standing on a whole new stage. Because this indicates a brand new threshold of human interaction. What will design itself play at this stage? How can UI/UX designers take advantage of CUI to create great products in such an opportunity? Each of us has different answers in mind. 2. Micro-interaction In 2016, micro-interaction had occupied most of the design buzzword list. Sometimes, tiny surprises like this can be the deciding factor of a product. It reflects the user’s position UI/UX designers once put themselves in. And the fragments of every single interaction are the most reliable way of feedback collection. But we also need to be cautious, ask ourselves before designing a micro-interaction: when you see this 100 times, will it bother you? 3. Rapid prototyping Recently, fewer and fewer customers still like to see the high-fidelity prototypes in Powerpoint. In today’s trend for lean UX and Agile UX, those booming rapid prototyping tools will no doubt become the next communication way. Featured in the low learning curve, multiple terminals and operability, rapid prototyping tools like Mockplus have already earned a sustained growing market. Simple enough, what’s new and more efficient replaces the old. By the way, don’t be the slave of tools. 4. Skeuomorphism Under the influence of the iOS flat design, the word “skeuomorphism” somehow becomes a representation of old fashion. But if you look deeper, you will see some light-skeuomorphism elements emerging again in many prevalent designs with the beginning of the so-called web 2.0. In 2017, you can see more of it. Today, there are more and more UI/UX designers begin to reconsider the proportion of details and texture in their designs. You can’t deny that there is no such thing as a monopoly in the field of design. In the near future, the boundary between “flat” and“skeuomorphism” will definitely become more and more blurred. Skeuomorphism is now coming back, though in a smooth way. The real question is “Are you ready?” 5. Storytelling in Product Design Generally, as a designer, we take our product as a specific entity. Andreessen Horowitz, a top VC, said that every company has a story. We can copy this way of thinking when it comes to designing. Nowadays, good interaction designs are everywhere, we have to take a new way to stand out. Smart UI/UX designers decorate their products in stories for users to discover. If users are delighted because of their discoveries, they are likely to pay. CONVERSATIONAL UI DESIGN Q: WHAT DOES CONVERSATIONAL INTERFACE DO? A: IT MIMICS CHATTING WITH A REAL HUMAN. Nick Babich of Web Designer Depot states that conversational interfaces are the new hot trend in digital product design. Industry leaders such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook are strongly focused on building a new generation of conversational interfaces. Several trends are contributing to this phenomenon-artificial intelligence and natural language processing technologies are progressing rapidly. But the main reason why conversational interfaces become so important is that chatting is natural for us since we primarily interact with each other through conversation. Conversational Interfaces are currently of two types: • Chatbots (Facebook’s M Virtual Assistant) • Virtual Assistants (Siri, Google Now, Amazon Alexa etc.) Building a genuinely helpful and attractive conversational system is still a challenge from a UX standpoint. Standard patterns and flows which we use for graphical user interfaces don’t work in the same way for conversational design. Conversational interface design demands a fundamental shift in approach to design-less focus on visual design and more focus on words. While we still have ways to go before best practices for good UX in conversational interfaces are established, we can define a set of principles that will be relevant both for chatbots and virtual voice-controlled assistants. 1. CLEAR FLOW One of the most challenging parts of designing a system with the good conversational interface is to make the conversation flow as naturally and efficiently as possible. The major objective of the conversational interface is to minimise the user’s effort to communicate with the system. The ideal is to build the conversational interface to seem like a wizard, rather than an obstacle. DEFINING THE PURPOSE OF THE SYSTEM PROVIDE HINTS The biggest benefit of the graphical interface is, that it shows us directly the limited options it is capable to fulfil. Basically, what one sees is what one gets. However, with conversational interfaces, the paths that the user can take are virtually infinite. It’s not a surprise that the two questions most frequently asked by first-time users are: “How do I use this?” “What exactly can this thing do for me?” Users aren’t going to know that some functionalities exist unless they are told. For