March 24, 2010 at 10:24 pm (Design Theory)

A gestalt example of the word gestalt

The German word gestalt cannot be translated into an equivalent, single English term. It encompasses such a wide variety of concepts: a shape, a pattern, a whole form, and a configuration.

Gestalt – A German word for “form”, defined as an organized whole in experience. The Gestalt psychologists, about 1912, advanced the theory which explains psychological phenomena by their relationships to total forms rather than their parts. – The Art Term Glossary


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Personal Aesthetic Statement

March 24, 2010 at 11:48 am (Design Theory)

I am naturally curious about how thing work. I am also and mechanically inclined. As a child, If it could be taken apart, I would take it apart. I love food and enjoy cooking. I enjoy the challenges of creating a dish with ingredients on hand rather that follow a recipe. I enjoy the outdoors and nature. My favorite colors are earth tones; green being at the top of that list. I have always been oppositional as well as having ADD. Therefore, I do not want to organize myself but I know I have to. When told no, I see a challenge has been presented to me.  I do not like bureaucracy and/or BS. I do not tolerate lying.

I do not consider myself an artist, but have held the title of web designer. I consider myself more of a technician that has design skills. Simplicity can inspire me if not too simplistic. Bauhaus style is too simplistic. My tastes are eclectic. Asian art inspires me with it’s calmness. The boldness of Andy Warhol  is inspiring. Escher’s complexity and detail make me envious. Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera are among my favorites in surrealism, by their art but by the social and personal messages they portrayed.

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March 8, 2010 at 7:10 pm (Design Theory)

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The Universal Web

February 17, 2010 at 11:58 pm (Design Theory)

Our instructor in design theory had us listen to an interview about universal web design and accessibility with Wendy Chisholm, produced by our local public radio station KUOW. You can find a written transcript of this interview on Wendy’s blog.

As a web design instructor I am familiar with Wendy’s work and the principles of accessible web design. I was surprised that the law which dictates accessibility for the web and other electronic devices was not mentioned in the interview. Section 508 sets standards for accessibility. The Uk has a similar law called the DDA

(Section 508 requires that when Federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, Federal employees with disabilities have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access and use by Federal employees who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency. Section 508 also requires that individuals with disabilities, who are members of the public seeking information or services from a Federal agency, have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that provided to the public who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency.)

It is not to difficult to create a simple website that meets these standards. Use of alternate text for images and long descriptions for charts and info graphics are easily implemented when using software such as Dreamweaver to create web pages. Dreamweaver will ask for these properties as you ad your graphics. Another key point to accessible web design is the use of CSS to control the way your pages look and layout. This leaves pure HTML for a screen reader to use avoiding any extra use of HTML for actual design layout. Separating form from Function is the term we use. We used to use table in web layouts and screen readers would not read the page as intended. Now with CSS we can leave form to their intended use, information. For great examples of what CSS can do see the CSS Zen Garden Site.

When we think of accessibility for the web we often imagine the sight impaired users, what about other disabilities, such as cognitive disabilities. We also need to take these into account. A great article on this can be found here on the WebAIM site. As with any other business not allowing a person with disabilities to access the provided information is not just morally wrong in many cases it can be legally wrong.  The Target corporation recently settled a law suit brought on by disabled users.

A summary of the settlement

  • Target makes no admission or concession that its website is or ever was inaccessible.
  • Target admits no violations of the ADA or any other law.
  • The website will be brought into compliance with the Target Online Assistive Technology Guidelines (2MB Word Doc) and will be certified by NFB as compliant with these guidelines. NFB will monitor compliance over 3 years from initial certification.
  • Target will pay NFB $90,000 for the certification and first year of monitoring and then $40,000 per year thereafter.
  • Target’s web developers will receive at least one day of accessibility training, to be provided by NFB at a cost of up to $15,000 per session.
  • Target will respond to accessibility complaints from web site users.
  • Target will pay damages of $6,000,000 to the class action claimants, or at most $7000 per claimant, and will pay $20,000 to the California Center for the Blind on behalf of the primary claimant, Bruce Sexton, Jr.
  • Payment of legal fees is yet to be determined.

This should be a lesson to all web designers. Plan for accessibility.

A few of the many links on this topic.

About Accessibility.

Best practices and standards

Accessibility checkers run your site through these.



