Posted by: bbannan | April 15, 2008

Interesting commentary on design and interface

Please take a moment to look at the New York Museum of Modern Art online exhibit at:

http://www.moma.org/exhibitions/2008/elasticmind/

As we wrap up the semester, what thoughts does it provoke for you related to design research and design? Make sure that you roll over some of the imagery that can appear and also comment on the interface if you like.

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Responses

  1. Initially, upon viewing the website, I was a bit overwhelmed with how “busy” it appears, but as I began to explore the site and the pictures, I was struck by how creative humanity has been over the ages. The process is not always linear, but rather “busy” or messy. Design is not simple, but rather complex and often there are many different solutions to the same problem. That, in my opinion, is illustrated very nicely with this online exhibition.

  2. My initial reaction was similar to Laura’s, feeling overwhelmed by the amount of text on the screen. I’ve always been taught that good web design reduces scrolling, that certain colors look better against certain other colors, and to plan your font size big enough to accommodate all ages/eye sights. This web exhibit throws all that out the window, and it was quite disconcerting. Not to mention that I fall into the bad eye sight category, so it was hard to read.

    I did really enjoy the concept of the exhibit. The pictures popping in on the black background worked very well artistically as well as a way to deep dive into specific projects. At a high level, this a visual representation of design as well – of the million potential and existing design projects, we are lucky enough to get to dive into the details of a few of them. Also, there are threads through design projects and areas. The exhibit demonstrates this when you click on an image and there are additional linked themes/words at the bottom that lead to other projects that might have similar threads or themes.

  3. When I first came across this exhibit, my first thought (as a graphic designer/web developer) was, “Cool, how did they build that site?” Then, I started clicking around and was amazed at the thought provocation this elicits and the innovation displayed (topics such as social tele-presence, text-free user interfaces, and the section on visualizations, for instance).

    This site really becomes an example of a constructivist learning environment where all the topics fall under one subject (changes in science, technology and history and how humans adjust to them) but you are free to explore through random linkages, tagging, and even linearly if you choose. Photos and videos are also available in many of the entries which further enhance the experience. One intriguing entry leads you to another and to another in a variety of ways and provokes ideas and thoughts.

    Instructional designers could learn a lot from this exhibit not only in innovative interface design and from the content which provides food for thought, but in how to make design and learning really interesting and also about human interactions and behaviors. I think this pulls together many of the topics we’ve covered in a truly unique way.

  4. I like Laura’s comments about the mess of the site and how it reflects the creativity and interconnectedness of design by the design of the website. I find this is primarily an artistic site–trying to have people look at things in a new way or being amazed or shocked by what people are trying. I’m not sure it really shows interconnectivity or the re-use of knowledge. It seems to categorize or just put similar things together and link that way. It also isn’t a collaborative tool, but that isn’t the purpose. So, I’m not sure it has a lot of value for design research other than “hey, look at this?”; however the website is innovating, unique, and fascinating and will spawn many ideas. Clearly some of the projects involved design research (the power assist suit #207, the flybot #88 are just a few).

    An example of a site that does show connectivity between ideas and is a collaborative tool is http://wikimindmap.org. Also check out how someone took two sites (craigslist and google) and made a site that shows all the rentals posted on a map and shows market value, etc. Information can be used in a lot of ways. I don’t think this is a little different from what Brenda means when she says re-use of information, but it does build on what has been created.

  5. This site reminds me a bit of a resource provided in your 705 class about the art of problem solving: http://www.idiagram.com/CP/cpprocess.html The multiple layers and interconnected paths to solve a problem can be messy as Laura mentioned above, which is why the design process can be so complex and intertwined. Getting to the center of a design problem is much like peeling an onion. Yes, sometimes it can sting and bring tears to your eyes, but it ultimately uncovers the elements that bring great design ideas together.

  6. I appreciate Laura’s comments on the site representing the messiness of creativity as a whole and agree that the site is an amazing display of diversity and it is awesome what people come up with. I want to point out that the mess; however, is collective but not individual. As you look at the individuals’ projects you can see that there was most likely a lot planning and a lot of reiterative design in these projects, especially those with mechanical elements—like the power assist suit, the flybot in the biomimicry area, the pain game–and many of these I would imagine are still going to go through another version or two.

    This site is artistic and designed to inspire the viewer to look at things in different ways, but the site wasn’t designed to show interconnectedness of the designs even though they were grouped by category. In following the arrows through some of the projects, I didn’t see a clear flow for its organization other than the category and I don’t see it as a collaboration tool—rather it is a showcase.

