Archive for the ‘Applied Design’ Category

Personal Aesthetics

In Applied Design on March 24, 2010 at 2:11 am

As I explored my personal aesthetics, minimalism came to mind. Every object that I put on the page has a purpose, and everything is carefully positioned with planned relationships with the rest to tell a story. My design style is classy yet contemporary. I find inspirations mostly in architecture and interior décor, but also in nature. The clean lines and structures found in buildings and contemporary European furniture heavily influence my design style. I also study other people’s design work to broaden my horizon and to train my brain to think in different directions. Due to my background, I thrive to bridge the gap sometimes found between beautiful designs and production. I keep the technical aspects in mind as I layout my work to make sure that the end product reflects my intentions.

How Do Innovators Think?

In Applied Design on November 23, 2009 at 4:47 am

The innovators in this article (by Bronwyn Fryer of Harvard Business Review) are like John Maeda, they all have a childlike curiosity, and such intense curiosity is difficult to come by. I often notice children ask questions that I never thought of, or they go study things that I take for granted. I always thought that this is because everything is new to children and they want to learn about everything new. Adults, on the other hand, are experienced and, therefore, most things are not new any more. After reading several articles that address the same thing, I realized that it is not that things are not new to us, it’s just that we are not able to see things in new lights. As we grow and experience life, we learn and accept matters as they are and do not stop and really study anything. An innovative person like John Maeda, however, would study everything, including a sugar cube, and that’s how they are able to draw the most unlikely connections and be truly creative. As adults, we need to learn to open our senses and pay more attention to our surroundings; as educators, we need to encourage students to ask questions and don’t accept the given answers too easily. Together, I hope we can promote an inquisitive culture where we encourage and cherish exploration and experimentation.

Design Thinking or Hybrid Thinking

In Applied Design on November 9, 2009 at 5:03 am

The two articles The Making of a Design Thinker and Forget Design Thinking and Try Hybrid Thinking are definitely making the same argument, only that the authors define the term “design thinking” differently. In the latter article, Dev Patnaik looked at the term from a traditional point of view — “design” as in graphic design, how the product should look. Tim Brown, author of the first article, however, defines “design thinker” in a broader sense, including every aspect of life. Both authors stated that, in today’s complex and marketing-driven society, design has become more and more important. Not only do we need to design good-looking products, we must also involve experts in other domains in the creative process in order to produce products that answer to the consumers’ cravings in asthestics as well as other more practical needs. People who are capable of “hybrid thinking” will bring more to the table, contributing their expertise in different disciplines, and therefore designing better products.

Designers Don’t Read — Book Review

In Applied Design on November 9, 2009 at 2:11 am


This book completely changed my understanding of how the advertising and graphic design worlds work. I have always considered these two very close disciplines, perhaps different branches, but still within the same family. According to Howe, advertising and graphic design have drifted apart from each other, to a point where they have become completely different domains. They compete with each other for business, but neither one can survive without the other; and the two worlds need to fuse to prevent the deterioration of the entire advertising universe within our country.

Austin Howe is a writer and advertising director who has, in the recent years, turned to only work with graphic designers. He has a thorough understanding of both disciplines but is able to maintain objectivity and see the problems that exist on both ends. This book started out as a series of essays that Howe wrote weekly to share with his friends and colleagues. So, some of the chapters contain topics that may seem a bit off track from the main theme of the book, but the recurring theme throughout is that advertising and graphic design need to come together again, like they were at the beginning.

Howe said, “the future of branded communications is in the fusion of advertising and design (and other brand-related disciplines) at a cellular level and not merely as an add-on … A top-to-bottom reassessment of the creative process, an allocation of human resources and education” (p. 201). He argues that both disciplines are problematic on their own. In his eyes, the top design firms in the United States have the same voices, or at least that’s what they promote. They all claim that they have the most sophisticated creative process and some even go so far as branding them. Some may have fancier verbage than others, but they’re all the same at the end. Advertising agencies, on the other hand, have become award-winning driven instead of serving their clients’ needs. Many highly respected advertising agencies, while turning out mediocre work at best, regard designers as ignorant in conceptual work, and all they know are color and type.

In supporting his argument, Howe repeatedly mentioned examples of how some of the successful advertising agencies and graphic design firms have began working with each other, incorporating each other’s methods and have produced positive results. To go further, he included his involvement with a graphic design firm which employs account planners and strategists to work with the designers, and the result was flawless concept and execution. He believes that the entire creative process needs to be reassessed, it needs to driven by the designers because they dig deeper and they are good at creating logical systems. In his mind, this change has to be initiated by graphic design firms because the advertising industry is too proud to reassess their own process and they are incapable of producing truly creative work. In contrast, graphic design firms can relatively easily expand their services to include other branding activities, which will allow them to carry out advertising duties as well.

As with any other industries, the worlds of advertising and graphic design evolve all the time, for better or for worse. This book is certainly an eye-opener for me. I had a totally different, perhaps naïve, impression of the industry, and it has now been turned completely upside down. Howe used his vast experience in the two industries to tell the tales, offered me a fresh perspective on what I should be looking for in my job search, urging me to research more about what really is happening and be prepared for my career in the future.