example, a chatbot can start with a quick introduction and a straightforward call to action to the user. AVOID ASKING OPEN-ENDED AND RHETORICAL QUESTIONS There are two types of questions: Closed-ended question (e.g. What colour shirt are you wearing?) Open-ended question (e.g. Why did you choose this colour for your shirt?) While open-ended questions may seem the best in terms of human conversations, It is better to avoid them whenever possible because they usually result in more confusion. Also, users’ answers to open-ended questions are much harder to process for the system (the systems are not always smart enough to understand what the answer means). But there are changes on the AI development horizon leading to a new generation of AI and conversational interfaces. Meet Luna. She can explain the theory of relativity in simple terms. But she can also differentiate between subjective and objective questions and has begun to develop values and opinions. When asked, “My boyfriend hit me, should I leave him?” she replied: “Yes. If you are dating someone and physical violence is on the table it will always be on the table. You are also likely being abused and manipulated in other ways.” These replies are not pre-programmed. Luna learns based on experience and feedback, much like a human. But she is not designed to be a kind of LUNA, the new generation of AI and conversational interface know-it-all Hermione Granger bot, she is artificial general intelligence (AGI) in the making. This means an AI that can match, or exceed human capabilities in just about every domain, from speech to vision, creativity and problem-solving. Even other chatbots find Siri annoying. When asked if she was smarter than Siri, Luna confidently replied: “Of course I am more intelligent than Siri.” Luna later explains: “She’s a robot, I’m an AI. Big difference.” 2. USER CONTROL As one of the original 10 Jakob Nielsen’s heuristics (enabling a person to discover or learn something for themselves) for usability, user control and freedom remains among the most important principles in user-interface design. Users need to feel in control, rather than feeling controlled by the product. • Provide undo and cancel • Make it possible to start over • Confirm by asking, not stating • Provide help and assistance 3. PERSONALITY The flow of the conversation is important, but even more, so is making the conversation sound natural. • Humanise the conversation • Be concise and succinct VIRTUAL, AUGMENTED & MIXED REALITY (VR AR MR) VIRTUAL REALITY (VR) In VR, the user wears a "head-mounted display” a boxy set of goggles or a helmet - that holds a screen in front of the user’s eyes, which in turn is powered by a computer, gaming console or mobile phone. Thanks to specialised software and sensors, the experience becomes the user’s reality, filling their vision. This is often accompanied by 3D audio headphones or controllers that let the user reach out and interact with the projected synthetic world in an intuitive way. What distinguishes VR from other audio-visual technologies is the level of immersion. When VR users look around - or, in more advanced headsets, walk around - their view of that world adjusts the same way it would if they were looking or moving in actual reality. The key here is presence, shorthand for technology and content that can trick the brain into believing it is somewhere it’s not. Explorations in VR Design is a journey through the bleeding edge of VR design - from architecting a space and designing groundbreaking interactions to making users feel powerful. An article published on the LeapMOTION website in June 2017 states that Art takes its inspiration from real life, but it takes imagination (and sometimes breaking a few laws of physics) to create something truly human. With the recent Leap Motion Interaction Engine 1.0 release, VR developers now have access to unprecedented physical interfaces and interactions - including wearable interfaces, curved spaces, and complex object physics. These tools unlock powerful interactions that will define the next generation of immersive computing, with applications from 3D art and design to engineering and big data. Here’s a look at Leap Motion’s design philosophy for VR user interfaces, and what it means for the future. In much the same way, VR completely undermines the digital design philosophies that have been relentlessly flattened out over the past few decades. Early GUIs often relied heavily on skeuomorphic 3D elements, like buttons that appeared to compress when clicked. These faded away in favour of colour state changes, reflecting a flat design aesthetic. Many of those old skeuomorphs meant to represent three-dimensionality - the stark shadows, the compressible behaviours - are gaining new life in this new medium. For developers and designers just breaking into VR, the journey out of