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July 4, 2010


Posted by dogpossum on July 4, 2010 10:00 PM | Comments (1)

I'm going to try to sort this site so that:

  • you don't have to look at those boring fitness updates;
  • that annoying line/space problem on the entry titles is fixed
  • the individual entry pages look better;
  • it's easier to navigate back through entries
Best not hold your breath.

"website" was posted in the category design and webbing

April 27, 2010

ASRC food bank - usable design

Posted by dogpossum on April 27, 2010 5:03 PM | Comments (0)

The Asylum Seekers' Resource Centre's Food Bank has some amazing design action happening. My favourite is the clock:


"ASRC food bank - usable design" was posted in the category design and learning

April 22, 2010

usability evaluation: hooman

Posted by dogpossum on April 22, 2010 1:00 PM | Comments (0)

Design Item 7: hoomans.

This item will be evaluated for usability using heuristics inspired by (but not elucidated in) lecture discussions of Chignell and Valdez. As I have already discussed, these heuristics are developed by my use of van Welie et al.

As per previous usability evaluations, I take myself as the user group evaluating the item. As Nielsen and Molich argue, usability evaluation can only be truly effective with the use of a series of evaluators with different needs and interests. This particular evaluation, then, is limited as a tool for assessing the usability of this item for a broad pool of users. It is, however, very helpful in assessing the usability of the hooman for one particular user and provides a beginning point for ongoing discussion and evaluation of a series of usability heuristics.

The hooman comes in two key types - male and female - yet there are variations and combinations of these types. For this project I will assess the hooman of the conventionally 'female' physical sex, as that is the type I have most experience with and use most often. I will specify further, and evaluate the urban-dwelling, middle class, 35-year old, Anglo-celtic, female hooman. Sexual preference and education are key factors, and though they may be investigated in further research, the scope of this project is such that these cannot be explored here. From this point I will refer to the item as 'hooman', rather than 'female hooman', though this is not to suggest that all hoomans are interchangeable: each particular item has its own individual features and usability issues.

The hooman body is a particularly useful item. Even with some minor damage, this item is both practical and aesthetically pleasing. The hooman can be used for a range of domestic and professional tasks, and I have not yet found the limit of its usefulness. It is particularly useful for physical activities, ranging from intensive physical exercise to creative work, but also lends itself to quiet, sustained projects which do not require any physical movement at all.

The hooman is an effective tool for both complex, long-term projects, and short, simple tasks. The small digits on the upper limbs are both flexible and highly sensitive and can serve as useful extensions of the high-powered internal operating system. Though the item is currently less effective for long-distance, high-powered locomotion, skilled users with the ability to refine and develop the item for this particular use would no doubt have more success than I.

The hooman is a particularly learnable item. Learning to use the hooman is both satisfying and expedient, though more complex tasks require more sustained learning periods. Though there is no help function or documentation accompanying this particular hooman, the aesthetically pleasing appearance of the item teamed with the enjoyable operating environment encourage experiential learning and skill development through use.

As I have noted already, likability is highly subjective, and in part determined by the context within which an item is used. Despite this point, the hooman could have very broad appeal for a range of users. Its high learnability, combined with its aesthetically pleasing appearance (which is likable in large part for its adaptability and mutability) and extensive usefulness make it a flexible, poweful tool for most users.

Chignell, M. & Valdez, J. 1992, 'Methods for Assessing the Usage and Usability of Documentation', Third Conference on Quality in Documentation, at the Centre for Professional Writing, Waterloo, Ontario Canada, pp. 5-27.

Nielsen, J & Molich, R, 1990, 'Heuristic evaluation of user interfaces', in CHI '90 Proceedings, Seattle, WA, pp. 249-256.

van Welie, M., van der Veer, G.C. & Eliëns, A. 1999, 'Breaking down Usability', INTERACT '99, Edinburgh, Scotland, 30th August - 3rd September 1999,

"usability evaluation: hooman" was posted in the category design and learning

April 14, 2010

visualising information

Posted by dogpossum on April 14, 2010 11:51 AM | Comments (0)

We've only spent a tiny bit of time on this in class, but I'm interested in visualising information. Being a word person, I've always tended to represent information in words. But working on the MLX websites and programs I've also had to figure out ways of representing information in other ways. Dancers during an exchange aren't interested in lots of words (and are often too tired to figure them out), and, frankly, who wants to read a whole bunch of long, boring sentences when there's exciting action things to be done?
There are a range of accessibility issues at play here as well, and reading problems are quite common in dancers.

So here're a few sites I've found that tackle this issue of 'visualising information'

This one is taken from Lapham's Quarterly, which is a really nice online magazine/journal dealing with history, literature, art - all that high brow action. But the tone is cheery and a little wiggedy, and they tweet some really cool stuff.


This American Infographic features "infographical companions to the celebrated radio show". In other words, it is a series of images created in response to episodes of the This American Life radio show.

There is, of course Edwarde Tufte, king of visualising information. Tufte had a walk-on part in my last essay. With a line, I think.

Newsflow visualises news stories in real time, as they are published. This one is FULLY SICK.

Infosthetics is a blog capturing links to really interesting 'info visualisation' items.

textarc 'visualises' the words of books or text. This is magic.

We Feel Fine, visualising 'I feel' or 'feeling' text from blogs.

Visual Complexity is... well, lots of visual information stuff.

Edit: Something critiquing the 'vizualisation cargo cult'.

Someone else getting cranky about dodgy info visualisation.

A tool for doing your own fancy visualisations.

Another Edit: Visual information and The Times through history.