    There are some sites that show interconnectedness and one of these is http://wikimindmap.org. There is another site that shows the reuse of information, but with a different take than what Brenda explained. Brenda’s work is about building on design and this site just takes information from two sites—google map and craigslist—and combines it to give someone an idea of the market for housing. It’s http://www.housingmaps.com.

  7. (reposting from 4/19 since it hasn’t gone through yet)

    My initial reaction was similar to Laura’s, feeling overwhelmed by the amount of text on the screen. I’ve always been taught that good web design reduces scrolling, that certain colors look better against certain other colors, and to plan your font size big enough to accommodate all ages/eye sights. This web exhibit throws all that out the window, and it was quite disconcerting. Not to mention that I fall into the bad eye sight category, so it was hard to read.

    I did really enjoy the concept of the exhibit. The pictures popping in on the black background worked very well artistically as well as a way to deep dive into specific projects. At a high level, this a visual representation of design as well – of the million potential and existing design projects, we are lucky enough to get to dive into the details of a few of them. Also, there are threads through design projects and areas. The exhibit demonstrates this when you click on an image and there are additional linked themes/words at the bottom that lead to other projects that might have similar threads or themes.

  8. (also reposting since my post has not gone through)

    I appreciate Laura’s comments on the site representing the messiness of creativity as a whole and agree that the site is an amazing display of diversity and it is awesome what people come up with. I want to point out that the mess; however, is collective but not individual. As you look at the individuals’ projects you can see that there was most likely a lot planning and a lot of reiterative design in these projects, especially those with mechanical elements—like the power assist suit, the flybot in the biomimicry area, the pain game–and many of these I would imagine are still going to go through another version or two.

    This site is artistic and designed to inspire the viewer to look at things in different ways, but the site wasn’t designed to show interconnectedness of the designs even though they were grouped by category. In following the arrows through some of the projects, I didn’t see a clear flow for its organization other than the category.

  9. For me, the most powerful parts of this website were the “Read More” overview (pdf) by Paola Antonelli and the children’s “No Robots, Please” exhibit. These two sections really clarified for me how forward-thinking design has to be. Designers cannot simply utilize current technology. They have to be able to imagine the impossible and look for avenues of change to accomplish it, regardless of what naysayers, such as Ken Olsen may predict.
    This site also reminded me of the movie clip that Brenda showed us about design research programs. No longer are discrete skills sufficient for engineering and design. It is our creative capabilities that we must develop in order to thrive in a rapidly-changing world.

    The motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, promotes the same idea this way: “In a changing world, the learners will inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves uniquely suited to a world that no longer exists.”

  10. Like the others, my initial thought was that the site was overwhelmingly confusing and messy. I had to come back to it a few times before I could really process it. However, when I was able to study it and really understand it, I actually found it to be a fairly intuitive way of organizing the information than a listing based on something as arbitrary as the alphabet. Linking by themes makes it easier to find information related to what you are already appreciating.

    The projects described on the site are also amazing, out-of-the-box type things. I have no trouble believing both the projects on the site and the design of the site itself went through many iterative designs.

  11. Looking at the site, the first thought that crossed through my mind was, Do I have to read all this?!!

    My first reaction was that it is black so dreary and dull and no pictures. But then maybe like a newspaper I can choose where to begin to read. The interface was interesting in itself as the navigation was just like going from left to right or up or down just like a newspaper hyper texted. With all the links and pop ups it was an experience to visit the site itself.
    The interface as it is developed brings to me the extract from the Hand book from the article: Balancing Product Design and Theoretical Insights by Ejersbo et al.

    “Using design experiments as a methodological tool for education research has several advantages. Designing an artifact can act as a source for finding relevant research topics and help to organize the complexity in education research. Also, empirical knowledge about learning is always highly contextualized. Extracting more or less generalizable knowledge from such contextualized phenomena requires conscious choices and value judgments. In an effort to give the reader an overview of the process of doing research projects within these methodological concepts, we have generated an “osmotic model” (see Figure 1) which shows the give-and-take between designing artifacts and developing theoretical insights.”
    (I tried to put the model in here but it cant be done)

    However analyzing the model It would not be surprising how this particular interface fits the description.
    My only concern with this interface is that it does not give the reader a place to start and secondly the colors. I believe that the content is all there and one can really see how things are connected and relate to one another as we browse through it.

