Defining the Strike Zone

Much to Paul’s chagrin, today’s post is dedicated to Jo Schaper, who challenged Paul’s take on starbursts (the explosive graphic design element, not the fruit-flavored candy packed with sweet goodness and that is more efficient than a dentist at removing a filling) in his post Starbursts: Like Fireworks, But More Annoying on Monday. Her comment and Paul’s reply are presented here.

It is not uncommon for folks to challenge our opinions about elements of interpretive design (along with personal style choices – despite what you think we both still feel red Crocs are perfectly acceptable in public venues). In fact we welcome it. Through this blog we have learned that there is nothing more polarizing than discussions on Comic Sans, serial commas, and now starbursts.

This is where I have to applaud Jo (as well as Judy Sneed the official Pro Comic Sans Spokesperson of NAI Region VI) for speaking up for what they believe is an appropriate use of starbursts. Plus, I like anyone that is willing to give Paul a hard time about anything.

I think I can speak for Paul here. Facing this adversity he might say something like, “I disagree with Jo but at least I got her to think about the design decisions that she makes every time she starts a project. I bet the next time she goes to insert a starburst she thinks twice about how she uses it.” I like it best when Paul speaks without commas. The underlying goal behind IBD (the book not the blog) was to help interpretive designers make the best design decisions possible, which could be said in this instance as well.

Since I’m speaking for Paul, I think it also safe to say that he might also say something like this: “If I wasn’t a Philadelphia Phillies fan, I would pull for the New York Yankees because deep down inside I’m jealous and really think they are awesome, oh yeah and Arkansas I where I should live because if Shea lives there it must rock, oh yeah and Shea’s children are cuter than mine!” I would have to agree with both of Paul’s statements.

I see the opinions that we offer in/on IBD (the book and the blog) are equivalent to the role an umpire plays in a baseball game. When a pitcher stands on the mound and is looking at the batter, catcher, and umpire, he has many choices of what kind of pitch throw (cutter, fastball, curve, sinker, splitter, knuckleball, slider, change-up). It is the role of the umpire to confine the space where the pitch has to be thrown and up to the pitcher to be creative enough to put those pitches into that space. I also see us playing the umpire because our lack of baseball talent and the fact that Paul looks best in a mask.

A pitcher can throw pitches outside the strike zone and it’s their prerogative, but that doesn’t mean they will be successful, it simply means they are pitching in the National League. Also the better you know the strike zone or the parameters and guidelines you will also know when to break the rules and throw outside the zone. The best pitchers throw a combination of strikes and balls in order to get that batter out. There is no guarantee that the batter is going to swing at the pitches outside the strike zone in order for the pitcher to get them out. Sometimes you end up with a walk (which has no design equivalent in this long drawn out analogy). The most important thing to remember is that you want to throw as many good strikes as possible, within the zone.

As interpreters and interpretive designers, I think we have to be careful about not only to be thinking about our clients or our visitors by simply giving them what they want. We need to place thought into what design decision help meet the goals of the project and the interpretive site. I have been guilty (and this blog has been guilty, and by this blog I mean Paul) of writing to our audience of interpreters and interpretive designers. We like talking and reading about topics that we are familiar with, comfortable with, and align well with what and how we think. We need to challenge and be challenged to grow. This can be said of personal interpretation as well. We all have had program participants that come to your program already knowing exactly or more about what you are presenting. That may be your objective but more than likely is not. It is my hope that Jo would comeback with an amazing design chock full of starbursts that makes Paul say, “Wow, that’s an effective use of the starburst.”

In the meantime I’ll leave you with this image of the 2010 NAI National Workshop logo, designed by Paul, complete with a starburst.

9 thoughts on “Defining the Strike Zone

  1. Don’t forget the NAI Professional Awards “logo,” ( which is a screaming example of Paul “designing” with a “Do as I say, not as I do” message: 1) It is filled with type on a curve, which Paul claims to hate, and 2) Paul might call the shape of the “logo” a “seal” or somthing equally semantic-shifting, but really, come on, it’s a scalloped starburst. (And, it includes the new NAI logo, but I still abstain from further discussion about that.).

  2. All right, let’s take these in order:

    1. It is certainly not to my chagrin that you dedicated this post to Jo. I appreciate Jo’s contributions to the conversation (and that she reads us at all).

