User centered design: For lousy designers?

April 30, 2007


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?

By Rudolf


Think of pink (a case for magenta)

March 7, 2007

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?


The gay magazine Butt is printed on pink paper, but then again – so is Financial Times.


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!