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Control (Annotated)


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This is the main stage presentation I made at the AIGA National Design Conference in Denver, CO on 13 Oct 2007. It's been annotated to include additional captions on some slides that were images only when I presented them. See also <a href="">my blog post</a>.

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Control (Annotated)

  1. Sat, 13 Oct 2007 AIGA Next Denver, CO Annotated Version Khoi Vinh
  2. About Me
  3. Today’s Subject
  4. Khoi Vinh Why is interactive design different from print design?
  5. Khoi Vinh The answer lies in control.
  6. But First… What Is Good Design?
  7. Khoi Vinh Narrative Historically, we’ve defined good design as solutions that also tell good stories.
  8. Khoi Vinh A handful of examples of narrative in good design…
  9. Khoi Vinh Napoleon’s March to Moscow Charles Joseph Minard An information graphic that is transformed into great graphic design when narrative is added. Made famous by Edward Tufte.
  10. Khoi Vinh Priester Matches Lucien Bernhard Good storytelling in graphic design can be highly succinct. In this example, Bernhard lets the audience’s imaginations complete the story. Priester Matches, c. 1905
  11. Khoi Vinh Harper’s Bazaar Alexey Brodovitch Publication design, of course, has always been about good storytelling. Alexey Brodovitch took this to new heights through supremely elegant juxtaposition of image and text with Harper’s Bazaar.
  12. Khoi Vinh Concert Posters J. Müller-Brockmann Narrative can also be highly abstract and non- literal. These posters from Josef Müller- Brockmann are so reductive as to be similar to modern painting, and yet they are still powerful storytelling. Tonhalle-Quartett, 1955. Helmhaus Zürich, 1953. Beethoven, 1955. Junifestkonzert, 1957.
  13. Khoi Vinh IBM 1975 Annual Report Paul Rand Masters like Paul Rand were terrific storytellers — even when the story he was telling was a year in the life of IBM, the world’s most boring company. Paul Rand, IBM Annual Report, 1975
  14. Khoi Vinh Beach Culture David Carson Narrative is such a strong impulse in graphic design, that in many instances, designers assume authorial roles alongside the actual authors — as David Carson did for Beach Culture Magazine in the Nineties.
  15. Khoi Vinh Principles of Good Storytelling • A coherent world view • Fine-tuned management of every element • One-way communication of information from the author to the audience
  16. Khoi Vinh What Do These Add up To? + A coherent world view + Fine-tuned management of every element + One-way communication of information from the author to the audience Control
  17. Khoi Vinh If narrative is the guiding principle of traditional design, then control is its most important tool.
  18. Khoi Vinh But the guiding principle of interactive media is not narrative—it’s behavior.
  19. Khoi Vinh Designing for behavior means transferring some measure of control from author to user.
  20. Khoi Vinh Or, Put Another Way… Digital media is taking control away from designers.
  21. Khoi Vinh For Many Designers… Many designers think: “This is blasphemy!”
  22. Khoi Vinh “Designers must control the communication, because we know what we’re doing.”
  23. Khoi Vinh “If we give people what they say they want, they’ll never get what we know they need.”
  24. Khoi Vinh “Don’t They Know This Is Bad?” A notorious example is MySpace, where design values are completely different from any professional publication.
  25. Khoi Vinh Undesigned sites like MySpace have been on the Internet since day one, and designers have made many attempts to fight back against them.
  26. Khoi Vinh Over the past decade, users have rejected many of these techniques that designers have used to exert control in digital media…
  27. Khoi Vinh Failed Techniques for Control Typographic requirements. (Very early on.) This site best viewed with Cooper Black. Please download and install it before viewing.
  28. Khoi Vinh Failed Techniques for Control Rendering text as images instead of as HTML.
  29. Khoi Vinh Failed Techniques for Control Resizing browser windows or launching daughter windows.
  30. Khoi Vinh Linking a site’s functionality exclusively to a proprietary technology, e.g., Microsoft Internet Explorer or even sometimes Adobe Flash.
  31. Khoi Vinh Failed Techniques for Control Counting on users to ‘learn how to use a site over time.’
  32. Khoi Vinh “If user control trumps all, aren’t we saying that design has no value?”
  33. Khoi Vinh No, actually. But to understand why, we have to look at behaviors.
  34. Behaviors
  35. Khoi Vinh Given a Page of Text… What can you do with print? • Read it • Mark it • Clip it out • Photocopy it
  36. Khoi Vinh Content and Presentation Are Wedded In each case, it’s difficult to separate the printed text from its presentation. The design is baked in. The designer retains control.
  37. Khoi Vinh Given a block of text on the Web, what can you do with it?
  38. Khoi Vinh • Enlarge it
  39. Khoi Vinh • Click on it to go somewhere else
