Accepted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of Master of Fine Arts at The Savannah College of Art and Design
_______________________________________________________________________/__/___ Robert Newman Date Committee Chair _______________________________________________________________________/__/___ Sharokin Betgevargiz Date Committee Member 1 _______________________________________________________________________/__/___ Devin Oâ€™Bryan Date Committee Member 2
Adaptive Design for Visual Communicators: Reexamining Relationships and Making Theory Apply
A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of the Department of Graphic Design in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Fine Arts Savannah College of Art and Design By RenĂŠe Marie Malloy
Savannah, Georgia May 2011
Table of Contents
Abstract -1Introduction -2Influences -5Literature Review - 11 Methodology - 19 Discussion - 26Works Cited - 31Bibliography -33 Figures -36 -
Adaptive Design for Visual Communicators: Reexamining Relationships and Making Theory Apply
RenĂŠe Marie Malloy May 2011
Culture grows increasingly participatory, enabled by the onset of new technologies. Meanwhile, psychologyâ€™s understanding of motivations deepens, revealing missed opportunities in design practice. To equip visual communicators with tools for progress, I synthesized four basic adaptive strategies to encourage participatory thinking and holistic process, embracing both the designer and the user as experts. The following methods reframe techniques and contextualize terms so they are accessible and applicable. Active Design echoes principles of gestalt and semiotics theories but goes further, calling designers to not only guide but also challenge users intellectually and visually. Experience Design recognizes user witness as opportunity, adding non-traditional notions of visual communication, such as personae interactions. Participatory Design involves users through interactions based on goal-oriented or pre-determined paths. This differs from co-creation, as users engage with, but do not create, content. With True CoCreation, users actually create content. The design of True Co-Creation occurs in forming conditions and biases within which users become partners in the process of creation. The result of adaptation will be a new breed of visual communicator, one who is a relational thinker, who serves as both brand and consumer advocate.
Malloy 2 Introduction
We live in a culture inundated with media. The average person sees 3,000 ads a day1, and yet the impersonalization of the messages has become noise. White noise. People are busier than ever, or at least more distracted. The fact that people now download software to disable other technology so they can focus reveals much about our current culture. In order to live in such an environment, people turn it off. And yet, more than half of American teens using the internet could be considered media creators; a third of them share their creations.2 What we are now seeing is a true participatory culture, one more willing to share than ever before, one putting to use and creating new tools in order to do so. Conversations via social media and blogs combined with alternative ways of doing business make it undeniable: our world is dramatically changing and, with it, so are the expectations for relationships. What does this have to do with visual communication? Everything. As businesses reexamine what it means to be different, not simply to appear different, it is clear the days of surface communication are gone. Daniel Pink explains in his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, how people desire autonomy, a sense of mastery, and a belief that what they do has purpose. Internally, companies have begun to give employees time for personally led projects. Pioneers, such as Nike, which cut its celebrity endorsements by 55% and effectively created a community, NikePlus, where there is no sales pitch but 40% of participants buy Nike gear, are adapting to these cultural changes with great success.3 Nike has
Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers, Whatâ€™s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption (New York:
Harper Business, 2010), 23. 2
Henry Jenkins, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century
(Cambridge, Massachusetts, London, England: The MIT Press, 2009), 62 of 1115. 3
Malloy 3 recognized the potential of empowerment and freedom within a designed context; it is allowing customers to co-create meaning and participate in its brand. The question becomes, how are visual communicators appealing to these needs, these motivations? Just as management must learn to become leadership, visual communicators must progress by reconsidering their relationship with users. On one hand, co-creation and participatory design are touted as key methods pertinent to the future of design; on the other, many visual communicators are opposed to them. Why? Barriers include institutional resistance, a lack of consistent terms and accessible methods, and a tradition of control. The good news is visual communicators are clearly searching for ways to move into the future; the bad news is professional discourse is less than cohesive, making progress a challenge. Not to mention, as designers such as Rob Dewey have argued, the field of visual communication has many theories but few practitioners who actually know and apply them.4 Add to the mix â€œnewâ€? terms of co-creation and participatory design (both have been praised and loathed within the same publication), and you begin to see a pool of confusion and skepticism. Luckily, designers are smart and the issues necessary to tackle for adaptation are not nearly as complex as many think. In order to move forward, tensions need discussion, benefits explained, and terminology provided. To equip visual communicators with tools for progress, I synthesized four basic adaptive strategies that enable visual communicators to think and work holistically. Active Design (AD) echoes principles of gestalt and semiotic theory but goes further by calling designers to not only guide but also challenge users intellectually and visually. Experience Design (ED) recognizes user witness as opportunity, including environmental graphics and multi-sensory engagement but also adding non-traditional notions of design, such as personae interactions. In Participatory 4
Looking Closer 2, No. 2: Critical Writings on Graphic Design (New York: Allworth Press, 1997), 88.
