Monthly Archives: April 2008

Drawn from a black and white photograph taken in 1959

  1. Websites should look pretty and that’s all that matters.
    They should be well designed, but from a usability standpoint. It’s not a magazine ad, where the audience just looks at and reads it. Think about how the user will navigate through the site, their Internet speed, browser support, search engine optimization.
  2. I don’t know HTML so I’ll just use Flash to build my website.
    If it was 1999, maybe this would fly, but not today. Building websites purely in Flash is a misuse of Flash and an alienation of web useres. Flash is a motion graphics program, not a website editing program. Flash is meant to enhance  well programmed and designed websites. You will alienate visitors because they won’t find your website in the search engines. What about your grandma? She might not have the newest browser or Flash player which will allow her to view your website.
  3. I’ll welcome my visitors to my website with a “click here to enter” page. (see the screenshot)
    This is usually only done with Flash websites, but this is the silliest thing someone can do. By typing your web address in, it is a sign that they already wanted to “enter” your website. Keep the front door open and let them land right there in your living room, aka: your full homepage. Even if this page is only here so users know they need flash player to view the website, they most likely not going to take extra time to get the flash player just to view your website, unless it’s your very devoted mom.
  4. I’m using tables to lay out my website, because I just don’t get this new fandangled CSS thing.
    The Internt began as a way to present and transfer content in purely text format, with no layout needed or required. Tables were added shortly after so that tables of data could be displayed. Then someone decided that they could use a table to design their whole website. They even began nesting tables inside one another to create their complex web designs. Tables are to be used for “tables” of data, and CSS should be used for the layout and styling of a website . Cascading Style Sheets separate the design from the content. This means that when you want to redesign your website in a year, it will only take a few minutes. For example, I recently changed color schemes on my approx. 50 page portfolio website and it took about 10 minutes. If I was using tables, I would have had to open each of my 50 pages and change colors manually. I admit, in high school I learned to use tables, and it took 6 years to make the switch, and what a change it has been.
  5. Image maps are the best thing ever! I can create a website in seconds!
    What about visitors to your website who are disabled and use a screen reader? When they visit a well programmed website, the contents of the website is read to them out loud by special software. If your website is primarily image-based or even Flash, then all the disabled visitor will hear is silence. You can also alienate your visitors with dial-up Internet, because they will wait many times longer for your website to load. I will admit I’ve used image maps. Just check out http://www.sargent-construction.com The whole circle motif is an image.
  6. I just make my paragraphs of text images so that the user will see exactly what I want them to, in the correct font, size, and color.
    It is true that the user might see a different font or size if you use real text, but that’s part of the beauty of the web. The user can decide, via their choice of screen resolution, font size, etc how they view your website. By making your text an image, you take that right away from the user, while also blocking that content from search engines and slowing the load time of dial-up users.

These ideas are ones I’ve spent eight years learning. I’ve made all these mistakes at one time or another, either for my convenience or because I truly had no idea what I was doing. The biggest idea above that can actually be a good thing to do would be ‘all flash’ website. For product promotions and mini-sites, it is definitely appropriate to use primarily flash, because you want to sell the product with a “flashy” design… Pun intended But if you are creating a corporate website, or even a band website, think about search engine optimization, usability, functionality etc.

The era of ‘pretty websites’ has passed. People now demand more usability, interactivity and functionality. If you can create a well designed website that is usable, functional and interactive, then you’ve figured something out.

 

As journalists we believe the guiding principle of our profession is accuracy; therefore, we believe it is wrong to alter the content of a photograph in any way that deceives the public.

As photojournalists, we have the responsibility to document society and to preserve its images as a matter of historical record. It is clear that the emerging electronic technologies provide new challenges to the integrity of photographic images … in light of this, we the National Press Photographers Association, reaffirm the basis of our ethics: Accurate representation is the benchmark of our profession. We believe photojournalistic guidelines for fair and accurate reporting should be the criteria for judging what may be done electronically to a photograph. Altering the editorial content … is a breach of the ethical standards recognized by the NPPA.

