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thoughts and observations about design, information architecture and design history
Wednesday 10|31|01
Call for Papers

In a joint effort, that was mentioned at the 4th AIGA Advance Summit this summer, CHI and AIGA are teaming up at CHI 2002 to bring attendees a jointly produced forum.

"CHI2002 and AIGA Experience Design would like to invite you to participate in our first co-sponsored event! The FORUM is dedicated to exploring how the knowledge and skills from each community contribute to current thinking and innovations in the world of human-computer interaction and experience design. The FORUM is an independent two-day event and will take place immediately preceding the CHI2002 technical program and does not required attendance at other CHI2002 events.

The FORUM will explore the intersections of the SIGCHI and AIGA design communities, including design and evaluation methods and methodologies, philosophy of design, and design artifacts. The program will include well-known speakers from the design community, panels, and in-depth case studies. The FORUM will offer plenty of opportunities to interact with fellow design practitioners of all kinds."

I think this is a terrific opportunity for the two organizations to recognize their overlaps and differing perspectives on the same realm. We (designers) work with usability people or or often called upon to perform that role and in turn, many CHI attendees are on teams with designers or are making design recommendations. It is important to foster the collaborative relationships and learn from each other as we navigate new media.

I hope that, despite the fact that the event happens before CHI, attendees from both realms attend.

Posted by erin at 04:32 PM | in AIGA :: | Link

Monday 10|29|01
Rich Stories

In a beautiful blend of storytelling, photography and interactivity - Communication Arts Interactive features - the work of the studio Picture Projects. The studio creates interactive stories from the works of photographers, documentary makers and museums.

This is the reason I love the interactive nature of the web - the stories that can be told in a much richer, deeper way than a gallery opening, or a tv show or a book. These types of sites create the other side of the coin to the web application, heavily commercial nature of the rest of the web.

Posted by erin at 05:42 PM | in Interaction Design :: | Link

Archiving the Web

Interesting article on the New York Times site today about a project to archive the web. All of it. From the beginning (sort of).

Seems Brewster Kahle (keynote speaker at this year's ASIST Annual Conference) started documenting the web back in 1996 to preserve it and to show the internet's evolution. This has now blossomed into a full blown archive project involving the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian and other educational institutions. The search engine company - Alexa is providing the crawling technology and you can search for a site by URL and have copies from different years show up.

This would be a very interesting IA project - to go in and organize the entire internet in its varying evolved stages and then make it accessible to people doing research. This in parallel to the actual current web. Pretty interesting.

I looked up my site and although it says there is a page from 1998 in there, the page that comes up is my homepage from 2000. My site from 1996 is not there, but it looks like you can donate pages to the project.

If you are a born archivist (read: packrat) like me, you will want to preserve your site through time and add it to the project for future surfers and historians.

Posted by erin at 11:51 AM | in History :: | Link

Thursday 10|25|01
CSS is not your friend

Trying to upgrade DesignWritings to the new layout which is totally done with CSS. Combined with GreyMatter, I am finding the full template set a little wacked out. This main index page looks fine, but the individual entry seems to be uncooperative. They are almost identical templates, but sit in different directories. Am wondering if that would screw things up. Most of the right nav is missing on the lower pages.

Anyone else have these kinds of problems? It is late and I have to go to sleep - so apologies for this being screwed up.

Posted by erin at 11:43 PM | in Techniques :: | Link | Comments (8)

Tuesday 10|23|01
Typography Lecture

For those of you who are into typography and have an appreciation for the classics, Robert Bringhurst - author of The Elements of Typographic Style - is speaking in San Francisco this coming Saturday, October 27. This lecture is one of the last lectures of the Zapfest series that was put on in honor of Hermann Zapf.

The Bringhurst book is one of my favorites for learning about classic page construction and use of grids in design. The concepts apply equally as well in print as they do for content pages online. The ideas of using a grid to separate and define content as well as bring a sense of hierarchy and structure are timeless.

This lecture definitely should not be missed.

Lecture will begin at 2:00 p.m.

San Francisco Public Library • Koret Auditorium, Lower Level

100 Larkin Street at Grove • San Francisco, California

Posted by erin at 05:51 PM | in Event :: | Link | Comments (2)

Thursday 10|18|01

Melanie, of points me to more writings by Jessica Helfand. This Manifesto was originally published in Eye Magazine 10:38 (Winter 2000), and makes some very strong statements about the role of design, the importance (self-importance) of design and other issues in New Media.

My favorite quote is, "Information Architecture is Not Architecture. ...My view then was the same as now: as long as we’re choosing new titles, I’d like to change mine to “brain surgeon.” Much as we’d prefer to think otherwise, design, unlike architecture (and for that matter, brain surgery) remains an industry in which one need not—indeed, can not—be certified to practice. Architecture is architecture, information be damned. What we design, as novel and revolutionary as it might seem at the time of our designing it, is still just design. Simply stated: Graphic design is probably not going to kill you if it falls on your head."