    2. I realize you have never been to Las Vegas (except for an entire week less than a year ago) and that the famous sign the Vegas NAI workshop logo is based on does not appear in many places there (except for everywhere you look), so you may not be aware that the design for that logo is not original—and it is intentionally kitschy.

    3. If your argument is that one exception to the no starburst rule is when you’re trying to evoke a sense of place, and that place is the tackiest place in the world, I buy that.

    4. I like the point you get at. I’d like to see the pro-starburst faction send examples of really good graphic design with starbursts. I have a New Jersey diner placemat that I could share. (I’d also like to see the pro-Starburst candy faction send candy.)

    5. If you’re going to fake-quote me, please get your verb tenses right.

    6. Even if I weren’t a Phillies fan, I can assure you that I would not be some frontrunner non-New Yorker who just happened to pick the most successful franchise in the sport to root for.

  3. And Kelly:

    7. I do dislike type on a curve. I should redo that awards thing.

    8. Scalloped starbursts sound delicious.

  4. PC, #5 is one of the funniest comments ever, I wish it was on purpose.

    KF, thanks for bringing the heat to PC as well.

    JM, does this post better meet your expectations?

    JS, where are you?

    PC, don’t forget about the use of starbursts in the 2010 program as well.

  5. Shea, when I woke up (in your neighboring state of Missouri) the internet was out, so I was forced to spend the day in reality. Fortunately, the internet returned this evening, so I was rescued.

    I am flattered that you dedicated the post to me. I was simply performing what is known as a ‘reality check’ on Paul’s post. Someone named Marx (I don’t remember if it was Groucho or Karl– or was it Hegel? I Kant remember) came up with this concept that knowledge moves forward, not by fiat (or VW) by the exchange of opposite ideas and the working towards a medial compromise. Extreme positions of “either/or” are adopted, when the real answer is often “somewhereinthemiddle.”

    I am not the champion of starbursts. Novae can be quite messy, actually. Nor can I eschew *ever for any purpose* using any typeface. In the words of Steve Smith (aka “RedGreen”) “any tool can be the right tool,” but some can be righter than others. Since I am married to a lifer professional interpreter, which makes me a lifer volunteer interpreter spouse, I’ve actually read Legacy and even the Journal of Interpretation Research for lack of any interest in professional sports. Then, I’ve asked the professional interpreters to interpret the interpretation literature, for I haven’t the education to translate (or interpret) itself into plain English myself. I’ve run into that difficulty with the actual official NAI definition of interpretation, in which, in my dreams, I’ve seen Freeman Tilden running around a banyan (or is it banal?) tree until he dissolves into a puddle of little children. But I digress…

    Many years ago, I was taught “everything in moderation, nothing in excess.” An occasional beer does not turn you into a drunk, and grabbing the fiery ring of Comic Sans or a starburst occasionally and using them “JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN!” provides an innoculation against overuse of any forbidden substance, or a endless maelstromic descent into the sea of Helvetica.

    I do enjoy both your and Paul’s pronouncements from the Mount; at the same time, anyone who believes that either graphic design or interpretation has immutable rules and if you follow them slavishly you will will lose your immortal soul is probably better off in chartered accountancy that any creative pursuit. I believe is was St. Augustine who said,”Sin Boldly, or not at all.” He was given the highest honor a saint can have…declaration as a Doctor of the Church (back before there were 6000 flavors of Christianity).

    So…I will not repent of needing to use an occasional starburst, but you will never see any graphic work of mine looking like a peppered shotgun target. To go back to Paul’s original example: White space. What white space?

    Take care. I have to go back to that real world place for a few days, best wishes to you both.

  6. I’m still troubled by Jo’s implication that there’s a world where Batman ISN’T king. Obviously, I need to follow politics better…

  7. Yes, Shea. You have redeemed yourself after last week’s weenie post. Jo has also joined the ranks of a decent length post and/or reply.

    Week after week we pick on Shea and now the readers are picking on Paul too. I wonder if eventually they will pick on Lisa too?

    As I am not the designer in the hoard of IBD fans, I have no opinions as to starbursts, fonts, apostrophes, commas or the like. All I care about are my friends, my wife, food, baseball and the NAI tribe. Y’all rock, and I hate the No-Good Stinkin’ Second Place Yankees.

  8. Jo: I really like how you think. Please comment more often.

    Jeff: I totally pick on Lisa all the time, but only up to a point, as I am fearful of her threat (promise?) to yank my professional credentials.

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