February 2010 Archives

We had a guest speaker named Brad, from General Mills, come into our classroom recently. Our class had a good discussion about biodegradability with Brad. Brad explained how General mills has been working on a package that will be 100% biodegradable, effective by keeping their cereals dry and good for a long time, and still being cheap enough to make good profit from. Right now, our speaker claimed that the problem is in the bags. I believe he said that there were three layers in the bags that allows it to be such an effective package at keeping the cereal dry and keeping costs down. One of the biggest problems was that the biodegradable packages could not match this existing bag's performance.

As I thought about this challenge Brad was facing I remembered, Doesn't Sun Chips have a new biodegradable bag? And don't chips have to be dry to ensure customer satisfaction? The answer is, yes, so I went out and bought a bag to try for myself. The change in packaging is noble and I think, a smart play for Sun Chips, as they will peak the interest of many customers. The package is, however, more noisy and obnoxious than any other package on the face of this earth. This fact made me question this exact model bag as being the correct solution for housing chips. I decided it was more like the first real step in the future direction of chip packaging.

It also occurred to me that even though this is probably not the perfect chip package as it may be too noisy for some to bear, it makes a perfect cereal bag. Our speaker, Brad, mentioned that cereal would forever remain in a tall, skinny, rectangular, box for several reasons. Number one, that package shape has burned its self into people's brains. It IS the shape of cereal. Number two, the box allows the cereal to stand out, be seen, and appear to be superior to other cereal brands. Since the box is not going away, way would it matter if the bag inside were noisy? At least this package would not make much noise just by simply picking it up. I think this is a great opportunity for General Mills and the future of our environment.

check out my links.
I have posted a link to the Sunchip's site containing a video on their new package.
I have also posted a link to the Greenerpackage.com website where another packager from general mills has made a post on the topic of Biodegradable Plastic Additives.



My word for this blog post is usability, more specifically web usability. Wikipedia (1) defines web usability as an approach to making web sites easy to use for an end-user, without requiring her (or him) to undergo any specialized training. The broad goal of usability can be

1. Present the information to the user in a clear and concise way.
2. To give the correct choices to the users, in a very obvious way.
3. To remove any ambiguity regarding the consequences of an action e.g. clicking on delete/remove/purchase.
4. Put the most important thing in the right place on a web page or a web application.

But, usability is also design.

As designers we must see a project on many levels. For web design we have to maintain accessibility, provide pleasing appearances within our designs, and create full functionality all while we consider usability. Without it, without design, development could fail.

When a website is in the beginning stages, design must be considered. Not to show off how pretty or fricken' awesome we can make the site, but for the sake of usability. We need to create user experience in order for the design to succeed. "A user's personal experience trumps anything the designer is trying to communicate. In talking about a design's "look and feel," feel wins every time. ...We need much better methods for testing enjoyable aspects of user interfaces." (2) This is where usability becomes a very important part of our design process. We get to put ourselves in our audiences' shoes and ask ourselves what would we expect?

In Design Factors we (those of you who had Bert) worked on a website for Medtronic and were able to see how important usability is with websites through user testing. We found out that some of our ideas didn't come across the way we wanted them to and had to redesign the placement of buttons or how the page was put together. We thought about usability as design. And when we do that, everything else should follow.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_usability
2. Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox, July 7, 2002: User Empowerment and the Fun Factor

If you're at all interested in cooperate logo design, Brand New is a great blog to follow.


It's written by UnderConsideration:

They compare old logos to their new logos, and give great insight/consideration about their success/failures.

#WHOAREYOU - Tools to Build a Better Web Presence

You are invited to the next "So..." event, "#WHOAREYOU - Tools to Build a Better Web Presence" on Thursday, March 11 from 6-8:00 p.m. at mono. Join us and other local designers as we show you tools and services to easily create and improve your online presence.

In an increasingly digital world, it's important for designers to have an online presence. See how local designers Carl Schultze, Evan Stremke, and Aaron Shekey use tools such as Cargo Collective, Issuu, Wordpress, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to easily update their online portfolios and strengthen their online brands. Discover how CMS (Content Management System) tools can help you reach a wider audience by increasing your online presence.

Join us for the next installment of the "So..." series for Emerging Designers. "So..." is the beginning of a question, an idea, a community, a statement. Emerging Designers (typically in their first 4 years out of school) are brought together through a quarterly series of lectures, discussions and social networking hours. This is place where we explore the essential topics that you were never taught in school, or have been dying to ask since you broke into design.

Space is limited, so register now. Registration deadline is March 8 at 5 p.m.

Cost: AIGA Members: $10, Non-members: $15
Please note: No refunds for cancellations.

Generously hosted by mono and sponsored by The Foundation.
Presented by AIGA Minnesota Emerging Designers Committee.

Getting there: mono is located in Uptown close to Calhoun Square on Hennepin Avenue between W Lake St. and 31st.

