Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Color Works

After focusing primarily on color for my Wayfinding project, I've started to look for other interfaces that focus primarily on using color to give information. One of the first interfaces to pop in my head is the Boston subway system or "The T."

The whole train system is based on color, unlike New York which is based on both letters/numbers and color. Each train becomes a color. The train to South Boston/Davis Square is the red line. Downtown/Revere Beach is the blue line, so on and on.

I feel that this is the simplest system possible. When both letters and numbers are added, it begins to complicate the system. You might think you're on the right train because you knew to take the red line, but what you don't realize is that you're on the red line W when you meant to take the red line Z. People get easily confused like that. But take away the letters/numbers and just leave colors, there will be no mistakes as to which train you are on.

Service Design

I'd never really thought of services being designed. I'd always felt that they were something that just worked out on their own. Shows how much I pay attention sometimes. But it makes sense now.

When my mother started her restaurant back home, she obviously had to put some thought into how the customers would interact with the servers. She designed the restaurant so that the customer would walk into the first room which would had a coffee bar. This is also where the customer would order a meal from the employee working behind the counter. The customer would then choose a table in one of the other two rooms and wait for another employee to bring out their meal. I always felt that this was flawed. What happens when the restaurant gets too busy? Do order get mixed up? Etc, etc. But using Saffer's chapter, Service Design, I can now obviously see that her design was flawed.

According to Saffer, a designer must design to accommodate how people interact within the service in real time. He uses the example of a Starbucks in which "customers order their drinks, employees make the drink, and then customers customize the drinks..." All this has to be designed considering that everyone will fit into their roles, playing a "part". My mother designed her restaurant without room for error. For her service to work, the customer must know without fail, their role; to order at the counter, then go sit at a table and wait for the food. But if a customer doesn't know that, they stand around, usually awkwardly, in the front room waiting for their food. Then the food comes out and they realize that they were supposed to sit at a table and wait there. This usually happens a lot, and when it's peak hours (lunch), the front room becomes overcrowded and it becomes hard to be of good service. Orders get confused, people don't get their food and it just becomes a bad scene.

To fix this, my mother needs to choose one service or the other. Ordering at the counter and picking up food there or a traditional wait service at the table. She needs to loosen up the "parts" that her employees and customers play in order to have a successful service design.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Website Design Project

For the project, I chose to redesign the Mothership Foundation's website. They are a non-profit from New Orleans whose focus is to promote the culture of New Orleans and South Louisiana and use that culture to bring about social change.

Here is the original website...

Here is my redesign...

The redesign of a subpage..

Also, this is another New Orleans non-profit who, I thought, had a well designed website..

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

After watching a clip from the movie "The Gods Must Be Crazy", it got me thinking about how we recognize things automatically from their design.

I know that this is a clock face because of my experience with other clock faces. I also know that this one is missing numbers and places. But what would an African bushman think about this? Would he think it was decorative due to the colors and pattern? Or perhaps ceremonial? Would he have an practical purpose for the clock? Would he even know it was a clock? The answer to these questions is most likely no. But if we explained to the tribesman that it was a clock and we used it to tell time, would this clock become is go-to preconception of what a clock looked like? Probably. The design would become a learned design and no longer be foreign.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I'd never really thought about blaming myself when I couldn't figure an object out. It came naturally to just say " Oh it's all my fault. I'm obviously too stupid to figure out how to use the car radio." But in Norman's " Design of Everyday Things"  he states that "the design is faulty and that others make the same errors. Still if the task appears simple or trivial, then people blame themselves." But why do we automatically blame ourselves if it's not our fault.  Norman goes on to say that we do it "as if we take perverse pride in thinking (ourselves) mechanically incompetent. " Personally, I do not take "perverse pride" in blaming myself when I can't figure out a design. I just automatically blame myself; it's my natural reaction. But how did it become my natural reaction? That's what I'm not sure of.  Perhaps I blame myself because I do not wish to insult the designer of the object. But that's silly because there is no way that the object's designer would ever know that I insulted them.  Or maybe it's because I don't want to look stupid in front of others, so I apologize for my stupidity and hope that takes the incident off the other's minds.  Or maybe I really do take a "perverse pride", like Norman says, in not being able to figure designs out.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The interface on my Blackberry Curve is extremely annoying. Each icon on the screen represents a function or  program. But to select the icon, I have to use the roller ball to scroll through all the icons (some which I'm still not sure of what they do). Sometimes the roller ball moves fast and misses the icon. To fix this, I would organize the icons by similarity and subject into folders. This would greatly de-clutter my screen and make it easier for me to find what I need.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Confusing Affordances

When I began the weekly reading, I had absolutely no clue what an affordance was.  At first I thought that perhaps it was related to finances; how much a product costs and how that could be relayed in the design. But to my great surprise, affordances had nothing to do with money or being able to "afford" something, but the design of an object and visual clues that design gives as to its use. 
In Joanna McGrenere's article "Affordances: Clarifying and Evolving a Concept ",  the reader is given two definitions of what an affordance can be.  The first definition belongs to James Gibson, the creator of the concept of affordance. He states that "... affordances of the environment are what it offers the animal, what it provides or furnishes, either for good or ill." The second definition  belongs to  Donald Norman, the author of "The Design of Every day Things." He states that "…the term affordance refers to the perceived and actual properties of the thing, primarily those fundamental properties that determine just how the thing could possibly be used."
But this is where I become confused. Which one is which? Is one better than the other?  To me, Gibson's theory suggests that an affordance is only available in one way despite the creature's knowledge of the object.  In other words, it's there, it does this and that's all it's going to do. An physical example would be stairs. We go up the stairs to get somewhere; that's their purpose. But Norman's theory provides a different view on the topic. He suggests that an affordance doesn't do just one thing, but provides clues as to what it does despite the creatures knowledge.  Using the stair example, we know stairs go up due to the fact they continue in an upward movement; we climb them and we get higher and higher in elevation. But we can also gather that we don't have to use stair just for climbing. We can also sit on them and store objects on them. 
In conclusion, it does not seem that one is better than the other. They both seem to be saying the same thing.  An affordance is part of a design that relates back to our brains and tells our brain what the object can do and what we can use the object for. That's what I've got so far..