Malloy 4 Design (PD), designers create interactive communications that have a pre-determined end or a goal, similar to a game. Users are not creating content but are engaging with it. True Co-Creative (TCC) design means the design itself is primarily the creation of the circumstances and biases surrounding a user who becomes a partner in the process of creation, free to create. Adaptive communication sheds lights from psychologists, design research theorists, and educators to brighten the future path of design, a path that embraces a shift in attitude and a wider gamut of communication media. While each of these methods stems from existing practice, my attempt is to reframe and better define them specifically in relation to visual communication. A clearer discourse can emerge with concrete terminology. At the core of each method is how visual communication connects to motivations, needs, and relationships between designed artifacts, experiences, and users. Though some of the waters remain untested, designers are perhaps better equipped than they believe to jump into the new world of communication. Adaptive communication calls out to our humanity, to our abilities to think, to our abilities to empathize and look beyond ourselves. Therefore, the methods I propose are largely natural to us, as designers, as marketers, as communicators, and most importantly, as human beings. Before we embark on our journey through adaptive communication, let us examine the roots of this thesis.
Malloy 5 Influences
Graphic design is about communication, about people, and therefore design communication methodologies cannot exist in isolation. In short, the inspiration for this thesis stems from five areas: theory (design research, media, and marketing), psychology, cultural and economic shifts, education, and observation of industry developments. These sources feed into each other to create a solid picture of cause and effect. While the adaptive design methodologies I propose are not new in and of themselves, they often exist in isolation. My analysis of the need and feasible application of these methods combines existing design approaches with knowledge drawn from a number of other industries. The following support the reasoning for claims later presented in this paper. The works of media theorists, educators, and artists Lev Manovich, Victoria Vesna, and Marshall Mcluhan examine the role of technology in relation to culture, art, and message respectively. Each was highly influential in the early research for this thesis and led me to the concept of thinking of design as an interface between designer and user, later described by Elzbieta T. Kazmierczak. Prior to reading Kazmierczak, I began developing my own mental maps of communication processes, what I call Design CRI (Creation-ReceptionInterpretation), relating to semiotics discourse (fig.1). CRI does not focus on the creative power of TCC; rather, it considers the notion that all design is co-creative because meaning is co-created. The interface of design, as Manovich would explain, enables data to become information.5 Meaning is embedded in the interface of design but is only completed upon interpretation. Kazmierczakâ€™s argument to use visual signals to â€œtrigger the appropriate 5
Database Aesthetics: Art in the Age of Information Overflow (Electronic Mediations. (1 ed. Minnesota: Univ
Of Minnesota Press, 2007), 51.
Malloy 6 mental state in the receiver,” relies on the use of gestalt theory and diagrammatic methods. Her logic is strong, in that she argues for building meaning with design; however, her use of manipulation rings closer to Burney’s Propaganda than a future of participatory design, what I feel is the future of the communications industry. 6 Kazmierczak successfully proves designers are indeed partners with viewers and, as such, should act as guides. She also provides a solid outline of how designers typically attempt to control the way users decode messages: hierarchies, signs, and perception devices. Design aesthetics and the function of communication are a must, but we are missing bigger opportunities of meaning. Recent developments in psychology confirm why new media have generated such excitement. Providing a means, such as enabling users to respond on a blog, interact with a poster, or design their own product surface, succeeds because these provisions match our human needs for independence, mastery, and purpose. These needs are not new, just as a wide variety of tastes is not new. The difference is we are only now able to see these motivations and diverse tastes expressed. Chris Anderson, editor of Wired Magazine, describes this phenomenon by saying the fragments have always existed as the “long tail” of niche markets; they are revealed and now made possible via digital stores.7 For example, the breadth now available through the explosively revamped music industry enables a broader expression of tastes. Likewise, the same drives of motivation have always existed; new media have begun to satisfy them, shedding light on opportunities for visual communicators. Reading Daniel Pink and studing Eric Jensen's Teaching with the Brain in Mind introduces the psychology opposing propagandist reasoning. Both authors discuss in depth 6
Elzbieta T. Kazmierczak, “Design as Meaning Making: From Making Things to the Design of Thinking."
Design Issues 19, no. 2 (2003): 49. 7
Chris Anderson, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More (New York: Hyperion,
2006), Chapter 2.
Malloy 7 what it means to be intrinsically motivated, to have a curiosity to learn and, therefore, add relevant links to people's lives. While propaganda has been extremely successful because it plays on people's fears and emotions, it comes from an old model of understanding what motivates us. Pink looks at MIT studies that reveal monetary incentives do not work as soon as any congnitive challenge is added; the pressure has an opposite effect. Instead, people desire autonomy, mastery, and meaning. One successful example Pink offers is Atlassian, an Australian-based 35-plus million dollar software company that gives what they call “FedEx” days where employees are free to work on any non-regular job and present their findings the next day (hence, the overnight reference). Not only is Atlassian taking advantage of the realization that people want to work independently, employees who work autonomously accomplish great things when allowed to do so.8 Both user centered design research and pedagogy supports Pink’s claim for the need of mastery. Allan Cooper, a user centered design expert, discusses in About Face 3 the value and importance of allowing people a feeling of completeness. By giving visual, verbal, or tactile feedback when a user does something to an interface, communication is enhanced and the user is pleased. Feedback is satisfying, even if it is an incremental satisfaction. The same could be said for decoding, say, a design with a double image; a user feels satisfaction in discovering both images. When a student feels successful, they are more apt to continue to work hard; in the case of a user, they may be more apt to follow a call to action or become more involved with the designer’s client. Unlike Pink, Cooper argues users would rather feel successful than knowledgeable; there is a big difference.9 I do not want to know 8
Daniel Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (New York, NY: Riverhead Books,
2009). 93. 9
Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann, and Dave Cronin. About Face 3: the Essentials of Interaction Design.
