Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sat nav generation, symbols and interface

As satellite navigation systems are becoming cheaper and therefore everyone is buying them up, it's interesting to stop and consider what this is doing to our driving experience along with the whole idea of user interaction whilst driving.

We tend to trust machines to work the way they are intended. Even more so do we trust computers! Ah yes, the summum of intelligent design, conceived to make out lives easier which is exactly what sat nav does, doesn't it? Well mostly yes it can alleviate the stress of navigating alone whilst driving (or even the stress of being navigated by a nitwit with a map sat next to you!) but occasionally sat nav goes wrong. Furthermore it seems to be sucking out all of our sense of direction by relying on these machines too much. Worse than this it can lead to annoying and inappropriate shortcuts like the one which has led to a cottage being driven into 15 times in the last year by lorries who have blindly followed the sat nav instructions.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Design, camouflage, dinosaurs and exams.

One of the main functions of visual perception is to detect objects in the environment as either a potential mate, predator or perhaps lunch (Scientific American p18. V Ramachandran, D Rogers-Ramachandran). So determining what is not part of the scenery has been vital in the past in order for us to pass on our genes to our lucky predecessors. What use is it in modern life though? I'm not in the habit of popping out to the high street to bag a mammoth or flee from roaming tyrannosaurus rexs (!) on my way home from work.

What's the use of it now in getting our food or our mate then? Well in design terms it means that when we engage with visual communication we tend to see contrasted items much better. It jumps out at us as we say to ourselves, " that a dinosaur?!". Use your head, designers!

No point using low contrast text on designs...

When I was doing my O levels the dreaded exam papers were black text on yellow paper. Oh boy did that strike fear in our hearts. We only had to glimpse a registration plate to give us the shivers! Apparently though this is the best contrast for legibility. So I guess we should thank the exam board for making it like this!

If you need some tools to ensure your website text has sufficient contrast for good legibility check out this article which gives some web tools to use.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

What is YouTube for?

Check this out to get an anthropological take...(thanks to DB for highlighting this)

'An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube' by Michael Wesch