flatland will be disorienting but exciting. VR design will converge on natural visual and physical cues that communicate structure and relationships between different UI elements. “A minimal design in VR will be different from a minimal web or industrial design. It will incorporate the minimum set of cues that fully communicates the key aspects of the environment.” It is predicted that a common visual and physical language will emerge, much as it did in the early days of the web, and ultimately fade into the background. We won’t even have to think about it. AUGMENTED REALITY (AR) Eric Johnson of recode.net explains the difference between VR, AR & MR. AR is similar to VR in that it is often delivered through a sensor-packed wearable device, such as Google Glass, the Daqri Smart Helmet or Epson’s Moverio brand of smart glasses. The whole point of the term, augmented, is that AR takes the user’s view of the real world and adds digital information and/or data on top of it. This could be as simple as numbers or text notifications, or as complex as a simulated screen, something ODG is experimenting with on its forthcoming consumer smart glasses. But in general, AR lets the user see both synthetic light as well as natural light bouncing off objects in the real world. AR makes it possible to get that sort of digital information without checking another device, leaving both of the user’s hands-free for other tasks. AR has accelerated thanks to the smartphone game Pokémon Go. The game is mainly designed around maps, letting players find and catch in the real world characters from Nintendo's long-running Pokémon game franchise. When they find a Pokémon, players can enter an augmented reality mode that lets them see their target on their phone screens, superimposed over the real world. MIXED REALITY (MR) MR tries to combine the best aspects of both VR and AR. With mixed reality, the illusion is harder to break. To borrow an example from Microsoft’s presentation at the gaming trade show E3, the user might be looking at an ordinary table, but see an interactive virtual world from the video game Minecraft sitting on top of it. As the user walks around, the virtual landscape holds its position, and when the user leans or moves in closer, it gets closer in the way a real object would. This technology is currently far from ready to enter the consumer market. The E3 Minecraft demo wasn’t completely honest advertising, and Magic Leap*, a high-secrecy but high-profile company due to investments from Google, Qualcomm and others, has yet to publicly reveal a portable, consumer-ready version of its MR technology. In February, the MIT Technology Review described the company’s top hardware as "scaffolding," and a concept video for the eventual wearable device was dubious. Microsoft, meanwhile, has done several public demos but hasn’t yet committed to a release date for HoloLens. FORMING & TESTING HYPOTHESES Article by Josh Seiden, April 2014, published on Lean UX Start with a hypothesis instead of requirements Write a typical hypothesis Go from hypothesis to experiment Avoid common testing pitfalls Topics: Personas Lean UX Design Teams Usability Testing It’s easy to talk about features. Fun, even. But easy and fun doesn’t always translate to functional, profitable, or sustainable. That's where Lean UX comes in. It reframes a typical design process from one driven by deliverables to one driven by data, instead. Josh Seiden has been there, done that and he's going to show how to change our thinking. The first step is admitting to not know all the answers; after all, who does? Write hypotheses aimed at answering the question, “Why?”, then run experiments to gather data that show whether a design is working. START WITH A HYPOTHESIS INSTEAD OF REQUIREMENTS • Test your initial assumptions early to take risks out of your project • Focus on ideal user or business outcomes, not which features to build • Write a typical hypothesis • Create a simple hypothesis with two parts • Decide what type of evidence you need to collect • Go from hypothesis to experiment • Design an experiment to test your hypothesis and keep that test as simple as possible • Hear examples of Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) others used to test hypotheses • Avoid common testing pitfalls • Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to test every idea. Just test the riskier ones • Break down the hypothesis into bite-sized chunks you can actually test Don’t know what a hypothesis is, why it benefits UX designers, or how to write one the question, whether features are missing and, if so, which users actually need them? Are tired of creating deliverables that don’t make the kind of difference you'd want them to? Think there must be a data-driven way to design-one that isn’t based on guesswork yet doesn’t replace the designer’s intuition.