(Indianapolis, IN: Wiley Pub., 2007). Chapter 13.
Malloy 8 how my car works, but I do want to succeed in driving it. A sense of mastery, I would argue, can be as simple as a sense of success. Likewise, meaning and purpose can be as simple as giving context to one’s life. Books designed to help teachers with student engagement, such as the work of Elizabeth Barkley, emphasize that teachers need to show students a goal or purpose for them to feel invested in the work. If the best teachers are those who add context to their lessons by involving, applying, and relating content to the lives of students, they are also the best communicators. Their approach is more to activate than dictate. Education researcher, Eric Jensen, proclaims what has become my co-creative mantra of late, “Create the challenge, build a supportive environment with compelling biases, and get out of the way.” 10 This is a lot easier said than done, and as arguments surrounding both co-creation and active learning declare, managing results and keeping a consistent and clear message is a challenge. Arguments exist against co-creation and participatory design because they are more open for interpretation. Critics feel this ambiguity can lead to miscommunication or dilution of brand. Contrary to these arguments is the argument supporting ambiguity in interaction design put forth by Trevor Parfitt. Parfitt argues ambiguity allows for multiple interpretations which is actually an emancipatory strategy. The benefits, as Eric Jensen describes, are that we learn much better when we apply what we learn to our lives, so the bonds of personal involvement in communication are potentially far more potent than a topdown approach. Jensen outlines how to achieve active learning through engagement, repetition, input quantity, coherence, timing, error correction, and emotional states. Jensen’s
Erik Jensen, Teaching with the Brain in Mind (Alexandria, VA: Assocaition for Supervision and Curriculum
Development, 2005), 111.
Malloy 9 efforts confront the challenges of overwhelming students; in the case of visual communication, context is everything and will largely define how a designer can address each of Jensen’s points. Apply these approaches to design, and TCC begins to look feasible. What the above points imply is design and marketing (along with business and education) have largely been pushing propaganda while people, drowning out the white noise of 3,000 ads a day, want to be genuinely involved in something meaningful if we expect them to apply our messages in their lives. Not only that, they want to be challenged. They want to feel a sense of achievement, which is why interactive design has been so wildly successful. Apple, for example, sold over 10 billion apps as of January 2011, in the first two and a half years of app existence.11 As we can see, adaptation in businesses and education continue to make a positive difference for both employees/students and business/teaching objectives. Of course there will be differences between how educators and businesses apply these approaches and how visual communicators apply them, but those who are currently experimenting with these strategic techniques appropriately to their objectives are thriving. Logically, visual communicators would benefit in the same way. Rachel Bostman, who pushes peer-to-peer influence and the desire for community in What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of the Collaborative Consumption, shares how only 14% of people trust advertisers while 78% trust peer recommendations.12 We are surrounded by a global culture of tribal niches waiting to participate in something meaningful. While the amateur may threaten the role of the traditional designer, the adaptive designer sees opportunities and builds relationships.
Eric Zeman, “What's Driving Apple's 10 Billion App Success.” Information Week.
Botsman, Rogers, What’s Mine is Yours, 203.
Malloy 10 Literature Review
Contrary to popular belief, participatory approaches to design are not new, having ties in Northern Europe and beginnings as early as the 1970s.13 However, they remain widely unpracticed, why? Passionate trailblazers have been successful in co-creation, but even they have faced criticism and barriers. Co-creation is not easy; it is messy, takes time, is ambiguous, and can often cost money, especially in research. These legitimate concerns are understandable and must be addressed case-by-case, however, it is not these concerns that serve as the primary barriers to embrace co-creation and participatory design in visual communication. Confusion and ambiguity are progressâ€™s main hindrances; the term co-creation is often used synonymously with co-design, cooperative design, participatory design, and even crowd sourcing. Additionally, people use co-creation in varying ways, from research to products themselves. Opposing mindsets are grounded in a different worldview, one of the designer as expert and the user as passive consumer. This worldview limits the depth of communication, only half recognizing the creativity of the user. Looking forward to a clearer definition of True CoCreation, we can recognize both the designer and user as experts.
Who values Co-Creation? Co-creation is promoted today by researchers, such as psychological and anthropological researcher Elizabeth Sanders, business and marketing gurus, such as C.K. Prahalad and Venkatram Ramaswamy, and educators such as Eric Jensen. Each applies co-creation to achieve a different end, but the essence of relationships between the designer/business/educator and 13
Elizabeth B., Sanders, and Stappers Pieter Jan. "Co-Creation and the New Landscape of Design." Co-design
4, no. 1 (2008): 10.
