Rhetorical Answer

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A response to the question never asked

Comparing newspaper front pages

The Newseum web site shows front pages from daily newspapers every single day. As such, it showcases a wide range of design choices, from typography to spread layout to use of color in graphics and photos, as well as editorial choices pertaining to content.

For instance, here is today’s front page of a paper from President-Elect Obama’s state. And here’s one from McCain’s state, Arizona.

The Arizona Daily Star went with a bright red graphic and oversized headline about diet disasters above the banner that instantly draws the eye. A Veterans Day story follows directly below the banner, but the dominating element on the front page is a large color photo of Bush and Obama conversing in the Oval Office. The editorial choice to insert the word ‘Friendly’ in quotes in the story’s headline amused me, but I think it says more about the headline editor than either of the men in the photo.

The photo in the Arizona Daily Star is nothing, however, compared to the nearly 2/3-page inexplicably high-contrast image on the front page of the Chicago Tribune. Who appears to be leading whom on this White House tour? No “Double Chin Takeout” headline distracts from the main story, although the newspaper’s name in presidential blue Blackletter type hovers over the photo, surrounded in a white halo. Um…okay. Then there is an even smaller Veteran’s Day article on the Tribune front page than there is on the Daily Star’s, wedged at the bottom between the weather summary and a photo of “Elvis’ mystery woman.” I’ll give you one guess who the entire editorial staff voted for last Tuesday.

Compare your local paper to some others from other regions and see how they differ in presentation, scope of coverage, and visual emphasis. Then compare to your favorite online news source. Where do you get your daily news from most frequently? Why? If you only ponder these questions, that’s cool, but I’d love to see your opinions in the comments.

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Filed under: Design, Reflection, , ,

7-Eleven in Taiwan

Two bits of trivia:

7-Eleven stores are ubiquitous in Taiwan, with a density in the major cities that rivals that of Starbucks in Manhattan.

7-Eleven in Taiwan is open 24 hours a day. But it’s still called 7-Eleven, not Twenty Four. Weird.

Filed under: Travel, ,

Through nerd-colored glasses

I just attended the first session of a course called Design: Past, Present, and Future. It is pretty much what it sounds like: a survey of design history from 15,000 BC to the present day, with speculation on future directions. Sitting through the instructor’s halting, verbatim reading of his slides was mostly an exercise in contained boredom, but the class finished with a thought-provoking, structured discussion of the evolution of design. We selected examples of design from the past, ranging from cave paintings to illuminated manuscripts to the Rococo style; identified modern-day analogues; and projected how the designs may continue to evolve. Plenty of my classmates came up with examples from the present, but I noticed that the two people in class who contributed almost all of the ideas in the future trends category were me and another person in class who, shall we say, skew nerdy. Take a look at a few of the ideas brainstormed:

PAST PRESENT FUTURE
cave paintings graffiti
tattoos
murals
laser beam projection into the atmosphere
interactive wall panels
fabric touchscreens
petroglyphs icons
emoticons
still and animated images as txt messages
logos with scannable embedded information
cuneiform laser-cut printing
graffiti in cement
die cuts
3D printing
customizable object extruders
Rococo style excessive weddings
dense data visualizations
data presentations that appeal to senses besides vision – smellovision???

Most of the conjectures for the future were inspired by things we’d read about or seen as emerging technologies that could one day be developed into commercially viable products. It seems extraordinarily difficult to come up with visions of the future that don’t stem from something familiar and present. What do you see coming down the pipe in the next 20-50 years?

Filed under: Uncategorized,

So, what do you do?

I had no idea that the “what do you do?” question was so emotionally loaded until I ran across this post, and the slew of reader comments that follow, on the New York Times Freakonomics bleg. I confess, I don’t really get why people would get offended by ignorant questions about what they do for a living. Offended by malicious questions, sure. Condescending questions, of course. But we are all ignorant about other people’s specialties, and the person who makes an effort to dispel his own ignorance by asking someone more knowledgeable than himself, in my opinion, deserves some patience. After all, most people don’t feel comfortable revealing their ignorance in front of strangers. Asking questions can be scary! So, at my next meet-and-greet, I am going to do new acquaintances a favor and give them some unexpected tidbit of information that will make them appear well-informed the next time they meet someone in my field of expertise; I hope they will do the same for me. Hopefully it won’t go like this flowchart from http://www.monster-munch.com/

So What Do You Do?

So What Do You Do?

Filed under: Reflection,

Simplicity by Design

Lately, I have been looking at web sites that appeal through the simplicity of their interfaces.

Answering the simple question: Do I need an umbrella today?
http://umbrellatoday.com/

The site promises simplicity, and it delivers. The only whistle to go with its single bell is that it offers a text service to notify you on days you’ll need an umbrella. Unfortunately, it can’t text you after you forget your umbrella in the bar after work.