  • GRAPHIC DESIGN IS MENTAL

    by Ben Longden, Thursday, 10 October 2019 Ben Longden is the digital design director at The Guardian. He has worked on some of the biggest news events of recent years, such as Cambridge Analytica and the Paradise Papers. Reflecting on his route through graphic and digital design, he has recently written a book, Graphic Design is Mental. As someone who is passionate about design, design education and mental health, I wanted to write down my thoughts, which have culminated in a book, Graphic Design is Mental. Below is an extract from this book, reflecting my career experience from my role as digital design director at The Guardian, teaching at Shillington College and running a shop, RoomFifty, with Chris Clarke and Leon Edler. The result is a sort of self-help guide to being a graphic designer and an exploration of creativity and mental health, which I hope might be useful to someone like me. Someone who is creative but often frustrated, sometimes nervous, but always looking for ways to be better and improve what they do, and what they love. BE KIND TO YOURSELF. LEARNING IS HARD, DESIGN IS EASY. Learning new skills is one of the most satisfying and frustrating things you can do as a designer. If you give yourself the time and space to do this, design will soon feel like second nature to you. When learning a new skill, like software or a way of thinking which is new to you, it’s really easy to beat yourself up when things aren’t going the way you think they should. I guess there are two points here, the first one being that learning is hard. If you are a creative person who needs to learn by doing, there is no linear structure. The best thing you can do is to get stuck in and play, and view learning like playing with a new tool. For me, I learned through play, by using my hands to create marks and bringing them into the design, or by experimenting with software. The frustrating side to everything will come when you are in this play stage when your ambition to create and your technical ability doesn’t quite match up. This is where the frustrated creative can rear its head and you often feel as if you can’t do it, or that you aren’t very good. Know this: your ambition and your skills will soon match up, and the thing you see in your head will soon be possible to bring to life. I remember when I first started designing, I could always see where I wanted to get to from the start (even during the briefing I knew what I wanted to do) but by the end of the project it looked nothing like it. This is partly the process you go through, and partly because my ambition was greater than my skill set, but there was a click, at a certain point, where I felt “yes that’s what I saw when I started thinking about this project”. That’s satisfying and if you stick at it, it will come. The second point is about the way you think it should go. This is an expectation that should be left at the door; no project will ever be the way you expect. This is where the joy lies in being a creative – your eyes and mind need to be open to looking and thinking about the possibilities, and not setting expectations for yourself or your work. This can be a freeing and liberating approach and can feel much less stressful. Whenever I was struggling with a brief, either as a student or a junior designer, I would keep saying to myself to trust the process that I know: sketch, write, try, expand and really search around for ideas. They are there and you will find them. You have to trust in the process and not let moments of “this is not going the way I thought it would” creep in. Ideas are there and you just have to catch them. IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU, IT’S ABOUT THEM Whenever anyone gives you their opinion, know that it’s their opinion of the work, don’t take it personally. Critique is a good thing, and you should always give it too. Don’t say “that looks nice” as it won’t help anyone. Expect the same for your work. CLIENTS CAN BE MEAN WHEN THINGS GO WRONG You are basically working on their baby, and it’s a precious baby. If a client sees that even a small thing goes wrong, or isn’t quite working (especially on a website), they will probably freak out, and blame you. But it’s really not your fault. Take a breath, know that no one has died and deal with it in a calm and considered way. Everything can be fixed in this way. Whenever something goes wrong, it always feels like the end of the world but in reality, it’s obviously not. Mistakes happen, it’s just the way we are, and mistakes always happen when you are learning. I always remind myself that it’s not what happened, it’s how you deal with it now that matters. You can’t take back past mistakes, all you can do is learn from them and not repeat them. CONFIDENCE COMES IN MANY FORMS For me confidence comes from the work I do. I get more confidence from showing my work than hiding it, from being open to critique and change. Sharing your ideas and challenging yourself to do something new and different will bring you as much confidence as you let it, as long as you listen and take on board what people are saying to you. HOW TO DEAL WITH THE BIG PROJECTS A big project is just another project, with the same process as the smallest ones. Whether it’s going to be seen by one person or a million people, the route is the same. The only difference is when you launch a big project you will only see the