Malloy 11 user/consumer/student remains constant: both parties are recognized as contributors. The diversity of ideas of what co-creation is, what benefits it offers, and how one can apply it is interesting because it shows a breadth of purpose. However, this also allows for confusion among outsiders. If everyone claims the same term for different tasks, the term begins to lose meaning. Sanders develops and applies co-creativity in her research methods, creating toolkits for users to create with, which then informs the professional design process. Co-Design, the term Sanders and Stappers use in their article, "Co-Creation and the New Landscape of Design," can take place at any phase of the design process, from early ideation to the final product; Sandersâ€™ focus is on the early phase of research. 14 For example, Sanders provides nurses with tools to create a dollhouse of an ideal patient room; another example is how Sanders provided diabetics with different tools to express what they would make to ease their struggles with a chronic illness. The benefits are insights into otherâ€™s needs and wants and a user sense of accomplishment and ownership through the process. The tools, for example, a collection of shapes that Velcro to one another, are ambiguous, open-ended. Users imagine solutions using prompts and tools. Co-Design is a solution with higher aims than simply pleasing the user; it adds functional and meaningful value through addressing needs of users by recognizing them as experts in their lives. The role of the user can occur at four levels: 1. Doing, motivated by productivity 2. Adapting, motivated by appropriation 3. Making, motivated by asserting ability or skill 4. Creating, motivated by inspiration.15 As you can see, motivations of users are key to the level of involvement they have. For Sanders, co-creation is a method of designing tools so users can create; the result, she would argue is to create more purposeful, effective, and even 14
Sanders, Stappers, "Co-Creation and the New Landscape of Design," 107-9.
Malloy 12 sustainable designs. Another toolmaker is professor of computer science at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Gerhard Fischer. In his article, â€œCouch Potatoes: From Consumers to Designers and Active Contributors,â€? Fisher rethinks media creation. He is interested in inventing the future, a future where tools of expression allow for a collaborative and cross-disciplinary process for invention. In other words, he is interested in creating tools not just for the technocrats but also for all. Within this process, he breaks down the consumer/designer spectrum, looking at roles and involvement of each along the process. Significant in his article is the point that people may want to be designers in a personally meaningful activity where they are forced to be consumers, or they want to be consumers in personally irrelevant activities but are forced to be designers.16 Similarly to Sanders, Fischer looks at why people would want to co-create and at what level. Both agree the process of co-creation allows for user ownership of problems, communities of interest, mutual learning, and power users.17 Though their focuses differ from advertising, their arguments are the same fuel that has compelled recent developments. If Sanders is at one end of the creation process, C.K. Prahalad and Venkatram Ramaswamy are at the opposite end, the end-user co-creating meaning. In 2004 they wrote the definitive text, The Future of Competition: Co-Creating Unique Value with Customers, which has significantly influenced the business world. They claim companies can no longer act alone, as customers have access to new tools (namely those available through digital media) and are dissatisfied with available choices. In a shift from managing efficiencies to managing experiences, businesses
Gerhard Fischer, "Beyond "Couch Potatoes": From Consumers to Designers and Active Contributors." First
Monday 7, no. 12 (2002). firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/objs/index.php/fm/article/view/1010/931 (accessed March 1, 2011). 17
Malloy 13 must recognize, “the balance of power in value creation is tipping in favor of consumers.”18 While youth, as argued by a number of sources, are more willing to share, participate, and relinquish ownership, the market is still largely divided. Prahalad and Ramaswamy argue the use of interaction between companies and customers as a basis for co-creation is at the core of our new reality. We need to focus on factors that determine experience, what they call elements of exchange. Co-creation of value is now echoed by ad leaders such as John Young, of Wunderman Y&R, who offers the examples of creating an experience through Best Buy’s Geek Squad and Starbuck’s brand philosophy.19 As mentioned, Nike would also fall into this approach of cocreating value in how they involve users through varying levels of participation. NikeId allows users to participate in the design process, while NikePlus creates a platform for them to build and share their own community. As is evident, Prahalad and Ramaswamy’s methods of co-creation now permeate advertising approaches.
Who does not value it? Sanders offers her recent articles and speeches on her website, www.maketools.com; her responses to various sets of questions at the ends of speeches reveal hesitancies her peers have with her approach. “How much does the user creation actually influence the design? How are results measurable? What kind of expectations for implementation do users have?” Her answers are solid, explaining the challenges in the context of benefits. In one of her articles, she explains how the fact that conversations about co-creation live primarily among
C.K. Prahalad, Venkatram Ramaswamy, "The Co-Creation Connection." Strategy + Business 1, no. 27
(2004): 2-12. http://126.96.36.199/scholar?q=cache:k8hjkqlqRnMJ:scholar.google.com/+cocreation+connection&hl=en&as_sdt=0,11&as_vis=1 (accessed March 30, 2011). 19
jakesnake321, "John Young - Marketing expert, marketing speaker - It's The Experience." YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfbDgKHFfs0 (accessed February 21, 2011).
Malloy 14 academics also limits people’s faith in them; there is fear and anxiety.20 The challenges for participatory design are twofold: the first is that in order to use this process we must recognize all people as creative; the second is that we must relinquish power. To see this way can take time and patience; it is a change of attitude for many. Additional criticisms depend on which type of co-creation you are looking at; for Sanders, on the research end, cost and time are big factors. Advertisers, in some ways, have recognized co-creation as a means to host discourse that might have already taken place elsewhere. Participatory design, ironically, is a means to make more controllable the less controllable.21 Skeptics would argue participatory design and co-creation lack control of meaning and message and give unnecessary recognition of the unqualified as creators. For business, the risks of an unclear message, a high cost with immeasurable returns, or an overall compromise of their position for power may seem incredibly daunting. In 2008, the American Institute of Graphic Arts, AIGA, predicted the “Designer Trends of 2015.” Among them were breaking through an attention economy and sharing experiences through a co-creation model based on mass customization, transparency, filters, social media, and ethnographic research.22 However, that article was published three years ago. Why have we not seen more of this discourse in practice and higher education if, in fact, it is touted to be a need for the future? There must be barriers. A big part of the challenge is that visual communication is largely subject to clients. If clients are unwilling, visual communication is out of luck. It has been a matter of time, and, as we are seeing, the time has come. Businesses are 20
Sanders, Stappers, "Co-Creation and the New Landscape of Design." 10.
