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New Page: Interactions

The Interactions page is up, providing two examples from the the DePaul 2013 Autumn Quarter. Both projects focused on documentation of interaction designs.

Office Hour Scheduler

This project detailed the core interactions for an office hours scheduling utility. The documentation had a strong focus on outlining system conditions.

Built in Axure 6.5

Expense Reimbursement Interface

This project detailed the several interactions for a tablet based expense reimbursement app. The main focus of the documentation was to outline several interactions needed to manage expense reports.

Built in Axure 6.5

Screen Free Week

Just found out that this week is Screen Free Week. Surprise to me!

While I’m all on board for unplugging and getting out for a while, I can’t say that I agree with the Screen Free’s overall premise.

Take the hypothetical situation of ditching your shoes. There’s nothing wrong with going barefoot while your at the park. The feel of grass between your toes, running around like a little kid. Sure, go for it. But let’s say you decide to go shoeless for a week. Some of your acquaintances are going to stop talking to, you’ll have become that creepy guy who stopped wearing shoes. Also you won’t have groceries for a week, since the market isn’t letting in without shoes. You might get used to watching the ground everywhere you go just to make sure you aren’t about to step on a jagged rock, piece of glass, or stray Lego.

Shoe’s are such a part of our daily lives, and to stop using them for a week is going to cause some problems.

Same thing with our screens. I bike ride occasionally. On the ride out, I rock audiobooks and podcasts, on the ride in, I unplug and listen to the sounds along the trail. There is value in it. but if I unplugged for a week, cold turkey, dear god…

One it would mean I wouldn’t have any contact with my fiance who right now lives down state (She would be pretty upset with me I’m guessing). My project team would probably beat me with sticks since i wouldn’t be able to get any work done. No phone calls (screen on my phone). No work done. No bills paid. Friends and acquaintances offended that I’m not responding to emails… I can go on.

I think what groups like Screen Free forget is that for all the problems; Mass Marketing, decreased concentration and activity in school children, poor academic performance… Our screens have permeated our worlds and help us as much as, if not more then, they hurt us.

Here is what I propose instead of unplugging for a week:

Screen Free is encouraging users to reevaluate their relationships with technology. I agree this is something each person should do. But don’t do it by unplugging for a week. Start looking into how you can reverse the negative effects of screen time on your life. Take your kids Geo Caching and let the screen enhance your outdoor experience. Ride a bike, stop to take pictures on your ride, then map your route online. Boot Linux, and start learning with your kids. The question I am asking myself this week is not am I spending too much time in front of a screen. The questions I’m asking myself this week is Is my screen helping me live the life I want, and how can my screen help me live the way I want.

Digital Design – Hanz & Ze Molemen

Project for HCI 402 Foundations of Digital Design Winter 2012

Tap your cane and adjust your vestments

This was a concert flyer design for my HCI 402 Foundations of Digital Design class in the winter of 2012.

I drew the Moleman on a post-it note over a year ago. It was a small character drawing inspired by the stories of Peter Cotton Tail and Joseph Conrad’s 1907 novel The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale. I intended to create an Edwardian Era atmosphere for the composition that would fit with the subject (Moleman) and the period the subject was based on. I researched Art Nouveau poster compositions. I originally copy/pasted a border from Alfons Mucha’s “Fruit” (1897) but it did not work with my intended layout and so I designed a new border, based on Mucha’s compositions; creating an arch and the window in the upper right corner. The Title fonts were taken from Fontspace.com, as were the characters used for the wallpaper inlay.

The band is fictitious. Hanz & Ze Molemen are conceptually intended to be similar in style to indie folk rock groups (i.e. the Decemberists), though with a strong lean toward Robert and Richard Sherman’s “Portobello Road.” Brown was the conceptual color – I wanted the flyer to have the look and feel of old printing press paper, something found in the bottom of a dusty trunk found in a grandparent’s attic. The wallpaper was based on Victorian and Edwardian wallpapers and textiles that used two to three colors with detailed designs.

The Moleman fur was pulled from an online illustration and set in the wrong directions in order to create a more disheveled feel for the band’s icon.

The intended audience of this is made up mostly of hipsters with ironic pocket watches and tobacco smoking pipes bought off Etsy. The audience prides itself on not following the flashy colors and lights of mainstream media, but instead is drawn to something quietly ironic and exclusive. The composition is based on the idea that a reader will see a statement like “adjust your vestment” and will in interest adjust her Buddy Holly glasses, believing that she alone understands the subtle musical sophistication that the flyer suggests for the band.