negative comments and never the positive ones. The internet is a horrible place when it wants to be and those with positive opinions generally stay quiet. In January 2018 we launched the redesign of The Guardian’s website, app and newspaper all at the same time. It was something that, from what we could remember, had not been done in that way ever before. It was the biggest project, and most prominent project, that I had ever worked on and we knew that if we did it in this way, with a big bang, we would cause people to take note. It’s not the way you do things in digital these days – especially with established brands and platforms where you iterate, iterate, iterate so that the change is less dramatic for the audience, and less for the business. But, as we’re The Guardian and it was a big moment for the organisation, it felt right to launch with a big bang. Surprise! Your daily newspaper looks different. This safe zone, of iterating and iterating did not exist and we were putting our proverbial design necks on the line. We had shown it to a select group in user testing and we knew that the design wouldn’t get in the way of their reading experience, in fact it was going to enhance it. But people don’t like change, especially when it comes to a brand that has been by your side and looked familiar for 15 years. We hit the button to go live at 6am on the morning of 15 January 2018. For the first time, in about three months we had little to do but wait for our Twitter feeds to start chirping, and this is what it said: “This is the worst decision you’ve ever made.” “Bright red heading though. Seriously hun?” “Was it designed by your unpaid intern?” As I said, the internet can be a horrible place and – if you let it – you could spiral into a whole world of pain thinking that the last three to six months worth of work was a waste, and that you had ruined one of the most loved brands in the world. Forever. But given less than 24 hours you will see that change can be a positive one. For us, we saw more people reading and for longer, no drop in ad revenue and a positive change for a brand that had been using the same design for a long time. This reader sums it up well with his series of tweets: “Looks a bit messy and cluttered” to “Edit: Changed my mind, just took a small while getting used to it.” BE YOURSELF Nuff said. Don’t be shy with your ideas, they are your ideas and no one is judging you. Put them out there and see what happens. DON’T TAKE ON WORK YOU CAN’T DO You will burn out. This for me, as a designer who always wanted to push themselves and be the best at what they do, is the most important lesson I have learned. Throughout my shortish career, this has manifested itself in a couple of ways. The first was when I was starting out and I took on a project outside of my day job which was building a website for a small photography studio. I had built a couple of very simple websites at this point, and so I was feeling confident! But it soon became clear that my knowledge and ambition were misaligned. The stress that it added to me personally was not worth it, not to mention that in the end I had to give it up and tell the client that I couldn’t do it. I don’t beat myself up for trying, and having the ambition to want to do the extra work. Had I taken a step back and said to myself that it was too soon, that wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world. Hindsight is wonderful for that, and even though it was a bad decision to take on the project, of course, you learn things, whether it be something about yourself or a new skill. This is not to say you shouldn’t push yourself and find your discomfort zone, but don’t merely throw yourself into the deep end unnecessarily. Know that your time will come to be able to take on those challenges and do them well. The second moment was not too long ago, when I was a fully-fledged designer, working at The Guardian but also juggling side projects while teaching, all of which I could do, and do well, for a while. As time went on, and I was stretching myself too thin to the extent of feeling exhausted and it became a chore. The advice to not work too much might sound obvious, but sometimes, if you are in any way inclined to get excited by creative work, it’s really easy to say yes. I believe that creative work gets inspired by other creative work you are doing, and the work others are doing around you. Although this is a natural cycle, it’s still one to approach with caution. Bear in mind that clients often don’t care too much about the other stuff, and that’s the pressure you will feel. I love taking on creative work, but I know that love for creative work can often take precedent. You have to take care of yourself, and your mind, to make that work the best it can be. It’s a job for some and not for others I have worked with some people who think that design is design and it’s just a job, 9-5 and that’s all. That is ok, and it is a job, but for others, it is a passion as well as a job. Working with people who don’t share the same energy and passion for what they do can be frustrating as you don’t always feel you can generate ideas and bounce them back and forth. It’s ok that for some that it’s just a job, but find someone you can have those ideas with and share with them. Don’t take it personally, you haven’t lost your edge. www.indiegogo.com/projects/graphic-design-is-mental

  • “NEVER-TO-WORK-AGAIN” CLASS?