C.B., Bhattacharya, Sankar Sen. "Consumer-Company Identification: A Framework for Understanding
Consumer's Relationships with Companies." The Journal of Marketing 67, no. 2 (2003): 76-88. jstor.org/stable/30040524 (accessed April 1, 2011). 22
"Designer of 2015 trends“ AIGA | the professional association for design." AIGA | the professional
association for design. http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/designer-of-2015-trends (accessed October 5, 2009).
Malloy 15 opening up because their markets are demanding them to do so. And, yet, the AIGA language has, if anything, turned away from progress on this front. In October of 2010 AIGA published an article condemning co-creation and participatory design in response to the Gap logo fiasco; the problem is, AIGA was condemning crowd sourcing, not co-creation and participatory design. Gap published its new logo (which was designed by an established, professional studio) online, only to receive a slew of feedback from angry patrons and designers alike bashing the design. Shortly after, a forum formed where designers started posting alternatives to the design. The rise of the amateur is a whole separate discussion, but what it comes down to is the fact people are doing work for free; professionals and amateurs alike are competing for business. The effect is a loss of value in design. Cheap software has made everyone in the world think they can design. Case in point, if I have access to surgical tools, the tools do not make me a surgeon. Well, technically, I could perform surgery, but I would likely perform poorly or even kill someone. The amateur designer might not kill a client, but the odds are unlikely the amateur would provide the client with great design. The response article, written by AIGA executive director Richard Grefé, reads: We recognize that the dynamics of co-creation, participatory design and audience participation are powerful social changes that corporations cannot ignore. AIGA’s role, and the profession’s, must be to provide a constructive voice that illuminates the value of professional, experienced designers, particularly in developing design solutions that respect client goals, customer interests and social context. We cannot simply say that the current social dynamics are wrong. We believe AIGA’s voice is best used by saying what we as designers can do, and 23 not simply what others should not do.
The leader of the head professional organization in the field of graphic design is using the same terms to define crowd sourcing as the terms ascribed to a well-researched and
Richard Grefé, "How do businesses balance crowd participation and design?” AIGA | the professional
association for design." AIGA | the professional association for design. http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/howdo-businesses-balance-crowd-participation-and-design (accessed April 3, 2011).
Malloy 16 incredibly important methodology for the future of the industry, earlier defined by this same organization. As the 2008 predicted trends become more and more a reality, we see that statements like the above quote saying what “we as designers can do…others should not do,” stand in the way of important questions such as, “What can designers do? What should others do? What can they do together?” There are toxins in Grefé’s statement that pertain to cocreation and participatory design: an attitude of concern. As graphic designers most likely understand these terms, co-creation and participatory design threaten the very ground graphic designers have paved; the reality is these methods recognize communicators as experts who will need a few new skill sets. The change is in how users are perceived and communicated with; users are also experts, and designers are guides who can empower them so as to benefit all parties. As Grefé said, the changes are something corporations cannot ignore; visual communicators cannot ignore them either. A new design ethos is needed to engage these corporate and social needs. As this paper has established through examining industry and academic dialogue, participatory design and co-creation have emerged as a solution to communication problems but are poorly defined and confusing to outsiders. We now understand the various notions of cocreation and how others are applying it. A fuller understanding of what these terms mean in visual communication and how they may be applied will remedy this situation. The world is ready for visual communicators to step forward and invite the world to join them. The journey ahead will be difficult, as it runs against our training. It will be messy, because we are letting go of some control, and perhaps annoying, because we come from a world of top-down attitudes. However, embracing these changes will allow the industry of graphic design to survive and thrive as we finally define and live what we are: meaning makers. The following synthesis of methods I developed will be useful to visual communicators as they work to adapt to new roles
Malloy 17 of design.
Malloy 18 Methodology
The follow methods stem from a breadth of research, some of which is mentioned earlier in this paper. Each author mentioned in this thesis is known and respected in his/her respective field. While not all sources are directly reflected in the adaptive design strategies, the depth of research that has enveloped this process has provided a rich soil for the growth and context of the final results. Early phases of research included understanding perception and psychology as a means of expanding the discourse of Barthesâ€™ semiotics theories to include the designed artifact as a meaning-building interface. Studying pedagogy, including active learning and teaching with the brain in mind, and leadership texts, such as The Tao of Leadership gave insight into methods of communicating with the intention of building intrinsic motivations. Additional historic and contemporary influences include the fields of graphic design theory and discourse, marketing, differentiation, design thinking, emotional branding, logotherapy, and consumer identity. Having expanded my knowledge base through these supportive sources allowed me to then focus on concepts that made the most sense for the given cultural needs. I evaluated the relationships between clients, visual communicators, and users throughout history; simultaneously, I examined how this outlook on the relationship was reflected in the graphic designerâ€™s view of his/her role, and, as such, his/her approach to visual communication. Several books discuss how technology and culture shift; when compared to psychological studies, these sources pointed to the larger challenges visual communicators face. Looking to how others have attempted to appeal to these new understandings, I began to see pathways. Through discussion and surveys I found that the terms that most compelled me, participatory design and co-creation, confused my peers. The concepts were already there; they needed to be reframed and made accessible. And so it began, the journey to make tangible the different pieces
Malloy 19 of this glorious communication pie: adaptive communication. Adaptive communication recognizes visual communication as a naturally co-creative process, as all users create meaning as they interpret designs. As educator and human computer interface guru Brenda Laurel once said, â€œA design is not complete until somebody is using it.â€? To this end, there are different levels of engagement and different types of engagements and touchpoints.
