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Re: Designing for the Real World (--hey, that's already taken!)

From: jbrady-AT-email.unc.edu
Date: 10 Aug 2001 20:42:08 UTC   (04:42:08 PM in author's locale)
To: graphics-AT-lists.graphicslist.org (The Graphics List)

> My father knew how to read critically and analytically, and he was
> willing to take the time to decipher the material he was interested
> in, and go to the original research . Most people either don't or
> can't.
> And finally, my point was that design is not just the fancy logo, or
> the cool web site. it is often simply the day-to-day interface of
> people and information.

Generally, I think we agree. Design should give clarity and sensible
organization to the message, and make it as memorable as possible. You need
to help people understand the topic, by way of clear divisions etc. You
still have to remember it! How many people have seen an absolutely
captivating commercial, but couldn't remember the product? Hmmm. How many

I meant to emphasize where the pivot point is. It seems that in my adult
life (30+ years), the responsibility (or obligation, duty, burden) of
understanding has been shifted by the recipient (reader) onto the purveyor
(designer). "User-friendly" devices (and now user-friendly knowledge),
factoids, sound-bites, pull-quotes--these exemplify the nature of the shift
has occurred. While we want 'informed choice' on many matters, we want to
get the facts in short memos with many bulleted lists. Microsoft Word has
more built-in bulleting and outlining styles than are described in the
Chicago Manual!

Consider the many educational or training seminars which promise that *you
will learn* these six or eight skills! How can they promise that??? Why
don't they promise that *they will teach* certain topics?

Watch the TV news, especially the cable news channels: as you watch a
20-second picture of a fire, they run a text crawl or flash a six word
caption on the bottom of the screen.

At one time, I had formed a very low opinion of Newt Gingrich, just from
the stereotypical soundbites and clips of him, as Minority Whip, biting
some Democrat's ankle. Then I happened to see him a couple of times giving
long speeches on C-SPAN ("special orders," mostly, that is, canned speeches
to an empty chamber for the folks back home). But in those speeches, he
didn't sound like a cretin or a back-alley mugger; he made a lot of sense.
Other politicians and public figures, given a chance to be heard outside
the 'user-friendly' snippet on TV, often rise above their rather mediocre
image. I'm willing to say the same thing is true of, oh, Ted Kennedy.
well, no I'm not! But for most people: Bradley, hell, even Perot seemed
sensible on his 30 minute infomercials!

One of the dangers of design is that, at some point, it can substitute the
designer's (author's, publisher's) construction of the topic for the
viewer's or reader's. Montessori warned that adults should be careful not
to replace the child's personality with theirs; so true with the designer.

Michael Brady
jbrady-AT-email.unc.edu www.unc.edu/~jbrady/index.html

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