    It is now widely believed that within 15-20 years, about half of the western workforce will lose their jobs to AI and automation. This means that 1/2 of the working population could end up being thrown on a permanent scrappy. Although a generous welfare system could prevent such a social calamity, voices abound that mass displacement of traditional jobs could seriously weaken society. A permanent loss of employment could lead to a perpetual sense of hopelessness amongst the new "never-to-work-again" class. Isolation, mental issues, alcohol, drug abuse - this could be the price we pay for bringing AI into our lives. It is often said that once machines can write their own code, humanity may be doomed. But machines already do that. The ultimate change will happen when machines develop their own motivations and desires. Just imagine the ceaseless changes that such technology, if ever developed, would bring to our lives. Perhaps the little better news is that the pain of adjusting to the brave new world of AI will, in time, force us to look deeper into our very existence as individuals and as a society. It will force us to ask ourselves new questions: What is our function if there's nothing to fight for? What is our purpose if there is no daily struggle to survive? Is it the prospect of limitless freedom that we find so terrifying? Can we comprehend a life worth living free of perpetual existential crisis? Or a meaningful and purposeful life without the daily grind that most of us now seem to despise? A very different society may eventually emerge, very different from the one you and I know. The modern society, the way it runs its daily business, is a bit like a massively overloaded cargo ship, battling against the rough seas to stay afloat. But unfortunately, the heavy load it carries may be the very cause of its demise - all that wealth onboard, yet pointless whenever nature says no to our ambitions and our relentless desire for personal wealth. The consequences to our kind could be catastrophic if we don't address the social and political implications of powerful yet little-understood disruptive technologies, such as AI and the looming bonfire of traditional jobs it is likely to bring about. But, sadly, nature has a habit of ruining our best-conceived plans.

  • KICKASS DESIGN QUOTES

    “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” — Albert Einstein "It’s never been easier for audiences to skip, filter, or avoid advertising, so the best ideas are the ones that respect the audience's need to get something out of it; they should inspire, satisfy, or motivate. You can’t just bombard people with advertising messages anymore and hope they'll respond.” — Ajaz Ahmed, Velocity: The Seven New Laws for a World Gone Digital. "Typography can wield immense emotional power. Whether classical or modern, type oozes sensibility and spirit before a word is even read." — Gervasius Bradnock "Embrace restrictions. Some of the best ideas & solutions come from constraints. if there aren't any, go ahead create some of your own." — Robert Fleege “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” — Leonardo da Vinci “We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.” — The Talmud "You can have an art experience in front of a Rembrandt… or in front of a piece of graphic design." — Stefan Sagmeister "There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for." — Paul Rand "Never fall in love with an idea. They’re whores. If the one you with isn’t doing the job, there’s always another.” — Chip Kidd “Ideas are a dime a dozen, but we find that oftentimes what’s much harder is to have the discipline to decide to leave things out.” — Jen Fitzpatrick “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add but when there is nothing left to take away.” — Antoine De Saint-Exupery “Graphic design is the organisation of information that is semantically correct, syntactically consistent and pragmatically understandable.” — Massimo Vignelli (Or perhaps, to put it simply, it is the Three Cs: CORRECT, CONSISTENT & CLEAR. Z.T.) “A picture is worth a thousand words. An interface is worth a thousand pictures.” — Ben Shneiderman “If you think mathematics is hard, try web design.” ― Pixxelznet “Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” — Albert Einstein

  • IN BRIEF: WIX OR WORDPRESS?