  12. Moma’s design is stricking. I also thought how they did this? The information accumulated in this one page, basically, is enormous. I can go weeks and weeks and still unable to read it all or see all the videos/pictures. I can’t imagine the server. I run couple of videos which went for a long time without interruption, like perfect media output. I agree with Amber, it seems to simulate a newspaper for designers, able to be read all the columns at once in one of the big designer screens. It is definitively people friendly and ease of use. It is like viewing an iteration design at work.

  13. As a designer my first impression of this site was that it’s main focus was to present an artistic interpretation of numerous contexts. My initial thoughts were like many of the others, too busy, overwhelming and I don’t have time to read all of this! But once I took the time to explore several of the links I started to reflect back to a project I did for EDIT 732.

    For my final project I designed a web site using Cognitive Flexibility Hypertext (CFH) based on the constructivist pedagogical model using concepts of cognitive flexibility theory. In simple terms that means that learners learn by viewing different contexts through a web-like interconnected manner by using similar themes and perspectives to help promote understanding. This site prompts you to explore the different domains of knowledge, and by criss-crossing that knowledge provides you the ability to compare and contrast information from each section and topic. Through exploration, we discover new and reused information constructing our own independent learning in the process. I feel this site is an excellent example of how to construct knowledge in flexible ways by providing multiple pathways for exploration and reflective thinking.

  14. My first impression was like others. I felt I came to the end of my life since everything was black 🙂 . Before I read what the website about, I felt that could be a website for a newspaper or so.
    It is frustrating that it has tons of text data and small test size as well.
    I agree with Andrea about the expected features in websites like colors, text size, contrast.etc.. As a special education person I would say the web site is not accessible for people with special needs.

    However, after some time exploring the web-site, I got the feeling that it is a good example of constructivist learning since it has many resources for different subjects. Also, it has a high level of graphic design.

    I can see how the exhibit presents the relationship between since and design. However, I do not see how the exhibit shows this statement “design objects and concepts that marry the most advanced scientific research with attentive consideration of human limitations, habits, and aspirations”!!!

  15. When looking at the MoMA site, it was a bit difficult to understand at first. I didn’t like the concentrated verbiage with the low contrast between the black background and the gray text and the relatively small size of the words. As I explored the site, white text was easier to see. The arrows gave an indication of possible directions. Having the hand icon indicate active links is helpful. It would be even more helpful to have some directions to help one know how to navigate and what they might expect. I also miss the audio input that adds to the understanding of material. I never did quite understand the colored lines that popped up and disappeared. The line under the initial paragraph had indications of active links yet when I clicked on them all that happened was a beep as that phrase brightened. Although Credits did appear when clicked, I never saw the catalog or found out what a “SEED Salon” was. When I typed in directions a line went off to the right. I finally typed help in the search box and a video box appeared but I couldn’t find the video.

    This experience emphasizes the need for user friendly designs with help features provided.

    As Laura and Andrea mentioned, I too was initially overwhelmed and if it hadn’t been an assignment I would have left the site quickly. As Laura mentioned, complex creativity is evident in the site. It was fascinating to find out more about different topics that were defiantly as Eliza mentioned, “out-of-the-box”!

    I couldn’t find the read more section that Cheri mentioned but liked the idea of finding and encouraging wild creativity in children that was mentioned in one section.

  16. I loved the ideagram and wikimindmap links, thanks Janelle and Kim for posting them!

    The comments we’ve all made are interesting because it seems the web site interface design was something unfamiliar to us all and a bit of a jolt out of what is normal. It seems like many of us would not have taken the time to explore the site except for needing to review it to post for this blog. What does that say about 1) this type of exhibit and 2) our cultural perspective on web design? It’s a very creative exhibit and is doing new and innovative things with the design, yet most of us would have passed it by because it does not fit into the standards of good web design as stated by major web consortiums like W3. What does that say about our standards?

  17. The link shows creativity and where it has been. This very interesting YouTube video shows the potential of creativity and technology. It is very interesting and does a good job of illustrating how important education is in an global connected world. Do You Know:

  18. Here is the updated version:

  19. Although I spent some time to think about the exhibit, I agree with Andria that most of us concerned about what the site is about and about our culture and familiarity with web-design.

    I really feel the web-site is creative but it was not easy to understand it. I did some search about more information explaining the idea of designing the exhibit and see other people’s comments. Here is a web-site talks about the exhibit and about similar work. I think that gave me more understanding and appreciation
    for the design.

    http://mr.caltech.edu/media/Press_Releases/PR13128.html


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