Saturday, July 31, 2004

McDonald's gets hip...

Most of us have heard of IDEO (you know, the shopping cart movie). The design firm has taken on a project with McDonald's. IDEO and McDonald's have created self-order kiosks so that customers can order their meal without employee assistance. In case you were worried that the customers might not be able to speak English (or even illiterate) don't worry, the system is completely image based. Parents can now watch their children at the McDonald's Playplace while ordering their food... because the kiosks will be there as well as at the front counter.

It's interesting to think about the implications of this type of ordering system. Will McDonald's food be even cheaper now because they can have fewer employees? Will they put more of their money and effort into the quality of the food? Maybe the financial dynamics won't change but I think if this trial proves to be successful, this would be one of the largest spanning examples of interface design we will see in the near future. McDonalds is one of the few brands that is recognized worldwide. Just imagine if these kiosks were in every McDonalds around the world... this is highly unlikely, but if they were successful I think that it would change the industry in a significant way.

Friday, July 30, 2004

nathan.com

I can't take credit for finding nathan.com, Ashton showed it to me. Nathan is a guy that studies Interaction Design... and yes, that does include Information Architecture. While clicking around his website, I happened upon one of his projects: a re-design of the Nutrition Facts Label. At the beginning of the quarter, we were talking about how misleading these labels can be, particularly with clever manipulation of the serving size. Nathan's re-design does include bolding of the serving size, but I'm not convinced that would solve the problem, but it does help call attention to it. He also alphabetized the vitamins, which would make them easier to locate. He has called out all the improvements that he has made on the webpage... but I have to say that I'm not too impressed. He did a good job of picking something that needed to be better, but in the end I think it's too similar to the old one. Nonetheless, it was a good start.

Nathan has also posted a link to the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea... the school is in ITALY (which is reason enough to go) and by the way they offer a masters in Interaction Design. Pretty cool, eh? Thank you, Nathan.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

InfoArchy Product!

I found an interesting article in this month's issue of Dwell... allow me to share it with you. A company called Urban Mapping created the Dynamap: Manhattan in 2001. The map can show three levels of information on a single surface using lenticular technology. Most of us have seen this technology used before in cheesy children's products. The article even says (and I quote) "While this isn't new technology, Urban Mapping applies it in a way that would make visual explainer Edward Tufte proud". Before you read on, see the flash demo of the Dynamap.

In the article, they mention the company is working on more of these maps for different cities. The cool thing is, they are not planning on treating each city the same. "In Washington D.C., it would be great to include taxi zones on the same level as the metro, while for SanFrancisco we would include a topographical layer. I've even got a fog map" says Ian White, the creator of the Dynamap. I think this kind of product is great because it is rather lo-tech... yet it supplies the user with multiple layers of information (quite literally). It's fun to think about all the different ways this type of display could be used. Ideas, anybody? 




PowerPoint is Evil...(?)

Having spoken about Edward Tufte in class today, I find it appropriate to do some blogging on an article that he wrote: PowerPoint is Evil. (Jon sent me the link) Let me just say that he does sound a little bit snobby in the article, but the man has a point. This was the part of the article that I found the most intriguing:
 
Presentations largely stand or fall on the quality, relevance, and integrity of the content. If your numbers are boring, then you've got the wrong numbers. If your words or images are not on point, making them dance in color won't make them relevant. Audience boredom is usually a content failure, not a decoration failure.
 
This passage speaks to what we discussed in class today. In my opinion, it's not that the program is actually evil, it's that is makes it so easy for people to make something that is not compelling at all seem important to some people. PowerPoint gives people easy access to tools that will give material pizzazz... adding borders, shadows, and clip art doesn't help make the content interesting. Tufte suggests that if you think it helps then you're wrong.
 
I wouldn't say that PowerPoint is evil, but I will say that it gives many people the opportunity to quickly produce complete crap and pull it off just because up on the screen. In some ways it's a little too easy to make a shitty presentation. I don't think, however, that having people put the content on mat board would make much of a difference.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Audio+Blog=Audblog

Last night I was listening to a song by Nina Gordon (ex-member of Veruca Salt), and for some reason I began to wonder what she looked like. I'm not a Nina Gordon fan, but I went to her website anyway to find a picture of her to sate my curiosity. It was a cheesy looking website, but I clicked around for a while, and eventually I stumbled upon a section called Nina's Room. It's not uncommon for famous people to have online diaries for thier fans to read, but her diary was different. They were audio posts, made available by a service called audblog. Even though I wasn't a fan of her's,  I still found myself listening to almost all of them... even the ones in the archive. I got to hear her complain about being bored because her boyfriend was playing video games, and ramble about how she loves Steak'n'Shake chocolate milkshakes before she went to sleep. I found this type of blog to be very intimate (certainly more intimate than traditional blogging).
 
Now you're wondering "Where is she going with this?  This has nothing to do with Information Architecture"... but really I think that it has a lot to do with it. Simply changing the format of the blog truely changed its impact on me as the viewer. The content was personal, and therefor the delivery was personal. The point of Nina Gordon's diary was for regular people to feel like they could have a more direct connection with her, and it did exactly that.
 

Friday, July 16, 2004

Different Strokes

I think the critique today gave all of us some good food for thought concerning our boards. We briefly touched on the everyone's personal sytle coming through in our boards... even though we were all given the same constraints, the end results were vastly different. It's kind of neat to think that, despite all of our planning, that visual wieght can be given to certain aspects without us even noticing. At first I thought that something unintentional wasn't good, but now I think that it might be a really good thing. In class we were talking about data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. In order to create our final boards we had to have wisdom (or at the very least, knowledge) of baseball. While we were creating the final product, you carry that knowledge/ wisdom with you... and in a way it could be guiding one's inclination to make certain items stand out more.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Emotional Design in Information Architecture?

Right now I'm about half way through the book Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things by Donald Norman. From what I can gather, the book is a response to some negative feedback that he recieved from his earlier book The Design of Everyday Things. A compelling point that Norman makes is that beautiful and well made products actually do work better because it means that the person using the product is more likely to be happy. A happy user is more likely to be solution oriented and is generally more receptive... therefore, more likely to have success with the product. This, in turn, means that the product overall works better because of it's abilty to deliver more successful uses.


As I was going through the "Guide to the internet" in our reading in Information Anxiety, I was amazed at how such a complicated subject was explained in such a simple way (I know, obviously- that's the point)... but then I got to thinking. I *know* that understanding how the Internet works is complicated, yet the presentation of the material put me at ease, as if to say "Don't worry, I'm only telling you what you need to know in order to understand this." The feeling that came over me was not unlike what Norman decribes in Emotional Design. Helpful graphics, size and weight of font, and general organization became as emotional and therefore as helpful high quality materials used on a phyical product.


I guess what I am suggesting is... when information is displayed correctly, it can be somewhat empowering for the person that endeavors to understand it. Jon said in class that the more he learns about Information Architecture, the more that he thinks that it is really a study of linguistics. I think that point runs deeper that I can understand at this point, but I will say that words can be devisive, meaning... the words that people use to explain things can make you feel stupid or inferior. The emotional qualities of good Information Architecture might just be empowering to the point that it makes you feel more smart than you actually are. As a result, one might be able to understand information better by being more *confident* in their ability to understand.