Tag Archive for visual processing

We Are the Magicians

Maximilien Luce, Morning, Interior, 1890, using pointillist technique

We all make magic every day. Don’t think so? Then consider this, we conjure up complete worlds of information with a mere suggestion, just a bit of outline, a stroke or two, a few words, a spatter of color, a dash of melody. We literally make grand visions from just a trickle of data. This is true for those who design and those who consume information. Let’s first explore our ability to comprehend very incomplete information. Take pointillism — an art movement (technique) that required artists to create images using points of pure color — why are we able to “see” the complete image from a mere collection of dots? With just a collection of colored dots, we are all able to imagine the mood, understand the story, visualize the universe behind this painting. You can say: “well, the artist was great at using dots.” But it is not just dots that we are good at. We reconstruct our reality from little bits of incomplete data all day every day of our lives. Consider the tone of voice of the person who answered the phone — you can easily tell the mood and even guess at the personality of that…

Fashion and Interface Design

Fashion Design shows have started up again: Fall 2014. I confess to a guilty pleasure of paging through photo after photo of the latest styles. There is something like a cross between artistic exuberance and freak show, all rolled into one insane media blitz. How can one not look? But there’s more to my looking than pure perverse curiosity. It’s true, I don’t really care what men will be instructed to wear and to like in the next season (or women, for that matter). But I do look for trends and patterns. And I also find something akin to Interface Design sensibility in the fashion industry — which way are we heading? What will be the next thing? What are these designers trying to say with their work? Product Design and Fashion Conceptual Design: What is it? What does this piece of clothing design to do? Keep the person warm? Cool? Modest? Allow them to get a job? Which job? Convey their personality? Cover up scars? Reveal tattoos? Make a political statement? Be cheap? Show off wealth? Last a long time? Be practical? Protect from the elements? Arm against hostiles? Depending on the purpose, clothing can take very different forms.…

Perceptual Focus Error

Early on in my academic career, I did research in a middle school classroom. Computers were just introduced to a bunch of kids that never experienced them directly before. There were very few computers in schools at the time, and students were bunched up in groups around each one. One kid got to sit and control the keyboard, another student controlled the mouse. (I bet you know the genders of these two kids.) Most kids just focused their attention on the screen. The task was to familiarize with how the desktop computer interface worked. At the end of the activity, I got to interview the kids. One of the surprises was how many of the kids didn’t associate the movement of the mouse with the action on the screen. To connect the two actions together, a kid would have had to know that mouse movements and a pointer were related. It was not an obvious observation, especially in a tight crowd of a student group around the computer screen. And to this day, this required double focus is difficult for kids on the Autistic spectrum (iPads are much more intuitive for this population). One of the conclusions of my study…

Colorblindness Test on iPhone Google Traffic Map

2013 iPhone Traffic Google Map Colorblind Test

Google Traffic Map on an iPhone (or any other mobile device) is a great product… unless you are colorblind. Then, it’s a nightmare! 5% to 20% of the population has some kind of color processing disorder. Here is a simple test if you are one of those. Which of the following look the same to you? Click on the image above to enlarge. Red/green confusion — Protanopia: red/green color blindness, no red cones; Deutanopia: red/green color blindness, no green cones; Protanomaly: anomalous red cones; Deutanomaly: anomalous green cones — are the most common visual processing problems. But there is also blue blindness — Tritanopia: blue/yellow color blindness, no blue cones; and Tritanomaly: anomalous blue cones. The most rare cases are the monochrome colorblindness, the true loss of color — Achromatopsia: low cone function; and Atypical Achromatopsia: low cone function with some color. As designers, we have to be aware of our audiences’ limitations and strength. And visual processing and comprehension is no exception. In the past, I’ve written about colorblindness: . But unfortunately, the site that helped identify problems with design doesn’t seem to work. Here’s a new sit e for your reference: Colorblind Web Page Filter If you are…

Perceptual Blindness in Design

Toy Packaging and Design Fails

It is not always users that fail to see some particularly “cool” aspect of design, failure to notice which leads to failure in product use. Designers are people too and are just as prone to cultural and perceptual blindness — total inability to notice additional (sexual) meanings hidden in their designs. Below are examples that I’ve been collecting from email forwards over the last few years. The general groups are toy packaging, store signs, logos, religious strangeness (especially with cultural shifts in time), product labels, and in particular strange dentists’ ads… Enjoy! Thank you all who contributed to this post!

RE: Is Pink Necessary?

How many different ways can someone describe a color? There is a delightful video titled “Luscious” by the Sappi paper company Off Register. In it, the main character attempts to describe the exact shade of “luscious” she wants printed on paper. “It’s like the inside of a baby polar bear’s ear,” she tells the printer. “It’s a nuclear accident, but there’s no problem with it,” she insists. “It’s like King Kong French kissed you … stop it Kong!” All of the metaphors from “Luscious” have another thing in common: They link disparate ideas, a seductive idea with a dangerous one. This is the problem encountered with Annie Paul’s article “Is Pink Necessary?,” which is a review of the book Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein. What color best describes a little girl’s sexuality? But little girls have no sexuality, one may protest. Research indicates they do, that children identify with external signs to determine their sex. What then is the hue of sparkly tulle and chiffon? What is the color of a kiss blown from the palm of your hand or a coyly twirled finger in softly dimpled cheek? From the viewpoint of product design, the article is better contemplated as a…