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Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Agnew Moyer Smith
We did a field trip for my Mapping & Diagramming class to the swank offices of Angew Moyer Smith on Pittsburgh's South Side. We went to meet one of its principals, Don Moyer, husband of our professor Karen Moyer and an information designer of some renown.

As always, it's good to chat with working designers about their processes and projects, especially one as successful as Don. Don is also an interesting case because he's not only a designer, but a writer and illustrator as well, and the work he does reflects all those things. He emphasized the need for text with an appropriate voice to accompany images, which seems obvious but it's amazing how infrequently it's mentioned.

He showed us some recent projects and went into detail about a diagram he did about RFID tags. Initially, he said, look for (and make a list of) the actors in the scenario (human or otherwise), then look at what those actors do. The actors definitely will, and the actions might, have to become visible in the diagram. These actions especially might need to be annotated in some way, either via text or a visual indicator.

When researching, look for basic info ("for eight year olds"). Most topics don't require knowing everything about it. It's important to understand what Don called the engine: what is causing the change that requires people to need this document?

Once you do your research and "wallow in it" for a while, it's always good to write your own brief for the client. This, Don says, not only impresses the client, it also checks to make sure you understood what the client said. It isolates the big ideas from the research and gets the client to agree. In the brief, be sure to include a one-sentence that states the target you are trying to hit. You also want to outline your "story elements:" the big ideas, main messages, and the things you want to cover.

Do initial sketches roughly. Later you can "untangle the marionette" of lines and drawings, resolving the pieces spatially on a plane. You can write questions right onto the initial sketches; that way, the client has to respond.

Don also emphasized what is really one of the central themes of design: you can't say everything, so you have to be smart about what is included, be it information, features, and details.

posted at 08:33 AM in field trips, special guest stars | comments (0) | trackback (1)


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