This is the center of the debate. I agree, designers, photographers and journalists shouldn’t add or take things away from a photo that will change the “integrity” of the photo. If you take out a person or a building or even add a person or building, that shouldn’t be done if the photo is being published in a newspaper or magazine. But what if you have a photo of a person with the background cutout and the photographer decided to take a photo with the half of one of the shoes cropped off. Does the designer whip out the graphics tablet and open up Illustrator and paint in the tip of the shoe, to complete the photo? I would say, yes, you should, especially if you are cutting out the background and there would be an awkward cropped foot floating in the middle of the page.

This exact thing happened this week in the Index (see this pdf). They published a photo that had the background cutout of a person’s foot but it was cropped off. It looked horrible and very incomplete. As a designer I saw laziness on behalf of the photographer and designer. But it wasn’t laziness, it simply was due to their ‘ethical’ restrictions. So, after looking at the PDF I realize they DID manipulate the photo, they placed a cutout photo on top of the rectangular photo with big fatty white drop shadow. Don’t believe me, check out this photo. They cutout this photo and placed it on another photo, to look like the person was in a different photo. Now if this isn’t changing the integrity of a photo, I don’t know what is. Maybe it’s unethical to also to publish recipes that are correct (see the Instructions section of the currey rice recipe where they call for chocolate chips and walnuts).

If it’s unethical to enhance photos without changing the meaning or integrity of the photo, then I’ll never work for a newspaper. I agree that we shouldn’t add or delete major aspects of a photo, but simply finishing the job of the lazy photographer I think is justified.

The other thing is that the photos a designer chooses should be ones he can successfully implement into his design. If we, as designers aren’t allowed to make photos look great through color correcting, levels, cropping and slight enhancements, then we shouldn’t use a photo. Maybe we’ll make the writer mad by using only typography or simply find another job, one that allows for creativity.

I heard someone in our discussion say that newspapers shouldn’t look pretty, they should just convey information.

Yeah. Right.

If the paper didn’t look pretty, no one would pick it up besides the newspaper staff who wrote it. Designers also make things functional and usable, not just pretty.  Think about posters, you don’t even look at the ugly ones, you are drawn to the readable, functional, beautiful ones.

My final thoughts: I believe editing photos in order to create the best image for the specific layout or story is what we should do, not follow an ambiguous rules, that don’t keep design in mind. Why can’t the newspaper designers have a code of ethics that begins with “As designers, we believe that….” ?

Check back with me in 5 years, I guarantee I won’t be working for a newspaper.

  • Only two days until I find out if I got the internship at August Home.
  • Only seven days until my first and only exhibition at Truman goes up in the Art Gallery.
  • Only seven days until my mom comes to Kirksville to see the exhibition.
  • Only two weeks until my last Spring semester ends here at Truman.
  • Only two weeks until my senior portfolio review.
  • Only two weeks until I see my aunt from Illinois.
  • Only four months until my last semester at Truman begins.
  • Only four months until I finally learn Flash… that’s if they hire a third Viscomm professor.
  • Only 265 day and 19 hours until I need to have a job.

I found this article by Andy Rutledge to be very interesting. He believes Poynter is doing the public a disservice by putting out studies on the eye movement of people who read things on the web or in print (the study is here). Now, I’ve always found information about the typical eye movement of people to be interesting, but nothing more. In high school, I learned people view a website in a Z pattern, starting in the top left and ending in the bottom right. I used this rule of thumb to design many websites that ended up all looking alike and were really boring. But since I’ve been in college, I’ve thrown the silly “eye-movment” rules out the window. It has never informed me on how to design something. Why? Because the designer can control the reader’s eye with design principles and elements.