  40. Khoi Vinh • Roll-over it to reveal other behaviors
  41. Khoi Vinh • Re-render it in a different typeface
  42. Khoi Vinh • Read it back via screen reader
  43. Khoi Vinh • Comment on it
  44. Khoi Vinh • Read it via RSS aggregator, completely stripped of its presentation layer
  45. Khoi Vinh • Quote it liberally.
  46. Khoi Vinh • Edit it (in Wiki form)
  47. Khoi Vinh Let’s Split Up In digital media, presentation and content are separable. Design is not baked in. The designer has seemingly lost control.
  48. Khoi Vinh That’s not necessarily the case. What we’re interpreting as a loss of control is actually a multiplicity of states.
  49. Khoi Vinh The challenge has changed. There are more states to design. But also: the user demands a certain amount of control over these various states.
  50. Khoi Vinh The designer still has a job to do. How does the content behave in each of its possible states? What is the overall experience of the user?
  51. What Are We Designing?
  52. Khoi Vinh Digital media is as different from print as a speech is different from a conversation.
  53. Khoi Vinh What They Have in Common They’re both exchanges of information between people. But one is a controlled environment and the other is uncontrolled.
  54. Khoi Vinh Compare and Contrast Print (Speech) Interactive (Conversation) Environmental and Knowable Mix of knowable and Behavioral Factors unknowable Kinds of Essentially one kind Potentially many different Audience kinds Experiences The audience receives the The audience takes part in experience the experience
  55. Khoi Vinh In fact, what we’re talking about here is the difference between documents and conversations. More on this later.
  56. Khoi Vinh Digital media looks like writing, but it’s actually conversation.
  57. Khoi Vinh Instant Messaging & Bulletin Boards = Conversation
  58. Khoi Vinh Email Looks Like a Document—But It’s Really Conversation
  59. Khoi Vinh Blogs Sometimes documentary, almost always conversational.
  60. Khoi Vinh Is Conversation Meta-sites enable conversation through links, tagging, micro-comments
  61. Khoi Vinh Traditional Documents Too Traditional journalism becomes a framework for conversation.
  62. Khoi Vinh Social Context The tension between print and digital is emblematic of a long-running pattern of media evolution. There is often a struggle between documents and conversations. “Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages” By Alex Wright
  63. Khoi Vinh Writing transformed ancient peoples from tribal organizations into governments. Conver- Documents sations
  64. Khoi Vinh In Medieval Europe, the failure of governments and the rise of illiteracy renewed folkloric traditions. Conver- Documents sations
  65. Khoi Vinh Gutenberg’s press pitted mass communication against folkloric traditions. Conver- Documents sations
  66. Khoi Vinh The PC transformed ‘cathedrals’ of information systems into ‘bazaars’ of personal computing Conver- Documents sations Ref. Richard Stallman
  67. Khoi Vinh But They Need to Co-Exist This push and pull is essential to media evolution. Documents and conversations are not mutually exclusive. They are inherently dependent upon one another.
  68. Khoi Vinh Good narrative gives rise to good conversations.
  69. What’s Next
  70. Khoi Vinh Yes. People are looking for traditional design values online.
  71. Khoi Vinh From MySpace to Facebook It’s no accident that the shift is on in favor of a more highly designed environment like Facebook
  72. Khoi Vinh Blueprint CSS There’s a tremendous interest in grid-based layouts online at the moment, including this CSS framework for grids Developed by Olav Frihagen Bjørkøy
  73. Khoi Vinh Technological Formalization of Traditional Design And this proposed specification for grid layouts to the CSS standard
  74. Khoi Vinh Technologists Seek Typography “Fonts & Encodings” by Yannis Haralambous Contents include: • The History and Classifications of Latin Typefaces
  75. Khoi Vinh Downloadable Typefaces Recent revisions to WebKit (Safari) allow for downloadable TrueType fonts, so designers can in theory specify any typeface.
  76. Khoi Vinh The Trend in Tools Is for More Control As our tools progress, they give us incrementally more power to control the presentation of our interfaces. Print Fidelity Flash CSS 3.0 Tables Fireworks/ CSS 2.0 Dreamweaver HTML CSS 1.0 HTML 1.0 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010
  77. Khoi Vinh Good News Principles of good storytelling still apply—with adjustment.
  78. Khoi Vinh People Want Traditional Design Values, But… People are looking for narrative design to be expressed in a language that’s native to digital media.
  79. Khoi Vinh Users want to retain control over their own experiences.
  80. Khoi Vinh Users also want their experiences to be guided and clear.
  81. Khoi Vinh There’s a compromise between user control and designer intention. We just haven’t reached the sweet spot yet.
  82. Khoi Vinh As our tools enable more control, the expectation for greater control will increase—for users and designers.
  83. End