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Reading Designing for Interaction by Dan Saffer a couple of weeks ago, I realised something that really struck me. Designing the Ipod, Apple did no user testing… Since Apples security is strict, Apple didn’t want to test the Ipod, because there was a risk of revealing what was coming. However testing a user interface that is so new to the users as the click-wheel, would seem to be the only sensible thing to do. Apple chose to rely on Jonathan Ive’ designer skills instead of the users, and you could say that wasn’t such a bad idea. So my question is: User testing is that mostly for the unskilled designers?
If there is a place where graphic designers go when they die, it must look like The Neon Museum Boneyard on the outskirts of Las Vegas. Behind a fence on a large site on Boulevard North, The Neon Museum keeps retired, damaged neon signs in all shapes and sizes. A part of the collection has already been restored to its former glory, and put on display in the Freemont Street in Downtown Las Vegas. But as the non-restored leftovers sit there awaiting paintjobs and repairs, they form a graphic designer’s wonderland too amazing for words. Giant letters and odd shapes are casually stacked against one another – some have fallen over, the bulbs are broken or missing and the old paint is peeling off. Most of these signs will properbly never shine again. Though the Boneyard has been visited many times before, it is hard not to think of it as a hidden, unknown treasure. It has the melancholic beauty of a closed down, forgotten funfair, making it very special indeed.
The Boneyard can be visited by appointment only. The good people of The Neon Museum will give you a tour of the site, but feel free to fall behind exploring the paradise on your own. By special arrangement (and money) the site can be used as a backdrop for films and fashion shoots. If you are ever in (or near) Las Vegas – don’t miss it!
In 1913 Luigi Russolo, composer and part of the Italian futirist movement, published his manifesto “The Art of Noise”. It became a significant theoretical landmark in modern music, inspiring generations of progressive composers, musicians and artist in general. It is still today interesting and strong conceptual work. Russolo theorized a new approach to music composing, embracing noise and other sounds alien to classic composers. Traditional composing theory and practice was outliving itself creatively and was full of limitations. Instruments, orchestras, chords and music theory in general only provided a limited creative spectrum, leaving less and less room for progression, surprise and innovation. Therefore Russolo meant that modern composers should embrace noise. Noise was born with the invention of the machine in the 19th century after thousand of years of silence and now was the time to conquer that noise and use it as a tool of creating musical progression, challenging the human ear and leaving the musical world of “clean” sounds. This new world of noise contained an potentially unlimited number of new sounds, music, rhythmical structures, vibration and tonality. Russolo developed a noise classification system, dividing the different types of noise into 6 families. He created so called noise machines that was able to reproduce some of the different types of noise and play his compositions mechanically. Russolo wasn’t a very talented composer and his musical work wasn’t particularly interesting or influential, but it theorized and anticipated huge steps in modern music.
Well, we have been a little bit quiet for a while. One of reasons is that we are a bit busy these weeks – but also because we went to New York last week on a research trip.
NY is a fantastic place for studying and experiencing design. This city has just everything: innovation, pulse, surprises and so much creativity. I think all of us went back to Copenhagen with so much more design energy and inspiration – and some brain cells less :-)
One of the days we went to Williamsburg and hung out. We visited PS1, which is the contemporary part of MOMA. This place is really something. The art is fantastic and innovative. And the museum itself was also a nice experience. PS1 was originally the first public school in Queens (hence the name) – and the place has been renovated very respectfully.
Right next to PS1 is Five Pointz. Here you find interesting street art. Really cool paintings in an unspoiled way. In Denmark we really miss these kinds of art places – and specially a place for this kind of underground art.
By the new Rix
Colour associations are sometimes difficult to predict. Different age groups in different cultures at different times will experience colours in different ways. But many clients seem to agree upon one definite rule: Pink is for girls!
When flowers open and berries ripe, they turn red, orange, purple, yellow and pink to indicate that they are ready for pollination or consumption – a very efficient signal. Man made visual communication has a similar agenda. Go to a newsagent and notice the sea of warm coloured magazine heads yelling »pick me, pick me!« – one trying to be louder than the other.
As graphic designers we sometimes find that pink, or »magenta« as we tend to call it, would be just the right »young«, warm color to use for a certain job – red is so over used, yellow might not be dark enough, orange might be a little too »dot-com«, purple might be too cold etc. And yet – we often stop ourselves, or a project manager does so – or in the end a client. The argument being that magenta is too feminine.
A succesful use of magenta was demonstrated by MetaDesign in their campaign for Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin in 2004. The Museum of Modern Art in New York was closed down for three months and a large part of the exhibition shipped to Berlin for a visit. The first billboards were mysterious to many people. They said nothing but »MoMa kommt« and »MoMa ist der Star« in gold and black on a bright pink background. For a couple of weeks the billboards were the talk of town, turning curiosity into a regular hype when the exhibition opened. People left their houses at 6 o’clock in the morning to avoid the 4-hour queue – and they were not all pink-loving girls…
The British bank northern rock has recently introduced itself on the Danish market, with a more advantageous savings account and a series of pink billboards and adverts. Most banks would avoid the colour pink by any means. But does northern rock look girly to us? Or mayby just »refreshing«, »new«, »different« and »young« – which is apparently what they are after.
The telephone companies Telia and Deutsche Telekom both use magenta in their visual identity. As a consequence the Telekom cycling team has to wear an awful lot of pink. Occasionally one of them is lucky enough to be put in a bright yellow shirt and kissed simultaneously by two blond bimbos, thereby restoring any lost masculinity fast. But do they indeed look girly or gay in the first place, going up those mountains in sweaty pink shirts?
Some may argue that the colour pink is more relevant to the world of culture as in the MoMa campaign or in these booklets for a German theatre (by heute morgen büro für gestaltung):
But this pink guide book for Naples is more about practicalities like transportation, hotels and meals. And it has obviously found its way into male hands:
Could it be that there is a certain difference between what we think of the color pink when asked to judge it, and how we experience it? And is this indeed a general rule about visual communication? Someone should look into this!