To send and manage electronic invitations:
http://anyvite.com/home

Anyvite is definitely simpler to use than Evite. I was able to enter event details immediately (as opposed to wading through 500+ cheesy greeting card templates), and Anyvite imported my address book contacts seamlessly. One strange thing I noticed was this message, located at the bottom of the e-mail invitation I sent out, in light gray text on a white background (as though it were hiding from me, the little imp):

Note: Please do not forward this email. Doing so will give other people access to your Anyvite account.

Apparently, the recipient’s identity is included in the invitation’s View and RSVP links, so if Joe forwards the invitation to Schmoe, Anyvite updates Joe’s RSVP status if Schmoe clicks any of the e-mail’s links. Hrm. So instead, Joe needs to paste a special forwarding-friendly URL into a separate e-mail to his friends. The trade-off to this inconvenience is that the original recipients don’t need to register with the service in order to RSVP to the invitation. They just click the big ol’ YES or NO buttons in their e-mail, add an optional comment, and they’re done. Not totally effortless, but pretty close.

Remember the days when we had to handwrite invitations, wedge them into teeny, oddly shaped envelopes, address them individually, lick gross-tasting stamps and envelope edges, and physically mail them? And our guests had to go through a similar rigamarole to respond? That party had to be good to justify all the effort.

Filed under: Design, , , , ,

My food is staring at me

During my time in Taiwan, I was always well-fed. The tour bus would drop us happy vacationers off in front of a restaurant, and we’d sit down family-style and eat whatever was placed in front of us. Most of the time this turned out fine, since I obeyed the one rule required for foreigners to enjoy East Asian cuisine – never ask what it is you’re eating.

But then we went to Do Fu Jia 17 Seafood Restaurant in a small fishing village. There was a giant serving bowl on the table filled with what I thought was egg drop soup. Judge for yourself from the photo, and see if you can fault me for the assumption. Since it was one of the most familiar dishes I’d seen on my trip so far, I wasn’t shy about portion sizes. It was delicious, too. About halfway through my second bowl, I noticed there were a bunch of weird little silvery specks scattered among the threads of egg whites that laced the soup. What could they be? Wrong color for pepper… What spice is silver-colored, anyway? I peered into the bowl more closely and noticed they weren’t completely silver. Each speck was actually a silver ring with a black dot in the center…kinda like…a tiny eyeeeeeaughhhhhhh! There were eyes in my soup!!! Each “egg white thread” had two of them at one end.

I still tell myself that most of that white stuff in the soup really was egg whites, because I can’t imagine eating that many sea worms, or whatever the hell they were. I still don’t know, and my mind refuses to dwell upon it long enough to find out. So now I tell you that not only must you never ask what you’re eating in an East Asian restaurant but YOU MUST ALSO NEVER LOOK AT WHAT YOU’RE EATING!

Thus concludes my public service announcement for today. You are welcome.

Filed under: Food, ,

Fun things I’m not doing

I’ve been getting increasingly miffed at all the fun things I’m not doing while I tend to Very Important Life Matters™, the latest being getting drunk. Also on my not-to-do list:

So what the heck am I doing instead?! I’m sorting through the mountain of photos I took during my recent trip to Taiwan! Here’s one I took of some food carts at the base of one of the many temples I visited. There is nothing quite like the agony of standing under the baking sun, trying to decide whether you want ice cream or squid in your waffle cone…

food carts

Filed under: New York, , ,

Dark Knight/Toy Story 2 Trailer Recut

Here is a version of a Toy Story 2 trailer video cut to the audio track from a Dark Knight trailer. Although both the video and audio sources were probably used without permission, the resulting recut on YouTube is entertaining in its own right because of the juxtapositions the creator chose to make. Watching it reminded me of the ongoing debates surrounding copyright and fair use which Professor Henry Jenkins explores on his blog. Disney in particular gets a mention for its extremely aggressive copyright control practices.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Dot Day

I spent a large part of today making compositions out of dots. Above is a digital reproduction of one of my creations for a studio course at NYU called 2D Design Principles. The course covers the basic principles of two-dimensional design as a foundation for future work in graphic and product design. Today we learned about fundamentals such as points, lines, shapes, visual relationships and symmetry, capped off with a bit about color theory. One of the exercises asked us to create compositions, using blank sheets of white paper and black and orange dot stickers, ranging from formal to informal and from symmetrical to asymmetrical. I already understood the difference between symmetrical and asymmetrical, but the terms formal and informal were new to me. The instructor didn’t exactly spell out the difference between the terms, but from the analysis of examples he showed us, I got the sense that a composition with a high degree of regularity (e.g. evenly spaced elements, regular angles, and repetitive patterns) can be characterized as formal, while a composition with unevenly spaced elements, irregular angles, and few discernable patterns can be characterized as informal. Our challenge during the exercise was to use visual relationships among the elements on the page to create balanced compositions. You can judge for yourself whether I succeeded, but at the very least, I had an enjoyable and even theraputic experience. Given the ongoing insanity of the financial markets, a dedicated dot day was just what I needed.

Filed under: Design, Education, , , , ,

Geekery

For the Course 6 gal who has everything, a little bit of geekery

Posted by email from corinna’s posterous

Filed under: Uncategorized

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