This simple statement does alot to push the air out of the self importance and fluffiness that we have been making of IA. While what we do is important - to our companies, to our clients, it is not rocket science.

The Manifesto goes on to make more interesting points and refers to other interesting manifestos throughout the course of art and design history. As always, we have much to learn from our predecessors. I have to wonder what would MY manifesto say? Who else would agree with it? Would anyone notice? Would anyone else sign it and uphold these beliefs?

Other manifestos:
the dadaist manifesto
the surrealism manifesto
dada and surrealist texts
futurist manifesto
cluetrain manifesto
Bruce Sterling's Manifesto

Posted by erin at 02:00 PM | in Theory :: | Link | Comments (2)

Amazon redesigns their redesign

Amazon recently redesigned their product page with tab like divisions of all the info on the page. Their discrete chunking of information seemed to make the page slightly more organized and easier to navigate tons of info associated with the product.

Lots of discussion on the SIGIA list about the tabs and more discussion on

Elegant Hack about whether or not this was a good solution to the problem of tons of content. And whether or not the tabs were anb appropriate metaphor for the chunking.

My own opinion is that the tabs within tabs, with different behavior (one set at the top is like file folders - different info within each bucket, while the lower set is a chunking of info all related to the single topic - the product page) can be confusing to end users. But because the tabs in this case are very differently realized - the top are tabs, the inner ones look more like tabby buttons - I think they probably are ok. We dealt with this issue a lot with the AV 2.0 redesign in 2000. We used tabs for discrete navigation of areas in the network, but there were mini tabs on the search box (like Google) that actually performed searches in different databases on the same query in the field. Confused? Imagine how our users felt.

In that case, our tabs were very close together and in some cases had similar names. I think the Amazon solution is different. Distance separates them, the top ones scroll off before the inner tabs are seen and the names are clear.

Well - they have reverted back to the old design. Despite tons of conversation in the industry about the proposed new design, I am not sure going back was better.

Here is the Amazon Tabs in Tabs (99k jpg at full size)

Posted by erin at 10:14 AM | in Amazon :: | Link

Tuesday 10|16|01
New Book to Read

Jessica Helfand, of Helfand | Drentel, and prolific writer of thoughtful essays on the topics of graphic design, screen design, typography, design theory and new media, has a new collection of essays out. Published this month, the book can be bought through the Princeton Architectural Press

The site promoting the book has some interesting quotes about the author by notable designers, educators and other practitioners.

I wonder though, about the implementation of a text heavy promotion site using only graphics. Seems anti-web. What if I had all my images turned off in my browser?

Despite that, I have always enjoyed her essays, finding them thought provoking and smart. She is probably one of the smartest writers out there in the space of graphic design and new media, yet she is not really well known within the online community (from what I can see).

Posted by erin at 11:43 AM | in Books :: | Link | Comments (2)

Thursday 10|11|01
Amazon segments product page

UPDATE: They have since taken this down. UPDATE

Amazon has done a makeover on the basic product page. They have segmented all the info that used to be on the page into different categories accessible via tabs. I really like how this cleans up the page and aggregates like type information together. It makes the initial page seem less overwhelming and puts the ownership of information access back into the hands of the end user. The pages are still long and full of info but seem to be more organized. It will also allow for 4 times the amount of info/monetization that can be associated with any one product. They also have duplicate tab set at the bottom of the page for easy access after scrolling down.

Very smart strategy.

Posted by erin at 02:24 PM | in Amazon :: | Link

Wednesday 10|10|01
Powers of 10

Did you know that today was the Powers of 10 Day? I highly recommend watching the film made by Ray and Charles Eames, if you have never seen it. And if you have - watch it again. The ideas are powerful and amazing, more so given the level of technology at the time. The DVD from Amazon also has a short film made by their son documenting the studio, their massive collections and how it was taken apart, catalogued and donated to the Library of Congress. Amazing collections - makes me feel like I really don't have as much stuff as I think I have compared to the Eames.

And tomorrow (today for non-pacific timers) is a palindrome :: 101101

Posted by erin at 10:56 PM | in History :: | Link | Comments (1)

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DUX—Five Lessons Learned

Coloring Outside the Lines

Modeling the Creative Organization

Coming of Age

Talking With Jesse James Garrett

The Tool Makes the (Wo)man

AIGA Experience Design Summit #5 - Recap

AIGA Experience Design - past, present and future: An interview with Terry Swack and Clement Mok

Summit Beginnings: Saturday

Chicken Run: Summit Closing: Sunday

design history articles
Foreseeing the future: The legacy of Vannevar Bush

Learning from the Powers of Ten

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