On Readings from Lupton, Brockman, and Gerstner

So I include these because I always get a kick out of seeing other artists’ notes:

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As I mentioned at the end of my previous post, I realized my big weakness was typography. So I did some quick searches as to what would be the best resources to consult and found what turned out to be a fabulous book: Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton. It was a great deal of what I had been vaguely aware of for some time now, but had never clarified into principles. Not only was there a brief history of typography to put the different styles in context, but she added in “Type Crimes” of not-to-dos which were very helpful. I also liked the guidelines of mixing fonts… ok, I liked the whole thing. I’ll leave it at that and go to the more interesting parts: the questions it rose.
Studying the letter though is only a tiny portion of the work; How to lay out text on a page? Naturally this question led me to grabbing books on grid systems in design, specifically that of Josef-Muller Brockman. I found his text a thorough investigation of grid designs in print, rich with examples. Yet that led to the next question- when to use one grid system over another? And when you choose a grid system, how do you choose which variant to use? These questions were starting to lead me outside of graphic design, for in design for print, a designer will usually know how much text there is, what photographs there are, how the guiding thread of narration needs to lead the reader across the page, etc, and these will be the guidelines they’ll use. But what about for dynamic content?
This question led me to Karl Gerstner’s Designing Programmes, a collection of essays that I had hoped to gain more out of than I did. There are, of course, flexible design models that allow for a great deal of variation even when the content is dynamic… newspaper designs, for example. Yet… it still wasn’t quite what I was looking for. I wasn’t just thinking dynamic content in that the content changes from one page to the next, or one issue to the next, but from moment-to-moment, depending on dynamic information.
Of course what I would think to go to next would be website design resources, and there are a million of those. And though I still plan to check out some books I haven’t already seen, I feel as if I already know a great deal of what they’re going to say: Have a navigation pane, use a grid system to communicate clearly, always provide a home button… etc. But there are two things wrong with that sort of guidance:
One: it’s only elements. It’s like saying “to make an animal, you’ll need limbs, a brain, and innards.” Putting aside the fact that those elements were completely arbitrary, it doesn’t tell you anything about how the animal should act. For example, how should it interact with its environment? Let’s put it back in digital terms: How should an app or software interact with a user’s dynamic environment? Or how should the app interact with the other apps and software already on the device?
Two: this ‘limbs, brain, innards’ guidance points to only two design principles: first, clear information presentation (this goes back to traditional graphic design). And secondly, a clear navigational structure (linking).
Yet where does motion design fit in? Already designers in companies big and small are finding ways to make the motion design of a piece of software not only be elegant and pleasureable to use, but contribute to the ease of navigation and the user’s understood structure of the program. Look at Windows 8- for all I might pick at their interaction methods, the motion design is fantastic and quite unique. Yet you wouldn’t know it unless you actually picked up a Windows phone or tablet and started using it (and made it past the learning curve to actually be able to enjoy and admire the motion design… but that’s a different issue).
Undoubtedly, in regards to these questions, there are already long discussions and detailed blog posts by design professionals much more along in their careers and experience than I. And it’s clear I need to find them.
…..SIGH. Is it ridiculous of me to complain that there’s too much information available and I get tired of hunting it all down and the guilt I feel if I don’t?
Oh well. Off to google.

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About jesspherron

A UX designer, illustrator, and animator residing in the Portland area, documenting the lessons of the highs and lows of being an artist.

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