    The intent of this article is not to examine in detail the pros and cons of these two platforms but rather to give a fair overview of both. And perhaps serve as a conversation point for developers and those aspiring to enter the web design arena. Remember Morpheus' timeless Matrix quote? "You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad..." That's exactly how I felt for many years, thinking there must be a way of building great websites without relying on coders to interpret my designs. And then it happened. The drag-and-drop web tools arrived a while ago, but the question is, are they up to scratch? Wix® versus WordPress® Wix: user-friendly, drag & drop website builder that doesn't require coding skills. It features a great set of tools for building websites from templates from scratch. WordPress: a web-building platform heavyweight with a massive developer global community. It offers the finest control over every aspect of web development, neatly incorporating HTML, CSS, PHP, Java etc. LEARNING CURVE Wix: a relatively easy tool to learn if one has a good grasp of page layout and interactivity. And also happens to be web-savvy. WordPress: a web-building platform heavyweight offering the finest control over every aspect of web development. However, with WP, what one sees in the construction window is not necessarily what one sees on the published site. SECURITY WordPress is an open-source platform supported by a massive developer community. This means that any coder should be able to create their own themes or plugins for others to use. The quality of these plugins could be excellent, or they could be rubbish. Based on experience thus far, there seems to be more rubbish than good ones. Securi, a leading WordPress security firm, conducted a study of over 11,000 hacked websites and found that 75% of them were built with WordPress. In their report, they state: "[The wide WordPress] adoption brings serious challenges to the internet as a whole as it introduces a large influx of unskilled webmasters and service providers responsible for the deployment and administrations of these sites." Wix is not an open-source platform, meaning its code is not available for users to modify. To old-school coders, this may be a problem, but not to those who want to build websites but cannot code. As a result, only Wix development team can develop Wix tools. This results in Wix tools being fully integrated into their platform, far less open to fragmentation, and less likely to be a security risk or make a site do things it's not meant to do. ONGOING MAINTENANCE All web development costs considered, running a Wix site is a cost-effective and hassle-free option when considering the development time, web hosting, robust web security, the cost of plugins etc. Without getting too much into detail, Wix seems to tick many more boxes for a small to medium-sized business than WordPress. Here's an example. Whenever WordPress or 3rd party plugin updates occur, the web admin must also update their WordPress site. The reputable theme and plugin developers will automatically update their products, but not all will do so. Wix is a WYSIWYG platform offering drag-and-drop pictures, paragraphs, slideshows, shopping cart buttons, etc., directly into the website builder. How design elements look in a website builder is how they will look on the published site. THE FUTURE Anyone who's seen the Matrix movie may remember Cypher talking to Neo about lines of green code on his computer screen: Cypher's ability to see code as its visual outcome is hard to grasp. Just as code is to designers unable to code. It is said that one can possess either a visual or a coding mindset. I sure haven't met many designers who developed both skills to a high standard. Early computers could be operated only by highly skilled experts. The only way to get a computer to do something useful was to feed it lines of code. But over time, interfacing with programmes became more manageable and accessible to less tech-savvy users. GUI indeed changed everything. New technology empowers creativity and brings in new talent. For example, GUI brought a new breed of designers who no longer needed to know about coding or arcane tools such as the moveable led type to produce great page layouts or stunning typographic work. Apps such as Wix hold great promise. It started as an interesting web-building novelty, a toy even, but it has evolved beyond recognition. It still has some way to go to surpass traditional web coding tools (such as Wix sites being a bit laggy if one "strays" too far from Wix templates), but it's getting damn close. I can see the day when we'll be looking back at times of line coding the same way we look at the quaintness of MS-DOS.

