Thursday, 18 July 2013

Learning About Design Continues

The course is over! Done! but the learning never is....

I've found some great stuff about design, and as usual, on the internet, it was a very round-about trip.
It all started with 

I hadn't been in months - too busy learning about design! Ironic because it turns out that there are amazing pins about design there. On Pinterest, I saw the coolest poster about colour and design.

That brought me to the British Design Experts. They have some very interesting links, articles and other stuff on their website. Check them out!

That's where I found this video. It's about the history and art of logo design. Enjoy!

Monday, 8 July 2013

Learning to Date

I can’t believe that my design course is almost over. It’s been a really busy month trying to get my “real” work done at work and doing my homework. I am usually an excellent self-learner and will often pick up a couple of books and learn on my own. Before taking this course, I had read a couple of design books but somehow things weren't sinking in. I REALLY hate to admit it, but upon reflection, I think it’s the doing (aka assignments) that made the subject real to me. Looking at websites, thinking about them and then creating them has been a real learning experience.

Here is a list of things I've learned during this course.

  1. Applying knowledge really does help you learn! To keep learning web and elearning design on my own, I’m going to have to do more “assignment”-type work to ensure that I practice and ground my learning.
  2. I knew a lot of odds and ends about web design. Now it’s more holistic and I can relate parts to each other.
  3. Designing a website and designing learning is very similar. They both:
  • Need to be audience focused;
  • Need to take into account your audience’s experience and learning style;
  • Need to have precise objectives – otherwise it’s easy to lose your way;
  • Require creativity and practice;
  • Require knowledge of basic principles;
  • Should be tested out before an official launch;
  • Should be well organised;
  • Can be approached from many directions;
  • Require review, rewrites and tweaking!
  • Can’t please everyone – so knowing your primary audience and developing the content based on your objectives is key.

  • 4. A website layout is about ease of use and visual attraction. Simple is often best.

    5. There are a few main layout designs. Almost everything else is a combination of these. I suspect that most layout designs would do the job; it’s how we adapt them based on our audience and need that makes the difference.

    6. This was the first time that I bought the electronic version of a textbook. Not sure I’ll do it again, especially if the textbook isn't big and heavy! Paper has its advantages.

    7. Learning and mastering web design and all of the tools and technology that go with it is huge – and it’s bound to change tomorrow. I guess that’s perfect for someone who needs to keep learning.

    8. It’s amazing how generous people are with their learning on the Intranet. So much great stuff is available free of charge. It’s fantastic!

    9. I read some good tips on testing your site before you launch it in Steve Krug’s book, Don’t Make me Think, 2nd Edition, 2006. Here are a few tips:

  • Testing one user is better than testing no user; 
  • Testing one user at the beginning of a project is better than testing 50 users later!
  • Test early and often because testing will inform your design judgement. 
  • One test is the “Get it” testing: show someone the site; see if they understand its purpose; how it’s organised; how it works; etc. 
  • Another is the “Key task” test: ask a user to do something and watch to see he/she can. You’ll get better results if you let the user decide on parts of the task (i.e. find a book and buy it – and let them choose and find the book they want); 
  • Another test is the “cubicle” test: Print out a copy of a new page and have someone in the next cubicle see if they can make sense of it. 
  • Typical usability problems are: 

  • i. Purpose of the site is unclear;
    ii. Words that they are looking for aren't there;
    iii. There is too much going on.

    10. Once created, a website needs to be “weeded” like a garden. That’s too bad because if my garden is any indication....I’m in serious trouble!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013


Our week 6 assignment included identifying 5 top logo designs and why they are effective.

I haven’t thought about logos for over 20 years, so I thought I’d do a refresher. According to Jacob Cass of Just Creative, a good logo has five components.

Simple: Follow the KISS principle – Keep it simple, stupid. (That’s also how we were taught to write in business school!)

Memorable: It turns out that distinctive, memorable and clear (or simple) is probably more important than its subject matter or even its appropriateness.

Timeless: The example used here is Coca-Cola. Its logo has not changed since 1885. It’s too bad they didn’t remember this when they played with their recipe! On the other hand, the Pepsi logo has evolved, but is still very recognizable. This characteristic might be difficult to judge until years have passed.

Versatile: It’s very useful if the logo can be printed in colour or black and white and can easily change size.

Appropriate: somehow related to the product or service, its image or customers. The obvious example is the logo of Toys R Us – it’s colourful and fun which is appropriate for a toy store.

One way of appreciating a great logo is to look at really bad ones. On the worst logo designs, the logos look like something I might create using clip art in Word or PowerPoint. Many of the logos are probably from very small companies, such as the local hairdresser. I guess the question then becomes – is it better to not have a logo than to have a bad one? And also, do they really need a logo? For a small business with little to spend on marketing, that is a very valid question.

I checked out the Logo of the Day website. They feature many logos that people can vote on. Some are very good, even out of context. If a logo is not appropriate (i.e. it doesn’t obviously show what the company is about) it doesn’t mean that it’s not good, but it is hard to judge how good it is when there’s no context.

