Monday, March 22, 2004
In every sense of the word "good." Mohammed Bah Abba's pot-inside-a-pot refrigerator. Brilliant in its simplicity, awesome in its impact.
Saturday, March 13, 2004
Anyone who likes TV and likes finding patterns in things (Ooo! Me! Me! Me!) should love this set of television tropes, idioms, and devices. It's a wiki, so you can add your own (plus cheeky commentary) in case you find something missing. A plot example: An episode based on a misheard conversation. A result of a principal character misinterpreting something. Usually the principal character suffers many machinations in trying to prepare for a showdown, only to discover at the last second it was "all a huge mistake." There is a persistent rumour of an unaired Frasier episode that's not based on this plot.
An episode based on a misheard conversation.
A result of a principal character misinterpreting something. Usually the principal character suffers many machinations in trying to prepare for a showdown, only to discover at the last second it was "all a huge mistake."
There is a persistent rumour of an unaired Frasier episode that's not based on this plot.
Sunday, March 7, 2004
It's a new season of The Sopranos starting tonight, and you know what that means: lots of overblown articles about how brilliant and nuanced the show is.
"It's the closest thing to Shakespeare we've seen in contemporary times...The blend of humor, pathos, depravity and human desires has never been portrayed in more lyrical fashion. Beyond the splendid writing and acting, there's a cadence of language, a brilliance of direction and photography that pulls you into this story..."
Or, from this Salon (one of the worst offenders) article:
" Once again, "The Sopranos" makes other dramas look like clever puppet shows by comparison. Through lyrical digressions, rich images and a dismaying clutter of missed connections, David Chase dredges up the thinly veiled chaos of family life and the melancholy of clinging to old roles that no longer fit."
Gag. I mean, c'mon. It's a good show, but Shakespeare, it ain't.
Thursday, March 4, 2004
The Aesthetics of Revelation
The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue newsstand sales are expected to hit about 1.5 million this year and bring in some $34 million in advertising revenue. Why? It's not like there isn't a ready availability of nude women, both online and in magazines like Playboy, Penthouse, et al. And why did those nudie mags take a beating from those "laddie" magazines like FHM and Stuff with their scantily-clad (but not nude) starlets?
My guess is that it's for the same reason that millions of men look forward to getting the Victoria's Secret catalog: sometimes you don't want or need to see everything. Sometimes it's more aesthetically pleasing to only show a part of something, to keep something hidden; it creates desire. As Freud taught us, we desire what we don't have or what we feel we've lost.
Design is partially about creating objects of desire. It's a third of the trinity of useful, usable, and desirable that comprise products we want to own and use. Desirability is that quality that makes us want to have the thing be a part of our lives. It's the voice of the product, beckoning to us. And what's more seductive, a whisper or a shout?
Of course, this goes against what usability and findability gurus have been telling us for years. People want to see every link, they tell us. Put everything out front. Get everything out in the open. Show us full frontal, in other words.
But maybe, just maybe, this isn't the right way to make something appealing. Yes, there are times when you do just want things quickly and efficiently. But not every task is about efficiency. There is a pleasure in exploration and in finding something that is not initially apparent, but is there when you go to look for it. Just this afternoon, I overheard a discussion about finding the Track Changes feature in MS Word. It was such a revelation, a group of people had a discussion about it. (And when was the last time you heard people get excited (in a good way) about Word?) Now, granted, it shouldn't have taken years to find this feature, but still...
Design is a strange combination of making the invisible, visible (think of the UI and of affordances) and, when necessary, making the visible, invisible. What you can't see, like the dropped notes in jazz music, is sometimes as important as what you can. What remains left out or hidden or strategically covered with a thin piece of wet fabric is a design decision, done for effect. Elegance is achieved.
Cool Music Artist Map
My friend and classmate Megan Shia pointed me to Music Plasma, which links musical artists together. This came out a while ago, so I'm probably behind the times once again.
One problem with this otherwise interesting information visualization: no key and no explanation. What do the links really mean? Or the distance between bubbles? Only thing I could find out about is that the size of the bubble represents how popular the artist is. But how is that determined? Album sales? Is this whole thing dynamic? Why is Norah Jones triple the size of R.E.M.?
Monday, March 1, 2004
Notes from the 2004 IA Summit
Texas can only be seen through breaks in the fluffy white clouds that look, from above, like childish snow sculptures. I'm flying home after spending the last three days in Austin, attending what amounts to eight chockablock classes a day in information architecture, information design, and interaction design. And then spending the rest of the time meeting and talking to people about their jobs, interests, and lives, sometimes finally matching faces with names/email addresses of people I've corresponded with over the years.
I realized this is the first conference I've ever attended that actually has something to do with what I do. (Or at least, used to do and will hopefully do again after school.) It was an interesting mix of case studies, high-level talk, and low-level tactics. I'm not sure its theme "Breaking New Ground" was particularly apt, because I didn't hear anything radically new (although maybe this is because I'm in graduate school and get a lot of newness already), but I did hear some good depth on certain topics, and I'm definitely taking back some things to chew on and think about. Some personal highlights:
I also have some personal memories. They might not mean anything to you, but this conference wouldn't have been complete without
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