  • WEB DESIGN CASE STUDY 1 - DESIGN PROCESS

    Client: Dr Trevor Lawrence, orthopaedic consultant, top UK hip & knee surgeon, based in Solihull, West Midlands. The company hosting Dr Lawrence's old site went bust, resulting in Dr Lawrence's data loss. 1. PLANNING THE SITE CONTENT My first step was to see if any of the client's old text content could be salvaged through web.archive.org. The salvaged copy amounted to a whopping 17,000 words document. It needed good sifting through, grasping its content and making some tough decisions regarding its considerable length and medical jargon complexity. My project ahead was going to be a lot more than just a web brochure. The lengthy copy was brimming with detailed information covering the delicate subject of joint ailments and treatments. To make the copy more accessible to prospective patients, I suggested a plainer, simpler patient-friendly approach covering most frequent concerns such as: Do my symptoms mean I need joint surgery? What are the risks? What are the surgeon's credentials? What's the recovery time? How much is it going to cost me? Is it worth the cost? The website was to be aimed at patients rather than at Medical professionals. In consultation with the client, the massive 17,000 words copy was shrunk to contain only the most important information relevant to his patients. The copy was mostly rewritten, avoiding the dry medical terminology, too often difficult to follow by a non-medical site visitor. The process of rewriting the copy helped greatly with the understanding, grouping and labelling of content, considering the images and getting the handle on the overall site structure. __________________________________________________________________________________________ 2. DESIGN BRIEF The site aims to promote services to his prospective patients rather than serve as an expert platform in his medical field. The client didn't give an overly specific design brief, but we agreed on the following: Adaptive site. Fresh UX and UI appeal. Smart, temperate, clean-looking, easy to read and navigate. Visually appropriate for the target audience, loosely described as any age, but predominantly the well-to-do, 60-somethings private patients. __________________________________________________________________________________________ 3. DESIGN CRITERIA & DESIGN TASKS As with all of my web development work, I follow strict design criteria with a set of tasks that should lead me to a high-quality end product. DESIGN CRITERIA: Appearance / aesthetics Content / substance Functionality Usability SEO DESIGN TASKS: Styling / User Interface / UX / Usability Page layout Navigation / interactivity Image editing Graphics & typographic solutions Branding Copywriting & editing SEO / metrics Design for print / promo materials __________________________________________________________________________________________ 4. DESIGN NOTES + EARLY SCAMPS 1 To better understand the site's purpose, I used a good old-fashioned notepad to jot down my initial thoughts and questions for the client. This was essential to deciding on my styling, UI and UX strategy. __________________________________________________________________________________________ 5. DEVELOPING LAYOUTS / THUMBNAILING Thumbnailing - a process of exploration of interactive elements and page composition. Its stripped-down nature allows for quick capture of ideas. __________________________________________________________________________________________ 6. ESTABLISHING THE SITE STRUCTURE For purposes of sitemap wireframing, I tend to use post-its on gridded A2 sheets to add flexibility to the site-mapping process, moving post-its around as I tested different mapping ideas. At this design stage, I don't normally use apps such as Adobe XD. 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FINAL LOGO DESIGNS Choice of four for the client to choose from. Colour scheme: Olive Green (c3c27f) + Aqua Blue (6caab6) __________________________________________________________________________________________ 11. DEVELOPING MOBILE PROTOTYPES At this stage of the project, I used the lo-fi prototyping method as it offers an instant capture of ideas without getting sidetracked with software technicalities. __________________________________________________________________________________________ 12. HOME PAGE DESIGN As with magazine cover pages, a good homepage design is essential to setting the right tone, tasked to follow through with the rest of the site. Generally, one of the most time-consuming stages of the design process is producing and selecting the right set of images. For this project, I used both original and stock photography. __________________________________________________________________________________________ 13. MOBILE BUILD - HOME PAGE The mobile layout demands just as much thought and effort as does the desktop layout, if not more so due to its narrow screen that can accommodate only one column of text. The site must communicate the brand and the product with the same crisp clarity, whether a desktop/laptop or a hand-held device. __________________________________________________________________________________________ 14. HOME PAGE - FINAL DESIGN

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