I find it interesting that a school for journalists is studying eye movement of web and print readers. Designers have total control over the movement of the eye with the design principles they employ, so studying eye movement should be done case by case and not by journalists. This is like a school of graphic designers putting a study on how to write for newspapers or for the web. It just shouldn’t be done

Poynter has consistantly put out studies on the the eye-movement of readers, giving specific conclusions about their data. How useful are their conclusions? Andy Rutledge would say they aren’t very useful at all because an eye-tracking test can’t be applied to every publication or website. The reader who they tested on a certain newspaper might have been interested in the article, therefore read more of it. That doesn’t mean everything about that design is great and should be applied to every other aspect of publication design.

My communication friends might not like this quote, but I think, in this case, it is true. Poynter has done a study on something outside the realm of their profession. They are measuring something the designer has the ability to control: eye movement.

They’re making these mistakes, I believe, largely because they’re clearly not designers! The Poynter Institute is “a school for journalists, future journalists and teachers of journalists.” That’s great, but it clearly does not stand them in good stead when they so casually and unwittingly wander into the realm of design.

If you haven’t began to hate me, maybe this next excerpt from Andy Rutledge’s post will make you do so. 🙂

Eye-tracking Myopia

Here are a couple of examples of Poynter’s EyeTrack conclusions. Let’s examine some of their claims from the studies about online readers’ habits.

1. Users spend a good deal of time initially looking at the top left of the page and upper portion of the page before moving down and right-ward.

Not if the designer doesn’t want that to happen. What they’re referring to here are the behaviors of their study subjects when presented with the specific layouts used in the study. Any competent designer can craft a layout and design to elicit any specific entry/focus behavior on the page.

2. Ads perform better in the left hand column over the right column of a page. The right column is treated by users as an “after-thought” area and should be designed with that in mind.

Hogwash. Yes, a designer can make this so, but she can also design the page so that any area of the page allows ads to perform better. This is, in fact, the designer’s responsibility with many projects. The “after thought area” of a page is created by the design—if it is designed to exist at all, and is not always relegated to the right column.

3. Navigation placed at the top of a homepage performed best.

…For the specific designs used in the study, perhaps. But this again is wholly contextual to the design, the content, and the intent of the designer.

This is the sort of pap they would have designers, publishers, and editors believe and invest in. In their current pre-study promo article, they say, “Because the study adheres to the highest research standards, we’ll be able to offer industry leaders scientific accuracy on which to base the editing decisions they make every day.” However, as their conclusions are farcical and myopic, they don’t actually offer much in the way of valuable information. Their definitions of high research standards and scientific accuracy would seem to be unreliable.

So let’s let journalists write and study the effects of writing on readers. Also, let’s let designers design and study of the effects of design on viewers.

I’ve been on this search for an internship this Summer for about three months now. I’ve come up empty, and not because I didn’t inquire at ten to fifteen companies. So many places have been not interested, not communicated that they don’t even have designers, until after 2 weeks of reviewing my resume (*cough meredith *cough,), or simply hired someone else before I could get an interview. But there’s one place that took a close look at my work and my resume and asked for an interview. That is August Home Publishing. Although this is the last place that I’ve found, it doesn’t mean they are any less of a favorite of mine. In fact, they are the most interesting in the things they do.

Today was the day.
I took the three hour drive to Des Moines for my interview. I was really amazed at how large, yet small they are. They produce five magazines about woodworking, cooking and gardening. They also publish books with some of the same great articles in their magazines. The intern for this Summer will be working on a book for woodworking tutorials. Their office buildings are very unique: One was once a mansion, but now is three floors of offices and meeting rooms. The interior design is really cool too, and that might be because the furniture is probably all made by their in-house woodworking guys. I say they are large because they produce so many publications, yet their number of staff is small compared to what I would think they would need. They have a test kitchen, photography studio, gardening center and fitness center. It’s like their own little community.

Thank you.
I’d like to thank Randy (www.shebekart.com), for taking me to lunch and guiding me through the important information I needed to know before going into the interview. Also, thanks to Jeremy (www.crawlspacemedia.com) for his encouragement and random facebooking the day before I actually got to meet him.