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Everything is the centre of it’s own perception

February 1, 2010 at 3:37 pm (Design Theory)

In his text “Ways of Seeing” Berger talks about perspective in in 2 different ways. He talks about physical perspective of line drawing and this idea is easy enough to grasp. Berger also uses the term perspective as the way the viewer sees the image as a centre. This idea seems easy at first but further analysis causes one to wonder exactly what he means. When we look at an image or does it have a focal point? Does the image put the viewer at the centre?

I would say that the following image “Cubist Still Life” by Roy Lichtenstein 1974 does not offer a viewer centered perspective. Though on could point out there is a hint of linear perspective the image as a whole does not create a view of of centre either in looking at the viewer or in the way the viewer sees the image.

Cubist Still Life

Cubist Still Life 1974 - Roy Lichtenstein

Another example is Andy Warhol’s 100 cans.

Warhol 100 cans

Andy Warhol - 100 cans

The image itself is flat and does not have any focal point either looking out at the viewer. When viewing this image the eye does not have a center to focus on. As Berger states “According to the convention of perspective there is no visual reciprocity.” (p. 16)

In Katie Paterson’s work Vatnajokur (the sound of) we see images of a glacial lagoon. Above these sits a bold neon phone number. This installation would allow viewers to call the number and hear the sounds of the lagoon. Berger states “The camera – and more particularly the
movie camera – demonstrated that there was no centre.” (p. 18) If this is to be definitive statement the would say these images have no centre. With the addition of the multimedia sound of the lagoon, the audience is placed in the centre of the lagoon. This dynamically alters the view and the perspective now focuses on the viewer as centre.

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Seeing Black and white in technicolor

February 1, 2010 at 12:52 am (Design Theory)

Nearsighted color fringing

Image licensed under creative commons

Seeing Black and White by Alan Gilchrist

In the introduction to Seeing Black and White By Alan Gilchrist, Allan describes some of ways the human eye captures color. Alan states “A key message of this book is that the overall pattern of errors is the signature of the human visual software. “(p 24)” He goes on to describe the key terms of vision.
Distal Stimulas – The object
Proximal Stimulas – The image
Percept – The appearance

He breaks the terms down a bit describing the hows objects reflect light and our brains begin to interpret the retinal image. Luminance or the intensity of light plays a significant role in this process. When Alan describe percept he says “What we see does not always correspond to the object seen. The moon, for example, appears white, although its reflectance is closer to that of black.” (p. 25) I found this at first a “no-duh ralph” comment but then I realized that I had alway described the moon in terms of lightness and though my logical mind knows it is dark in color my perception is one of lightness.

Alan’s explanation of the different ways the term contrast is used. That as a definition of the stimulus it is the same as the the term luminance ratio. Contrast as an illusory phenomenon refers only to the perception and not what it is. Then contrast as a theory in which contrast is created by  enhancing brightness along different sides of an object. Alan suggests that the term contrast be used sparingly and he prefers the tern luminance ratio, and contrast refers to “simultaneous lightness contrast illusion”(p. 27)

I found this introduction both interesting and  bit confusing as some of my understanding of color perception and how we see and interpret colors have been challenged. As we read through I hope that this will become clear. As designers we may not need a detailed scientific understanding of how we see colors but we can make use of this knowledge and put some of this understanding to use by triggering the human mind to see and feel what our message is.

For further reading on color and how we see and perceive it I recommend these links.

How We See:
The First Steps of Human Vision

How Do We See Colors?

Why are things colored?

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Fashion (Form, Texture and Value)

January 11, 2010 at 1:14 am (Design Theory)

Fashion designers create various types of clothing such as pants, dresses, shirts, and even shoes. Fashion designers also produce designs for accessories like purses and jewelry. To become a fashion designer one needs skills in drawing and an ability to choose appropriate colors and textures. These days drawing and design can be done using computer software such as adobe illustrator, though one should be talented in hand drawing as well. Designers can find work in large design firms or small local businesses. Most fashion designers are employed either in California or New York City but Paris and Italy and Honk Kong also have a large representation of fashion designers. For more information see.

Texture in Fashion

The image on the right, a dress made with paillettes shows how texture can be used in fashion design. The Designer Christopher Kane from London if known for his use of texture in fashion design.

Christopher Kane - paillettes dress

London Fashion Week -

The image below shows a more cultural use of texture in fashion. The image is a Hawaiian dancer wearing a traditional grass skirt. In this case texture is used due to availability of the given medium in that society or area. Grass and reed fabrics are used in many cultures throughout the world.