Active Design: Communication Interfaces as Design Engagement Active Design (AD) refers to the cognitive (intellectual and emotional) and physiological decoding and judgment of a message. Visual communication that uses cultural pathways, creates metaphors, or employs idioms is activating. Design that guides a userâ€™s eyes or provides an interesting or even confusing landscape for his/her eyes is activating. To some degree, all design is active, however, AD goes further, calling designers to challenge, in addition to guiding, users intellectually and visually. Primary discourse over design methods to date has embraced a few main threads to include hierarchy principles of gestalt theory, that the whole is greater than simply the sum of its parts, combined with meaning making through signaled communication (semiotics and the understanding of signs). Visual communicators attempt to control meaning interpretation through cultural understanding they then imbed into designed signs. The goal is to create signs or groupings of signs that communicate intended messages to a particular group, in a particular way, and that way of communicating enhances the message, building meaning. As Manovich explained, design is an interface that converts data into information; it is not a formgiving device for content but rather content added with content.24 Too often, however, the conversation of visual communication is one-sided, with designers projecting messages, directing. When design allows people to think, feel, do, question, react, act, or internalize it is 24
Database Aesthetics, 51.
Malloy 20 activating. Directing is important, because it ensures users access information in an order that most helps communication, but it should not be the only aim of design. As such, readability (speed of decoding/reading a design) of a work should be a key component in design. Equally important is the consideration of context, how and where people access the design. Do they see it in passing on the metro or in the comfort of their home? Context of a design should be considered as important as subject and message when it comes to determining a design’s readability. Concept should be developed after these factors are determined. Meaning is created with, not for, users, and users, as we now know from Daniel Pink, want to feel three things: a sense of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Thoughtful design addresses these needs. As designer, author, and educator Petrula Vrontikis once said, “Practice safe design: use a concept.” Designers can and should challenge and engage viewers through wit, double meanings, and visual and verbal plays with perception, always keeping in mind the readability and context of the design. In a sense, visual communicators can entertain while communicating, thus engaging the user. Visual communication should always be appropriate to message, but the vehicle of a concept can vary along with the voice the designer chooses to use. Look at the work of Stefan Sagmeister as well as writings on design by Rick Poyner to discover how getting lost in imagery is very often a more effective method of design. In fact, a New York Times article explained how more difficult to read typefaces force people to concentrate further and, therefore, remember material better.25 Yes, this is directing and is only appropriate for some communications, but it is also one means for involvement. Typographic voice is a tool for
Benedict Carey, "Hard-to-read typefaces force better concentration." San Francisco Bay Area — News,
Sports, Business, Entertainment, Classifieds: SFGate. http://www.sfgate.com/cgibin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/04/30/BU9B1J32JG.DTL (accessed May 1, 2011).
Malloy 21 involvement and meaning. The mastery of AD is knowing when and how to provide challenges both visually and intellectually, to develop, even within a single work, different levels of user engagement.
Experience Design: Communication is Not Flat Advertisers, businesspeople, and writers all seem to contend that there is a new currency: one of value, experience, and reputation.26 As access replaces ownership, the demands for value creation through experience shift to a primary business concern. Experience opens many design and collaboration opportunities; it can and should be multidimensional and multisensory. Brand is constituted from an array of touchpoints and relations. Experience Design, ED, to be more specific, recognizes user witness as opportunities, adding non-traditional notions of design, such as personae interactions. Note also that experiences can also be interactive and adaptive because they involve people, time, and space. In the traditional sense, one can think of experience design as environmental, where wayfinding, graphics, and artwork contribute to the emotion and function of a designed space. Today, experience also entails service, event, community, and relational design. As such, designers extend their notion of touchpoints and work cross-disciplinarily to rethink where communication can most appropriately take place. Sometimes the answer will be far removed from our traditional notions of design. An example of Experience Design could be the Best Buy Geek Squad; they are caricatures of their profession. On the other hand, they now wear an identity of pride that embraces their geekiness. To the user, the experience of getting something fixed becomes somewhat entertaining, theatrical. ED recognizes the fourth wall of
I made this hybrid statement taking into account Botsman, Rogers, Prahlahad, Ramaswamy, among other contemporary sources.
Malloy 22 theatre as it relates to business. The fourth wall, coined by Diderot, is a theatre term that refers to the invisible wall between the audience and actors. As culture is beginning to show, the willing suspension of disbelief many have had in business has given way to a desire for transparency. Visual communicators will collaborate to embrace this notion while also recognizing the place for experience as a co-created value with users.