Ten Usability Heuristics

In Applied Design on November 2, 2009 at 1:02 am


In my not-too-long retail career, I’ve used two vastly different retail inventory management systems. The old one was UNIX based and was replaced by a Windows-based program called Retail Pro. It was supposed to be easier but I didn’t necessarily find that to be the case.

1. Visibility of system status
If I were to be reading the screen all the time, yes, this system always tells me what’s going on on the screen. However, when I’m busy scanning the purchase items and interacting with the customer at the same time, I find myself relying heavily on the audio feedback from the system. This is where I get frustrated because the system beeps the same way every time I scan something, even if I’ve forgotten to log into the system in the first place. This also happens if the mouse cursor happens to be in the “wrong” place and the scanned SKU got entered into a field that doesn’t make any sense. Then, when I’m done scanning try to check on the total purchase amount only to find out that nothing really has been scanned, I’d have to restart the entire process. Not only is that frustrating to me, it’s also frustrating to the customer because of the necessary delay.

2. Match between system and the real world
This program is not strong in this either. Whenever there is a discount involved, the total purchase shown on one screen can be different from the “final” screen because the system calculates discounts differently at different places.

3. User control and freedom
Exiting at the last minute is actually quite easy, just click the back up button, but the back up button doesn’t say back up on it, it says “Retail Pro 8.” So, at the beginning, it was kind of odd, but once I got used to it, it became intuitive. There’s also a feature for reversing any transactions easily, which I find quite useful.

4. Consistency and standards
Here, again, the system calculates discount differently from one place to another…quite inconsistent. Also, depending what the original amount is, sometimes, if I enter 15% discount, it may show up on the receipt as 14.55% because of the way that the system rounds the percentages, but it does not look very professional.

5. Error prevention
As mentioned in number 1, this system doesn’t give a distinguishing “beep” when SKU’s are scanning into the wrong field, error prevention really isn’t its thing.

6. Recognition rather than recall
Perhaps they’re never enabled, but I don’t recall ever seeing any tooltips popping up anywhere in this program. The names on the buttons are not always named intuitively; and certain transactions seem to be more complicated than they should be. One simple need to remember which button to push when.

7. Flexibility and efficiency for use
There are many keyboard shortcuts available and they are shown on the buttons on the screen. Perhaps, someday I’ll remember them all, but I still find it not very efficient because I have to constantly move between the mouse and the keyboard.

8. Aesthetic and minimalist design
The interface of this program is like many old Windows-based program, buttons and different fields everywhere. In terms of aesthetics, it’s definitely dated. All the buttons and fields, although not used all the time, do have their respective functions, so, it probably can’t get too much more minimalistic than it is.

9. Help users diagnose and recover from errors
I’ve seen error messages that, normally, should raise a red flag. For example, the customer has exceeded his/her charge card limit. However, I have been told to ignore these messages and proceed with the transaction. I’m not sure if this is an issue within this system or, perhaps, the system was not set up appropriately in the first place.

10. Help documentation
There is a Help button on every screen, but I don’t find the documentation very helpful.

Past Design Work

In Applied Design on October 16, 2009 at 9:23 pm


In one of my classes last winter, I was given a typography assignment in which I was to use only type and the color black to express the meanings of two words that I select from a list. It was an exercise that I enjoyed immensely, so, I expanded it and this was the result. I presented this along with some other pieces that I’ve done in our portfolio defense at the end of the Spring quarter. One of the panel members commented that it’s a nice piece but not for the portfolio because there’s no commercial value. I agree, there’s no commercial value in this. However, since it was something that I created for my own enjoyment, that does not matter. In the future, though, I’ll be sure to think twice before deciding what to include in my portfolio.

Symbolic Meaning Integration in Design and its Influence on Product and Brand Evaluation — A Review

In Applied Design on October 5, 2009 at 5:52 pm

The authors of this article were studying the importance of symbolism in design and marketing toward product and brand evaluations. The article presented previous study findings that illustrate how congruent use of different design elements across multiple visual communication media, such as product packaging, advertisements and websites, can positively influence consumers’ perception of a new product and brand. In contrast, the use of different design elements, such as shapes and typefaces, communicating incongruent messages, may result in ambiguity and, therefore, negatively affect the product and brand evaluations.

Also presented in this article is another study that found consumers’ tolerance for ambiguity is affected by their daily lives and can vary depending on the events. With this knowledge, the authors predicted that incongruencies in product designs should only negatively affect the product and brand evaluations for consumers in high need of structures, the ones who value predictability.

In the study that the authors conducted in a Dutch supermarket, 109 participants were told that they were conducting a study exploring consumer impressions of a new brand of soft drinks. The participants were presented a questionnaire which helped in determining whether they are in high need of structure or not. The authors presented the products in bottles of two different shapes, one connoted natural and the other artificial. These products were paired with slogan that provoked similar meaning as the bottles, and then separately paired with slogan that conveyed a conflicting meaning. Read the rest of this entry »

John Maeda

In Applied Design on September 27, 2009 at 12:50 pm

John Maeda is one of those who is blessed with a child-like curiosity, which is one of the many traits that make him a great designer. He observes and examines everything, big and small, unique and mundane. He takes inspirations from blue tape to sugar cubes to toys to ipods. True, some of his designs are beyond my comprehension, but so are many masterpieces in art history. Read the rest of this entry »