Parking: On-street meter parking near mono is available or in the Calhoun Square Parking Ramp.

"Working the screens" is a phrase that started to catch on in my family over the last couple of years. When someone pulls out a phone (especially at dinner), the person in question is quickly mocked for "working the screens". This happens to me quite often. What is interesting to note is that more and more children are growing up in a so called "screen saturated" environment. 

Think about the amount of screens in your own life: many of us wake up and check email or Facebook through breakfast. Then, sitting on the bus you fire off a few quick texts. At work you stare into a screen all day, multitasking around and probably browsing the internet. Return from work to browse some more internet, maybe watch a movie on NetFlix or catch up on Hulu. Sure, our own usage is sorta depressing but what about the children?

A recent study1 has found that kids now consume a staggering 10 hours and 45 minutes of media per day. This is up from an average of 8:33/day just 6 years ago. In short, kids have become increasingly dependent on the media saturated culture we've been hurdling towards for years. As designers, where do we fit into this increasingly bright and probably animated future?

One way that we can make the best out of this situation is to harness these technologies for education. As I see it, the discussion of children goes hand in hand with education. The advances of these technologies have torn down educational barriers across the globe. As Richelle has said in class a few times, as designers we're not so much artists as we are communicators. 

Design can help further the dissemination of information and therefore improve the education of our children by making communication easier. At the same time we can use our communication skills to inform kids about how to eat better and most importantly, care for others.

1 - Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds http://www.kff.org/entmedia/mh012010pkg.cfm

If you like what you're doing, you'll do it better. Pleasure has everything to do with graphic design, and quite appropriately for this blog entry, pleasure is often personal. We all know that working on a project you're excited about is exponentially more enjoyable than an uninspiring task. And it's not just excitement; it's also an emotional investment that makes for more careful work.
This idea works the other way too, as a viewer/user: if a design speaks personally to you, you'll find pleasure in it. Enjoy viewing the poster, take more interest in what it has to say, consider how this would relate to you personally. Graphic designers are visual communicators, the better they can relate to your work personally, the more effective you'll be at making sure the message and feeling come across accurately.
An inevitable issue arises with having an personal connection to the work one takes pleasure in creating. Often a vision isn't as well received by a client or other party as the designer would have hoped. This is when the personal agenda gets in the way and instead of helping the design process; it creates an undesirable, unpleasurable situation.
Getting attached to one's work is indeed, a double-edged sword. Is it wise to break this attachment? Better to become less involved with one's work to avoid disappointment down the road and look at projects more objectively. Or should one find the ultimate pleasure in their work by relating to it personally? I would have to say the latter, going back to my first point. The more excited you are about your work, the better it will be. Though, a thick skin and open mind during critiques doesn't hurt either.

Heller, S. (2004). Breakthrough: scientists find emotions influence design. AIGA Voice, Retrieved from http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/breakthrough--scientists-find-emotions-influence-design

Norman, D.A. (2003). Emotion & design: attractive things work better. Interactions Magazine, ix(4)

Minimalism describes movements in various forms of art and design, especially visual art and music where the work is stripped down to its most fundamental features (1). To be minimal means every bit matters even more. I have heard it described as it is what is not there that matters most. For designers, in regards to the environmental realm, we must consider what we use, and how we use it and why.

We discussed cereal box sizes in class, and how smaller boxes could save money for companies. Unfortunately, there is a stigma created in the heads of consumers that cereal boxes are of a particular size and shape and otherwise won't sell. But, that stigma was not always there, perhaps the next generation of designers (us!) will create a new stigma that boxes must not be twice the size of its contents. That less box mean more trees (good for the environment), and more room for more cereal in your cupboard (good for companies).

The common phrase "Less is More" is defined as "The notion that simplicity and clarity lead to good design" (2). Simplicity and clarity often gets pushed out when marketing, safety and money get involved. It seems overwhelming when we realize how our consumption leads to destruction, and that we could not possible fix the issues, since it's all interconnected to things we cannot control. But to be optimistic, being outspoken about why changing something as simple and basic as a cereal box design should occur is as important as that actual change. Perhaps bringing the environmental facts to the general public is what needs to happen first, to inspire some change. That seems to be the theme lately.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimalism
2. http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/226400.html

Tips for Students

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For those of you who don't know, I've started a standalone blog containing tips for students. Each post is a different tip, so be sure to check it out.


All the best,

My topic is poverty for the blog posts. The question is how poverty affects our world as designers. Poverty is an issue that affects communities, cities, and nations. It has become a global goal to eliminate poverty with economic and political policies. Sadly the wealthier you are, the better your chances are to benefit from these policies making it hard to escape poverty. So the question is when and how will society help in ending poverty.