PD Participatory Design: Design for Purposeful Interaction Participatory design is a term often used interchangeably with co-creation. This has contributed to confusion as to how to achieve either or what exactly to achieve. To clarify, I would like to define PD as designs that are interactive (they do something or change) with a predesigned outcome or goal. A prime example of this would be a game, where a viewer plays to an end goal or set of goals. A non-traditional example would be the integration of multiple media, such as a VW poster advertisement of a road map that involved viewers using an iPhone app to drive their phones across the poster. PD involves designing sets of interactions and goals, using methods of User Experience design and Interface Design. PD recognizes how people desire a sense of accomplishment and mastery. As such, PD works to this end. NikeID custom shoes, which many would think of as co-creation, are actually PD, as they come from a pre-determined array of choices. A broader example of PD mixed with ED could be the American Cancer Societyâ€™s Relay for Life and other similar walks or runs as fundraisers. Participants in the event embrace an outer notion of what a walk means. Simple spaces become imbued with meaning, while little has actually changed. To achieve this, meetings and fundraising before the event build emotions and anticipations. Speeches and stories continue and build the experience. Tee shirts and website forums supplement the community experience. The interactions of participants in the creation of the event give them a sense of ownership, while the
Malloy 23 greater plan is entirely pre-set. These walks empower people by giving them a feeling of control over something they cannot control: deathly disease. Not only are these events extremely successful in raising funds, they create advocates who return year after year. That is powerful design.
TCC True- Co-Creation: Designers Still Design, But Users Create As with Sanders’ generative design research method, co-creation is about designing tools, or as educator Eric Jenson described, biases and circumstances. Unlike Sanders, whose focus is on research techniques, my interests are in how designers can use co-creation as an effective mode of visual communication. I have chosen to add “True” to co-creation to differentiate between research and “end” design stages of co-creation. Also, TCC recognizes the co-creation of values, as discussed by Prahalad and Ramaswamy, but looks further to embrace users as full out cocreators. Fischer defined the need for accessibility to co-creation for a wide array of users but that designers should also create, within these opportunities, different levels of engagement, similar to the concept of readability. As discussed, unlike top-down approaches, co-creation involves all stakeholders; presupposing people are creative and experts in their lives. Visual communicators and businesses alike may struggle with this concept, but potential benefits, more often than not, outweigh the loss of control. Benefits include a strong sense of user ownership, better, more personal communication, and new insights into user needs and desires. It is important to recognize: 1. The fact that businesses and communicators might never have had control and 2. The reality that users may want to be meaningfully engaged. By learning to design circumstances, tools, media, or experiments appropriate to their desired message, visual communicators are supplementing traditional communication methods with strategies shown to prove strong brand advocacy. TCC enables users to be expressive in ways not possible
Malloy 24 otherwise. Unlike traditional design, or even web design for that matter, TCC is dynamic, changing, alive. Yes, it is messy. Yes, it is largely limited in how visual communicators have explored it to date, such as custom M & Ms, where you can download photos to be printed on the candy, and PopTarts that kids can draw on with frosting. However, TCC is likely the strongest method for adaptive design if it can be used well. Designers need a new skill set, to become leaders rather than managers, but to begin, all they need is an attitude of openness and a genuine desire to involve users.
Malloy 25 Discussion
While defining what I felt are the most essential methods for adaptive communication, I began experimenting visually with theories. To be able to profess is one thing, but to be able to actually achieve is another. My visual thesis is simultaneously an experiment and an educational experience, applying my four methods of adaptive communication while educating and involving the exhibit attendees as creative participants. My hope is participants will enjoy the interactions and consider the concepts behind the experiments. For the visual communicators and educators who attend, I hope they will dig deeper, question, and join the dialogue. For non-designers, I hope they will think about their own creativity and what it means to be an active participant in their communications. The exhibit brings common materials and concepts together in unexpected ways, giving participants entry point but allowing for personal paths of interpretation. The series of experiments progress and combine concepts as participants move through them. The last portion of my exhibit involves participants in creating a badge of participation to take with them after the show. They are encouraged to look at my thesis website (www.AdaptiveDesignThesis.wordpress.com) to continue the dialogue. As participants enter the gallery, they are greeted by what looks like a giant poetry wall– Rows span across a 90 inch-long window with shelves full of cut out words below (fig. 2, 3). To the right of the window are five creative prompts that participants can choose from. Each prompt asks for a different level of engagement with other participants to achieve a requested goal. For example, the “Ambigrammar” prompt asks participants to pair up, one on each side of the window, and create a sentence or story that makes sense if read in both directions. For example, “You needed life,” also reads, “Life needed you.” The exercises range in challenge level; each is playful. Participants are already familiar with creating meaning by assembling words while