Young male dancer from hula hālau Ke Liko A`e O Lei Lehua

Photo by Joe Mabel - licensed under the Creative Commons

Shape and Form in Fashion

Shape and form play a large roll in fashion design as well. Any article of clothing we wear is made up of both shape and form. A shirt for example is made of several shapes sewn together to make a form that fits the upper torso.

To me hats demonstrate form best. Hats show dimension and volume. Throughout history hats have been used to signify ones rank or position with a particular group or culture. Hats can also be functional. They protect us from the elements and keep us warm.

Joseph Gurney Cannon 1921 - This media file is in the public domain in the United States

The koteka (penis gourd)  is a great example of functional form in fashion. It is used by ethnic natives of New Guinea. Different kotekas can be used for work or just hanging around the village. Koteka can be elaborately decorated for tribal rituals.

Koteka (penis sheath) - this file is licensed under the Creative Commons


Value in fashion design refers to the lightness or darkness of color. The image below shows values used in a contrasting manner giving the overall design of the pieces a loud look. We see dark blues and yellows and reds used in this composition of fashion wear and accessories.

Aftershock Fashion - Dheeraj Harjani

We usually see the greatest value change in fashion during seasonal changes. During the spring and summer seasons colors tend to be bright and cheery; while the fall and winter styles ten to lean more towards more muted and darker colors.

Here is a great example from Bison Bushcraft showing the same shirt in seasonal colors.

Fashion Design calls upon many elements and principles. These have been just a few examples of a broad topic.

Watch out for fashion victims 😉

Oh My god!!!!!

Fashion put it all on me
Don’t you want to see these clothes on me
Fashion put it all on me
I am anyone you want me to be
I am anyone you want me to be

Fashion Lady Gaga

A random local fashion designer
Laura Bee Designs
6418 20th Avenue NW
Seattle, Washington 98107
Phone: (206) 789-4044

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Parts of Mass communication Models

December 8, 2009 at 2:32 pm (Mass Media)

The Sender or source is the typical starting place for a message. In cyclical communication models such as Schramm’s Model 1954, the sender can also be the encoder, interpreter, or decoder just at different stages of the message’s life. After the message has been encoded or interpreted, the message can then be relayed or fed back to the original sender thus creating the possibility of the audience or receivers of the message to become senders.
The receiver of a message is the person who is interpreting or decoding the message. For good communication to take place the receiver ideally should be, interested in the message, interested in the source or sender and interested in interpreting the message to make it viable for their purpose. The key word is interested.
Encoding is the processing of the message from one form to another. When a sender encodes a message that message must be translated into a format the senders intended receiver or audience can understand and absorb. Encoding can take place before a message reaches a sender or can be done by the sender.
Decoding takes place by the receiver of a message in a straight line communication model, such as Berlo’s Model or the Shannon-Weaver model the decoding if often the end of the messages life cycle.
Channels are the way, means, or method that a message is actually sent. A physical phone line for example would be a channel. The television is another form of a channel and can have sub channels.
Noise is anything that interferes with the message in transit to the receiver. Noise can be internal, thinking of something else while receiving a message. Noise can be external such as actual noise, sights, smells, textures, or environmental factors. Noise can also be semantic. Something that abruptly distracts a receiver such as a rude comment or statement intended to incite the receiver.

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Who does your news? – Jayson Blair and the NY Times

November 10, 2009 at 5:50 pm (Mass Media)

Intellectual property is in its most basic form entitle an individual or entity (business or organization) certain rights on an idea, or work. Intellectual property is used to protect individuals or entities from others using their ideas and work.
For more official details see. Citizen Media Law Project

On to Jayson Blair

Jayson Blair was a reporter for the New York Times. He started as a intern in 1998 and worked at the times either as an intern or reporter until his resignation in 2003. Blair was suspected of making up facts in his stories. Throughout his career at the NY Times there where questions of his integrity as a journalist and the stories he had written. The issue of Jayson Blair came to a head when the San Antonio news contacted the NY Times about an article Blair had written on a MIA soldier that bared a great resemblance to San Antonio’s own article on the case. (Antonio article here). Blair had plagiarized parts of many news stories as he made up details about places he had been and people he had interviewed. When conducting their own internal investigation the NY Times began to unravel many years of inconsistencies and issues with stories that Blair had written, including major front page news stories. Did Blair steal intellectual property? Yes is the easy answer. His intellectual property “crime” was plagiarism. There are many links and articles about Jayson Blair and the NY Times on the web including the NY Times own accounts found here.

