Part 1: Objectives

The questions for this week:

  • How do design principles inform our constructed environment and our lives?
  • What are some basic design principles, particularly visual design principles?
  • What does visual design impact accessibility?
  • How do visual disabilities inform visual design? How do we design for maximum usability?

Part 1: To-Do List

  • Blog post relating to last week’s coursework or class
  • Texts
  • Websites to explore

Part 1: Design

What is “design”?

Design is hard to define as you will see. One of the problems is that design is everywhere!

Don Norman, the author of The Design of Everyday Things (2013), writes that “Design is concerned with how things work, how they are controlled, and the nature of the interaction between people and technology. When done well, the results are brilliant, pleasurable products. When done badly, the products are unusable, leading to great frustration and irritation.”

Design affects and underlies our daily world, but we don’t usually notice design unless it is bad design or we are exposed to a brand new system or device. “Good design,” as Norman point out, “is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible, serving us without drawing attention to itself. Bad design, on the other hand, screams out its inadequacies, making itself very noticeable.”

Design, both good and bad, has implications for our family life, our jobs, our health, and our daily routines.

Meredith Davis and Jamer Hunt in Visual Communication Design (2017), discuss how the work of communication design has changed over the centuries. Contemporary designers focus on

the relationships and conversations that design makes possible; that is, the stories, tools, and platforms for content production, services, and communities of interest that are significant to people in their everyday lives. This perspective on design doesn’t mean that beautiful artifacts go away under new types of practice. Apple Computer succeeds to a great extent because it has cool-looking devices, exciting store environments, and clever advertising. But more importantly, the company builds brand loyalty through user-centered tools and systems, a strong service ecology, and a technological platform that allows others to build applications that live on Apple devices. Artifacts, in this sense, perform as components of a larger effort to establish long-term relationships with people as their needs change and evolve. Artifacts communicate something about the character of a company, but more importantly, they express concern for the qualities of interaction with people over time. In other words, today’s design is all about experience. (p. 9)

So this unit is a short foray into some of the most basic principles of design, particularly focusing on visual design. Some of these principles will seem so obvious that it will hardly seem worth studying, but it is important to acknowledge these principles and bring them explicitly to our attention because these principles are often used to guide us, control us, and manipulate us. (You will probably recognize some principles as being similar to ones we looked at under Gestalt psychology.)

Not all people experience the world and its constructed environments the same way.

This unit also reminds us that the best design takes into account the needs of all people, not just the designer or a small, select group.

Part 1: Visual Design Principles

A few design principles:

Part 1: Designing for Visual Disabilities

Sight is our most powerful sense, and most of us take for granted a certain level of visual ability.

But if we or anyone close to us has a visual disability, we know that much of the world’s design does not take us or the visually disabled into account.

These readings and videos are important reminders that when we create objects, materials, spaces, and information, we need to try to design for everyone and remember that many people do not interact with the world the way we do.

We need to design with accessibility in mind as much as possible because then it is inclusive. But there is an even better reason: when you design keeping people with disabilities in mind, your designs are better, not just for those with that disability, but better for all.

Part 1: Texts & Readings

Designing with Visual Disabilities in Mind

  1. John Kennedy with blind painter Esref Armagan
    • John Kennedy, a perceptual psychologist who has used art with blind people to study spatial awareness, meets Esref Armagan, a blind painter.
  2. The Democratic Candidates’ Websites are Failing at Accessibility
  3. Visual Disabilities
    • Read the full article: pages 1-4. This article by the WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind) group covers the main types of visual disabilities.
  4. Graeme Fulton, Accessibility Basics: Designing for the Visual Impairment
    • This guide, which covers designing websites for the most common visual impairments ranging from mild to extreme disabilities. Note that Fulton reminds his readers that almost everyone, regardless of visual impairments, would benefit from websites that are easier to see. These principles are just good design principles as you will see.
  5. Coblis – Color Blindness Simulator
    • As you have read, color blindness is more common than most of us realize. So it can be important as you create materials for the general population that you keep this in mind. For example, you should never design something where color alone is a safety feature.
    • You can test out how a person’s color perception is affected by the different types of color blindness on the website’s sample picture or upload your own picture.

Part 2: Objectives

Museums & Visual Design

The questions for this week:

  • How do museums use visual messaging?
  • What goes into an exhibition? Who makes the decisions?
  • How do you create an overall theme and topics?
  • How do you decide what works to put in and what works to leave out?
  • How do the images/artifacts that you choose relate and “talk” to each other?
  • What design issues need to be worked out for an exhibition, e.g., labels, context, lighting, accessibility, etc.?

The activities for this short unit relate to and will help you to start thinking about your final project/assignment for the class.

Part 2: To-Do List

Part 2: Guest Speaker

Dean Maria Conelli

Dr. Maria Conelli, the Dean of the School of Visual, Media and Performing Arts, has wide experience in art and architectural history, museum work, and higher education administration. She is also a graduate of Brooklyn College. She was the executive director of the American Folk Art Museum.

Recording of Dean Conelli’s Talk

You can read her professional biography below:

Go To Unit 6