Malloy 26 addressing the challenges of a communication gaps (having to read backwards, for example, or not having the exact word you are looking for). Thus, the challenge is enticing enough to draw them in; simple enough to finish in a few minutes; big enough to involve several people if they choose; and perfect in placement, transparency, and scale to lead them into the next space of my exhibit. Their reward is a feeling of achievement, mastery, and perhaps a new friendship through the experience. The materials of this experiment reflect process; cardboard and building materials echo a comfortably unpolished result, as if we have just begun our work. The impermanence and flexibility of the structure means it will continue to evolve during the life of the exhibition. Likewise, communication and brand are not static. I chose to use several different typefaces, ranging in historical significance, in the word collection. I was careful not to set the words in type intentionally, so as to leave meaning more ambiguous. Type reflects voice, tone, and inference. I chose a variety of typefaces because this experiment is not my voice, it is the voice of the participants. As participants peer through the window, they cannot help but notice the next experiment. At forty-eight inches long, standing at hip height, and glowing in the unlit room opposite the window, the second experiment is hard to miss (fig. 4, 5). This piece, Interactive Light I: On Perception, plays on narrative/database and perceptions theories, looking specifically at the role of control and interactivity in the designer/user experience. The text is only visible when the participant pulls out or removes the wooden pole below the acrylic panels. Each message etched into one of the 24 sheets was selected from my friendsâ€™ Facebook statuses or comments. The pieces begin to make a narrative, though in reality they are completely unrelated, and the user can move pieces, lighten them, or darken them. Physically, your eyes can only focus on a certain number of panels at a time, so your vision shifts between them, just as our minds shift between content and memories. The collective voices from the statements are reflected anew to the
Malloy 27 viewers who create their own connection to the statements— their own voice, their own narrative. The goal is physiological interaction of the eye and engagement of the mind. Light, clarity, and wood act as symbolic materials that build into the conceptual frame of the work. The feelings of weight, strength, and instability are also symbolic in the act of interaction. Hanging on the wall opposite the entry way is a quote from Ben Franklin; it reads, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” This quote embodies much of what I am hoping visual communicators will seek to accomplish in their work. The first part of the quote is cut in clear acrylic; the Helvetica letterforms are hardly visible. The second part is etched in illustration board, showing grids and typographic breakdowns. The third part of the quote is in chipboard; one must lift a door to reveal a second layer that is cut out (fig. 6, 7). Users read the final phrase in their reflection, as a mirror rests below the board. As I have discussed, too often visual communicators direct; the new visual communicator shall seek to inquire, to involve, even if the involvement is simple or symbolic. As participants exit the nook, they have two options to enter the next experiment; either is fine, as the four light panels are a set of methodologies broken in twos. Participatory Design and True Co-Creation sit side by side, oddly relating to one another (fig. 8-11). Participants will notice a mostly-empty TCC with the exception of a few random words on sticky notes. Lines are marked across the surface; some lines, clearly drawn by different hands, connect to make new forms. At the top of the light reads text, “Wanna play? You will need a sticky note (arrow).” The participant goes over to the PD panel, which is covered in sticky notes, with the exception of empty spots where some have already been moved. The words, “Remove to reveal your fortune” are faintly visible bellow the notes as are little lines of illegible type. Curious, the participant peels a note to read his/her own fortune; hopefully it is a good one (no promises). Having participated, (s)he returns to the TCC light and follows the three
Malloy 28 steps to co-create. The first is to write the last word of their fortune on the note. They can then place the note anywhere on the TCC light; I believe people will continue to use words to create narratives. Having done so, they may complete the last step, “draw a line or draw something out of an existing line.” At any point in this process, the participant can read more about the four methods; panels providing a brief overview of each sit at eye-level above the lights. Excited by the first two methods, participants will move around the lights to see the other sides (fig. 15-18). ED for Experience Design reads backwards, glowing at the participant. Realizing they are standing in front of a mirror, they move to the side to read the reflected text and graphics, which combine quotes and keywords. Beside this panel is Active Design, a wildly complex but elegant combination of charts, quotes, and images. This panel is designed for readability, not legibility, though each piece of copy is legible. Decoding the graphics and the relations between them, participants do what they always do, create their own meaning. Again, panels rest above each light to define and explain the essence of each method. The final piece of my exhibition is a worktable covered in paper circles and decorative tools. This is the station where participants can make a badge to take with them, a badge celebrating their role in participatory culture. The prompt for this station is to “write down or draw something you are thankfulfor.” Thankfulfor references a co-creative website, Thankfulfor.com. Participants are encouraged to post their responses to the site after the exhibition. In addition, the station invites participants to view and post comments on my thesis website to continue the dialogue from the exhibit and read more about what they experienced. I chose to design my visuals this way because it seemed essential to my research and concept I involve participants in the process rather than simply design information graphics. It is important to note not one piece of the exhibition is digital media. This is not because I believe digital media do not apply; the opposite is true! The conversation of my thesis continues through
Malloy 29 my thesis site; I presented at the graduate salon using digital methods; my exhibit specifically references thankfulfor.com. Digital media are where we are already seeing successful application of these ideas; digital media is a natural host for adaptation and participation. Coming from the world of print and brand, I chose to challenge myself to think about physical environments and interactions, applying research along the way. My process does not end with hanging the show, but rather I will be noting reactions and documenting the experiment for results, thus informing future design approaches. No doubt, this is the first of many adaptive designs I will create, or should I say co-create?
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Malloy 35 Figures
Figure 1, Design CRI early rendering
Figure 2, Word Wall exterior wall
Figure 3, Word Wall detail interior
Figure 4 and 5, Interior space and perception light
Figures 6 and 7, Ben Franklin Quote
Figures 8-11, Participatory Design and True Co-Creation lights
Figures 15-18, Experience Design and Active Design
Adaptive Design for Visual Communicators:Reexamining Relationships and Making Theory Apply is my MFA thesis paper. Please enjoy.
Published on Jun 4, 2011
Adaptive Design for Visual Communicators:Reexamining Relationships and Making Theory Apply is my MFA thesis paper. Please enjoy.