Wikipedia defines poverty as the condition of not having the means to afford basic human needs such as clean water, nutrition, health care, clothing, and shelter. The design community, and those in engineering, the arts, public health, and other fields can and should take part in the global efforts to eliminate poverty. It becomes the responsibility of a health society to succeed where our government has not. "1 billion children live in poverty. 640 million have no access to safe water, 270 million have no access to health services."(1) As designers we have the access to new technologies and materials that if used effectively can solve issues such as clean water, food, low-cost living, and better hygiene.

Poverty comes with a broad range of issues such as: health, education, housing, and violence. The one thing designers need to understand and look at are the real needs of a particular community. As designers we have an opportunity to solve age-old issues with modern solutions. In the end a designer who immerses him or herself in an environment they want to change, change will come.

More than technical skills, more than being able to "talk" design, more than being able to rattle off design's most important advancements, and even more than being able to define a plethora of design-related terms, you must first be inspired.

Look, there's a reason you're enrolled in the College of Design. You wouldn't spend your money on an education you didn't believe in. Granted, you might now regret that exact decision, but as underwhelming as the curriculum may be, you're still going to [hopefully] work in the design field.

And unless you're inspired, all of your other marketable skills will fall by the wayside.

Ever since Al Gore invented the Internet, designers have been finding it increasingly easier to find inspiration for their work. In fact, the query "design inspiration" yields nearly 19 million results on Google (which translates roughly to 2.3 million "o"s in Google's page count). And while searching the web to find inspiration is all well and good, you can't discredit the deep emotional connection you might make with something completely unrelated to design.

Read a book, go see a movie, take a walk in the park, make dinner using an actual cookbook, take some photographs, listen to some new music, wake up, get off your ass and play a game of Scattergories with your roommates.

If you are going to get your inspiration exclusively from design related materials such as blogs, design magazines, or design related videos, just be sure not to follow trends too closely. It can be a dangerous move. Remember, it's not where you take it from, it's where you take it to.

Here's the thing though, if you're passionate about the environment, let that influence the type of design you do. If you're passionate about the ethical treatment of animals, or gun laws, or fair trade policies, or folding laundry, or playing solitaire, Fox News, or whatever. Let that fuel your creative fire.

If you're not inspired by the work you're doing, nobody else will be either. And if your audience isn't inspired, then quite simply your message has failed.


Jonathan Christopher's take on inspiration
How designers are influenced by music
Will Hillenbrand says inspiration is the only 'In' you need

I can't tell you how many times I've been asked for a business card (ok, well I can, if I really wanted to think about it, and it was probably only like 5 times). Especially as we all start networking, and attending networking events, business cards become an invaluable asset.

But were do we get them printed? We all have these amazing designs, but who wants to print out double-sided card stock and trim 500 cards? I don't.

Anyway. I've yet to order from them, but I've seen results from UPrinting.com, and they've been great. Nothing special, of course, no gold leaf or metallic prints, but quality paper and quality inks.

You can get 250 standard 2 sided 4-color cards for $20. With free-shiping. They also have slimmer cards, and square cards, and they do simple die-cuts (of course, costs extra). Here are their die-cut options:


So again, the link is UPrinting.com. I've been in discussions with some customer service reps for various reasons, and they have been extremely helpful.

They also have a twitter: @UPrinting, and probably a facebook, but who uses facebook anymore anyway?

I've been graced with the topic of ownership for our blog posting. It's a fascinating subject, and there's so much for us to learn about what ownership really means to us as Designers. The logical place to start is the financial implications of ownership.

Here's just a quick overview ownership and some of the definitions associated with it, so we can all start on the same page:

Wikipedia defines ownership as the exclusive right rights and control of property. Seems pretty standard, until you start dissecting what property actually encompasses. "Object, land/real estate or intellectual property" are the three categories that maps out for property. As designers, our work will typically fall somewhere between Object and Intellectual Property, although we will most likely all come in contact with land or real estate ownership at some point in our lives.

Object: Objects can be broken into two categories, tangible and intangible - things you can physically hold, and things you cannot. Tangible objects can be physically moved. As designers, our computers, printers, posters, books, brochures, and artwork can all be described as tangible objects. Intangible objects cannot be touched, but still represent something of value - negotiations, services, and securities.

As designers, it's fairly obvious what tangible objects we have ownership over, but what can be more complicated is the intangible objects that we own. Services will be the most common form of intangible objects that we will deal with, which may include the skills you own as a designer. A service is something that typically cannot be owned by the buyer, so it is important to note that it is not the deliverables from a project, but rather the act of designing.

Intellectual Property: refers to creations of the mind - both artistically and commercially. Intellectual property again involves intangible assets, such as "musical, literary, and artistic works; discoveries and inventions; and words, phrases, symbols, and designs." Intellectual property often manifests itself in copyrights, trademarks, patents, industrial design rights and trade secrets.

Blog Outline

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The Blog Outline is attached: FinalBlogAssignment.doc


The History Presentations are combined here for your use.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from February 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2010 is the next archive.

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