Here are my examples of effective logos that I’m familiar with (sorry, more quilting examples to come).

I like the Kobo logo. It’s simple, memorable, appropriate (includes a book) and probably versatile. What appeals to me are its simplicity and the inclusion of a book.

I like the fact that the Mad about Patchwork logo is colourful, fun and includes patchwork in the heart. I like the font. I think that it’s relatively simple, memorable and appropriate.

I like the use of colours in Flare Fabrics’ logo. The colours and the circles show movement and fun. I believe that it’s simple, memorable and appropriate.
The All People Quilt website's logo is just their name. I love their use of colour since that’s what quilting is all about. It also makes me think of quirky and fun. This is a simple, memorable and appropriate logo.

 The Craftsy logo is simple. The font, colour and shape make it memorable. It doesn't hurt that I see it in almost every web site that has advertising. Those darn cookies!

Words of Wisdom

As I was checking out the internet for something (I have no idea how I came upon this website!), I found “how i make a website”. Not only do I like the very simple design, but I also appreciate the words of wisdom that he offers. The site looks effortless – but I now know better! What I appreciate the most about this website is that the designer actually does what he preaches! Let’s have a look.

Lesson 1: ask four questions

1. What do I want to say?
2. Who do I want to say it to?
3. How do I get them to listen?
4. What do I want them to do?

Wisdom: “If the answer to any of these questions is not clear before I start work, I have learned the hard way to put the effort into making them clear – to myself, to anyone I'll be working with and, if I have one, to my client.”

The 4 questions correspond to some of our creative brief questions. I’ve also learned the hard way to take the time to define my audience and what they need to get from a training. If you’re not getting an answer from your boss or client, come up with something and have it reviewed. The training won’t be worth much if you don’t get the audience and objectives right.

Lesson 2: write a tagline

Wisdom: “A good tagline gives you and everyone involved a well defined and focused idea of what the site is about.”

I think that getting the message right in a tagline will help throughout the design process. When in doubt about the design, go back to your tagline (or objectives).

Lesson 3: think about navigation

Wisdom: “Once a site has piqued someone's interest, without thinking about it, they are looking for where to go from there. Make their choices obvious and intuitive.”

More Wisdom: “Whatever that structure might be, all sites have one thing in common: at this point a visitor is theirs to lose.”

In his website, the navigation is clear. There’s a big yellow button for the next lesson; the navigation bar includes “previous” and “next”; the lesson you are in is clearly marked in the heading; and if you want, you can just jump to one of the lessons from the list at the bottom.

Lesson 4: what’s the end game

Here he talks about marketing and the fact that most websites are there to make money. What I like is that he advocated honesty: “Be upfront and plainspoken.”

Wisdom: “Trust is hard to come by on the net. Don’t squander it.”

Lesson 5: site layout and design

1. Know your audience
2. Keep it simple

The designer uses the example of an Italian restaurant throughout his lessons.

Wisdom: “...keep is simple. A little zing can make a site really shine. A lot of zing is at best dead weight.”

Lesson 6: create the home page

All of the design elements should match the home page (i.e. navigation, header, foot, etc.)

Wisdom: He talks about being creative, but cautions: “Cool as something may be, if it's just window dressing, it shouldn't be there.”

Lesson 7: review and edit

The author suggests that once the home page is “done”, to go back to it in a few days with fresh eyes. Get the home page done well before going on with the rest of the site. This is the time to get the home page approved; and to make major changes if that’s what’s required.

Wisdom: “Reconsider everything.”

More wisdom: “Most of the time and effort that goes into creating a website is not in the writing – it's in the rewriting.”

I particularly like this lesson. Even when I think I’m done, a few days away from the project will help me see it clearly again. It’s easy to fall in love with a design (web or learning) but it’s not about love, it’s about getting it right for your audience. A few times I’ve come up with something I really liked and after re-working it, what I really liked ended up not being in the final version. It’s a hard thing to do, but at least what I created got me eventually to the final product – and what was right for the audience.

Lesson 8: add content pages

Wisdom: Have a “Call to Action” that is prominently displayed on each page. In his Italian restaurant example, he includes a button such as “Reserve Online” or “Call us for Reservations”.

If a web page is trying to sell something, then it should be as easy as possible for the client to buy. Somewhere on the site, you have to ask for the sale.

Lesson 9: that should be it

...but probably isn’t. Expect problems, glitches etc. It’s better to correct things early than to perform major surgery later!

Wisdom: “A well made website "programs people" in that it presents visitors open and appealing pathways to an end that benefits all.”

We give our audience a clear path to follow but with other choices if they want.
It’s the same thing for e-learning. Some of our learners will follow the path while others will jump around. The design should be planned out so that both options are possible and feasible.

Other things I like about this website
  • The lessons don’t include images – they are not necessary. What they do include is a tangible example (the Italian restaurant).
  • Font is used to give some visual interest in the page. The font used for the lesson names looks like handwriting from school. It’s also used consistently.
  • The paragraphs are short, the message to the point and the words simple. Just as they should be.