Beyond Blair

Jayson Blair is really only a small part of this story. The real story here is the NY Times and journalism today. Over the time Blair spent working for the NY Times his articles where called into question a number of times yet nothing was ever seriously done about it. So Now we have to move on to true responsibility and this falls directly into the laps of the NY Times editors. They are the gatekeepers of information being passed on to the masses and basically did not care whether the news they were reporting on was factual or invented. Stories that capture attention is what they want. If they had cared about their integrity I mean really cared wouldn’t they have let Jayson go after, let’s say, incident number 10. There are all kinds of excuses from the times about a few editors, Blair had connections, was on a favored list, and some of these folks have resigned, but this story bring to question the integrity of any news organization. News companies are always pulling information from other organizations sometimes cited and sometimes not, clear violations of stealing intellectual property (OK). Can we as consumers truly believe any news story put out to us? Could we ever? I guess we can only believe what we actually see and hear in real life, Information and news delivered to us through the media has to all be questioned regardless of the perceived integrity of the channel. Even what you are reading now…

Disclaimer: This post is mostly opinion with some fact and I probably stole someones idea somewhere.

Links used in “researching” this post. (I know it’s wikipedia)

Jason Blair today (Doing good and helping people)

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E-Learning Groups and Communities. – Book Review

November 9, 2009 at 4:08 pm (Applied Design)

E-Learning Groups and Communities.
McConnell, David.

David McConnell’s book E-Learning Groups and Communities is a necessary read for any educator interested in providing distance education opportunities for their students. In his research, David takes a holistic approach to his study of e-learning behaviors and communities. In his preferred approach to e-learning McConnell discusses the advantage of community based learning as opposed to competitive or individual type learning, He refers to this as networked collaborative learning. In many of today’s classrooms either online or traditional, we focus on teaching to outcomes of a particular subject. McDonnell actually sees this as a hindrance to the learning process. (p 14).
The text is well ordered and chapters build upon each other. Chapter 1 discusses theories and learning models of online education. Then David begins in chapter 2 discussing a real world course model called Masters in E-learning. This course is designed to give educators interested in moving to online education a way to develop communities and understand the vast differences between traditional classrooms on online classes. There is an example of the letter sent out to prospective students that fully outlines the way the course is run and the roll of tutors and instructors. It shows a great shift in thinking about how online communities are developed and assessed. Examples are also given to a workshop and the MaE two-year schedule. He discusses the structures of the course and its three main components. Workshops, Phases and Activities are the main components of the course. As David discusses the course model, he does a great job not only describing the model but includes the reasons why the course is designed in this matter.
Chapter 3 moves smoothly into the online communities themselves.
“Finding the time adequately to contribute to online discussions and group work is clearly an important issue for these students. They are all part-time students, and most have busy and demanding jobs. A very high number say that it is difficult to contribute adequately to their satisfaction.” (McConnell, 2006 pg. 67)
The above quote certainly rings true in our current situation as BTAD students. David discusses this issue and provides possible solutions to this problem. Through tables and examples, student’s roles take on clear meaning as to what make an effective e-leaning community.

Chapters 4 and 5 take on the issues of assessment in e-learning courses. David takes a position here, discusses his views on self, and peer assessment as opposed to instructor student assessment. Chapter 5 is a great look at how the students themselves feel about self, peer and tutor assessment. (Tutors in England are to T.A.s or assistant professors in the US) He uses many direct student quotes from both online discussions and interviews he conducted, about how they felt about peer reviews. He does not just pick the quotes that suit is needs but shows a variety and give great feedback on each one.
Next David moves onto 2 theories, Action Based Learning and problem based learning and discusses the pros and cons of each system. He clearly leans more towards a Action based model but does not dismiss the appropriate use of problem based learning.
David concludes his book with a overview of online communities and technology. He discusses the impact of this ever-changing pedagogy with both opinion and fact. The book is a great read. David is a clear writer and does not confuse issues. It was an easier read than I first expected but easier does not mean simpler. I would say it just is not cluttered with extra information, but delivers fact and theory in a succinct manner I would highly recommend this to any online educator.

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