"visualising information" was posted in the category design and learning and research

April 11, 2010

tasty world

Posted by dogpossum on April 11, 2010 9:44 PM | Comments (0)

tasty world

"tasty world" was posted in the category curating and collecting and design and learning

April 6, 2010

reading and thinking about design in cultural context

Posted by dogpossum on April 6, 2010 11:41 AM | Comments (0)

I tend to tweet my thoughts as I do my reading for these classes. This ends up cluttering up my twitter feed with random comments. I don't have time to write full blog entries while I'm reading (and I shouldn't). As I read and tweet, I'm also taking notes and making comments on readings in a word processing document.

About every five minutes:

I will try to note some of my comments here as I go, instead of cluttering up my twitter feed and annoying people.

I haven't been to the library once this semester. But I've done all the readings and written three assignments. Uni has changed in 17 years.

Challenging the pseudoscience of these design articles is getting tiresome.
I tired of your bullshit, design theory.

your fully justified article is blowing up my eyeballs, design article. Also, your content is desperate flummery.

Gotta remind myself: guiding motivation behind most design isn't equity or social justice but financial gain. This is important difference.


Oh man, my brains are blowing up. This article is just so... it's like they're trying to reinvent the wheel. It drives me crazy.

I give up.

I'll probably return to this article later, once I've been to the lecture. I'll definitely return to it if I need it for an assignment. This way I have an idea of what it's about, and can come back later. There's no discussion of readings in the tutorial or lecture, so I don't need to be 'on'. I'm also finding that the readings have no reference to the material covered in lectures.

I've just come across an article about the India Report. This caught my eye because the report was written by the Eames - mega famous American designers - who went to India to have a look at Indian design. I'm not sure if they were invited specifically, but I do think it was a response to the Indian government asking for suggestions about improving design and industry in India. The Eames' report was sponsored by the Ford Foundation.
The Eames recommended a National Institute of Design be established, and it was. This is just fascinating stuff. I'd be really interested to see how the report (and institute) accommodate:
- regional differences in design
- cultural differences in design within the massive and culturally and ethnically diverse Indian continent
- gender/class/etc in (then) existing design practices, particularly as they relate to rural communities and gendered design and manufacturing processes.

I'd also be be fascinated to see how and if and even whether the Institute and Report worked in a context of cultural imperialism and India-as-British-Colony. I'd be curious about value systems and evaluation of design in this context, as this is something we do in my design subject - we 'evaluate' designs. I'm immediately wary of the term 'evaluate' - to engage with an item and to assess it according to a set of design values. I smell cultural specificity, but then, the part of me that's learning about design pragmatics, understands that you do actually have to assess designs. This is especially important if you're working to create accessible designs, or designs which improve accessibility, particularly for less powerful or marginalised groups and individuals.

I keep stumbling over the relationship between postmodernism and.... that other thing. I think of it in terms of feminism - women are all very different, with different needs and interests, but we also share common needs and interests, and so can work as groups. I always think of these groupings as contextually and temporally dependent, and also as mobile (agile?), changing all the time.
So usability design should:
- recognise the limitations of one designer designing for a group from whom he or she differs. In other words, remember who you are, how your ideas about the world are specific to you and your experiences, and design self-reflexively
- develop useful design personas for developing objects.

I'm not entirely sure about this point as design personas are just new to me. Basically, you develop an imaginary user with very convincing attributes - age, class, etc. The best personas are the product of extensive empirical research and a designer's long experience. I suspect, though, that it might simply be more useful to work with the intended users directly with a sort of design-centred action research approach. This is complicated, though, by the fact that designers are actually working for clients (retailers, government bodies, etc) who are requesting a design to serve a particular user or customer. So you have to accommodate not only the users' needs and interests, but also those of the client who's paying you. Economic factors shape commercial (and government) work, policy issues shape government work, individual notions of the product from your liason affect the design..... and so on.

I've just been reading about scientific approaches to design. Or using principles of scientific research (cognitive psychology in particular) in the design process. While I'm interested in one way, I'm also very sceptical in another. Though it seems like a nice approach to user centredness and usability, I think that the power and ideas remain with the designer and client, and so the process still doesn't actually produce user-centred designs. We are still filtering ideas through the brain of a designer.

This is, of course, quite practical in one sense. A designer understands how manufacturing processes work. They understand how design processes - actually getting things done work. But they do not - despite their best imagining and empirical research - actually know what it is to balance a child on one hip while you use a washing machine. Not once, but hundreds and hundreds of times. And then, of course, we have to talk about gender and class and the luxuries (and perceptions of) time and so on.

I think of this sometimes in terms of colour blindness or perceptions of colour. We each 'know' what blue is. And while we can use various tools to 'show' us how other people perceive blue, physically, we cannot ever ignore or leave behind our 'knowledge' of blue from our own, everyday lived experience. So the way we use blue, though it might in some sense respond to those alternative uses or perceptions of 'blue', will, ultimately, be shaped and informed and structured by our understanding of blue and blueness.

....I'm wondering if design-by-colaboration is useful here? Or how to go about involving users in the design process? Or whether design needs to get out of offices and out into other people's everyday spaces?

As I read and write about this stuff, I keep thinking about how we do audience research in media and cultural studies. How the notion of positivism - that we can somehow objectively 'collect' data - is anathema to solid audience studies research. Design research, though, seems absolutely founded on this notion of 'collecting' data. When I am absolutely sure that data isn't found but made.

Well, we'll see how we go. I'm a bit sorry I only have two semesters of learn during this course. I'd like to learn a whole lot more. But there's nothing to stop me getting my independent learn on later, after I'm finished. I'm also very interested in seeing how my experiences working in a job shape the way I think about this stuff. And the new ideas I'll come up with. It's all very exciting.

"reading and thinking about design in cultural context" was posted in the category design and learning and research


About dogpossum

i live in melbourne sydney, australia, like jazz music and dance, swear too much, sew, drink a lot of tea and adore puns. ask me about my phd.