Local Network – Normal, IL

This Brass Tacks Article came up in my Google feeds today. It was convenient since I’ve been pricing quotes on garage door installation and tree removal.

I really am amazed that there are so few online reviews for any services in the central Illinois area.

The article touches on the concept of using reviews to improve business practices – and this may be a chance to tackle some great marketing potential. Instead of looking for good reviews to grade employees, encourage reviews by consumers that help you improve your company and practices – And here’s the best part, you can confront critical reviews in a positive way that improves your public image, ask these guys.

I mean, your other option is to keep a low profile and hope that people either post only positive public reviews or nothing at all, but that chancy and doesn’t leave much power in your hands.

The Most Important Thing You’ll Write

In a recent article Chris Brogan Mentions the most important part of Twitter is to reply as often as you can. I’d like to expand o this, a bit.

If you have a blog I’m sure you’ve spent a sizable percentage of time (that you should be using to develop content) looking at you analytics page – how many views did the site get, where did they come from. But consider an interesting social behavior. Most people, as they bump past each other and make first and subsequent impressions, are thinking one thing. They are focussed on what others are thinking of them. Imagine an entire room filled with people caught in the ironic conundrum that as each one worries about what others are think of him/her – those others are just concerned with how they’re coming off to someone else. No one actually focusing on that scuff on your shoe, or whether that tie makes you look serious or or out of fashion, they are only focused on their own shoes and their own ties. In these situations the individuals that see the irony and stop focusing on themselves are able to focus on more important goals.

The Same goes for online communities. Staring at your statistics page will get you nowhere. The only way to really get your page out there in front of people is to give them a reason to notice you. start looking at other blogs, reply to what others have posted on their page. Make other people your focus, and have something interesting to say in reply to their posts, eventually they’ll start reciprocating, and more so, many of their readers may start to take notice of you as well.

By avoiding the neurotic self counting and just getting out there, you’ll be in a better place to have people wondering what you think about them.

Structured Writing

When I was going through School – Jr. High / High School – Those years were you begin to learn about life, love, why it’s important to wash your face and wear deodorant in public, part of my education that I remember very well is the art of the Five Paragraph Essay. The idea is a structured method of writing that guides you’re composition, It’s actually not a bad idea if writing doesn’t come naturally to you or if you’re just at a loss on how to approach your topic. But if your going to use a structured composition method I have a few idea’s to help you step away from the formality of structured writing, and to give your content a little more of you.

Someone Said It Better.
I remember being told that you should start your writing with an “attention getter” an often recommended example was quoting another author. This is touchy – I often use quotes in my writing, but there are better and worse ways to use a quote. Here’s a general suggestion that I feel comfortable giving to other writers. Attention getters supposedly pull the reader in, but using a block of text from someone else, can take the focus away from your thoughts and advice. If you have to spend the rest of your composition living up to that first text block, we won’t get to all that you have to say.

Try something small – a song lyric, a common turn of phrase, a line from the Simpsons – and reinterpret it in a way that helps make your point.

Take a Stance; Are You for, or Against.
This goes to the argumentative structure of composition writing, and it’s ingrained in our culture. We value the knowledge of experts, and experts know the answer.
But few of us are experts, most people are muddled and curious about the best answer. don’t try to play the expert all of the time – if the basis for your content is that it “seems to be” to you, or that it has worked in your experience – then go with that – you don’t need to tell people how it is, it’s okay to let them know how you feel. In a conversation people don’t want a lecturer, and when becoming part of a community, conversation is what you want to foster (exception to this is in cases like Wikipedia; you should know your material if you contribute to that venue). When you are speaking to people, you will want to develop trust. Trust comes from developing what your audience is looking for, whether it’s your story, your advice, or your expertise – in short your readers are not always looking for the expert advice – you can be open, honest, even unsure, and you can ask for advice or a better idea while you’re giving advice to others.

There is a write way to write and a wrong way.
There is no way to respond to that. Saying that it is wrong, is to clearly state that there is a right way to write. But in light of what I was taught in school I will say that I was never taught to believe in my own voice as a writer – and voice is one of the most important things I’ve found. Even research papers have voice – though generally the pressure is to use the academic voice – But what about your voice – the voice the yells when Lebron dunks (do we still call it dunking?), the voice that talks back at the radio announcer in the car? doesn’t that voice have anything important to say?

Yes.

There is a reason why the fiction sections are in the center of barns and noble, the how to books “for dummies” do well, and why the new york times best seller is rarely that no nonsense masters thesis on the mating habits of mice… it’s because most people don’t want a text book. people take more interest when someone speaks on their level. present your information, but don’t talk down to your readers – talk to them and talk with them.