Kicking Around an Idea

We write about a lot of things on IBD not really related to interpretation or design. We like to write about sports, since neither of us have ever been accomplished athletes, despite our physiques. We comfort ourselves, from the tough times we had in high school (and all other parts of our lives) with the simple fact that we are good with computers (or as we refer to them, our high school sweet hearts) and our mastery of buffets.

Today is a first. I’m pretty sure in the history of IBD, and all of the sports banter, we have never written about soccer. It is possible we have used the phrases soccer mom, shin guards, and bangin’ minivan. I’m sure they were all in positive contexts too.

The football (that’s what well-cultured people call soccer) team in Sevilla, Spain, has introduced a new design element into their players’ uniforms, as well as a unique way to generate revenue. According to Wikipedia the Sevilla Fútbol Club S.A.D. (insert your own joke here about soccer being S.A.D.) “are one of the most successful clubs in Spanish football having won a 1 La Liga title, 5 Spanish ‘Copa del Rey’ Cups, 1 Spanish Super Cup and 2 UEFA Cups. Their sole league title was won in 1945-46, and their UEFA Cups were won under manager Juande Ramos in 2005 and 2006.” That all sounds really impressive.

I feel like I can trust Wikipedia, since they say this about the Philadelphia Phillies: “The age of the team and its history of adversity has earned it the dubious distinction of having lost the most games of any team in the history of American professional sports.” That’s how I fact check sources.

Anyway back to soccer, the Sevilla FC is selling the opportunity to be on the back of your favorite players, during a game. Not literally, virtually that is, in pixels. For $25 Euros (about $35 U.S. Dollars) you can submit a headshot that is placed into a collage that forms the number on a uniform. The number 14 above is what it looks like from a distance.

It is a 2×2 millimeter photo but still pretty cool. I’m sure they sell those jerseys as well. According to each number consists of over 3000 images.

Let’s do some math: 3000 images times $35 per image times number of players on the team equals billions and billions of dollars. I’ve never claimed to be a mathematician. Perhaps I confused the number of players with the number of vuvuzelas at a match. It is still a lot of money and an original idea.

The design component is also visually interesting. I see potential for use at interpretive centers’ donor walls as well as program elements. The idea could easily be adapted into volunteers’ uniforms or a unique way to thank visitors. Of course it could be connected to resale by developing products that incorporate all of the bird species that could be found at a site.

I wonder how much I would have to pay to ride on the back of Derek Jeter during a game?

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.

Seersucker, Stripes, Star Wars, Synthesis, and San Francisco

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start to summer (official arrival is June 21 at 8:28 AM CDT, to be exact). What really makes me happy is that Memorial Day also makes it acceptable (to some) to break out all seersucker-related clothing, even though the fashion police have long supported a permanent ban.

Living in the South, what’s not to like about seersucker? It is ultra cool, breathes well, is guaranteed to wrinkle, comes in fashionable colors (though sucker purists steer clear of anything but traditional blue) and has vertical stripes. It is even recognized by Congress when the Senate holds Seersucker Thursday in June (traditionally the second Thursday in June), where members dress in the traditionally southern attire (impressions of Colonel Sanders are not appreciated, but aggressive mustaches and bow ties are).

My wife says that based on my husky disposition that I should never wear horizontal stripes, but vertical stripes have a different effect. They make me look like Matlock. Seersucker also has its own fan page on Facebook with 260 fans. IBD’s fan page has 464, if that tells you anything.

In most cases in design, a bold element such as stripes, vertical or horizontal, should be used in small doses (much like seersucker for everyone but me). Unless it’s used in a way that represents the message or improves communication of that message, right? Or it’s used in a way that is original, supports the grid, or becomes a design element.

Several years ago I received a book titled The Star Wars Chronicles. Before you run away to read another blog that is much more insightful, witty, and generally more interesting, this is not going to be another Star Wars post. It just happens to be coincidence that the example I am using in today’s post is Star Wars related. I digress. I was immediately interested in the content of the book, obviously, but I was continually impressed with the visual interest of the design. A large component was striped elements, horizontal and vertical. I had to learn more about who was responsible for the book’s layout and design. I was so impressed, I was sure it was George Lucas himself.

I was wrong; it was Designer Earl Gee and Fani Chung of Gee and Chung Designs out of San Francisco, California. Their work has won countless awards, their logos start logo trends, their products have a special place in the Library of Congress (Paul and I have been banned from that library for incidents related to Paul’s red Crocs and my affinity for seersucker), and most importantly, their work is interpretive in nature. Many of their designs break the mold of what is generally acceptable in design circles (this is unconfirmed but they may even use PCs). Gee’s approach is apparent in this quote from an Adobe Design Center article:

“To me there is nothing risky about being innovative,” says Gee. “It’s far riskier to look dull and boring, and miss the chance to be unique.”

As interpretive designers we should always remember that it is our specific sites and stories that make us unique. By asking ourselves questions like, What makes our site special? What makes us stand out from others? What elements of our mission makes us different? You can focus energy into interpretive products—personal and non-personal—that can be enhanced through innovative design.

The Star Wars book goes beyond being innovative; it is also a perfect synthesis of the writer’s work and design. Each purposeful design element supports the message or current theme. The design is bold, stands out, and is forceful (no pun intended, okay intended), but it doesn’t take away from the content, it enhances it. Bold design choices such as stripes may not always be the best decision in design or fashion but if used properly they can be effective. Most importantly designers should strive to interpret the interpretation. The design itself should not be the interpretation but should be interpretive while maintaining legibility and other basic design functions.

The Adobe article goes on to say, “For designer Earl Gee, every design choice matters. No element is merely decorative. It either contributes to what the client wants to communicate, or it doesn’t belong on the page.” This should be the case for everything we design and how we manage interpretation. It should be purposeful.

The real purpose behind me wearing seersucker is to embarrass my wife.

The “Friendly Confines” of the Chicago Children’s Museum

children2After a day at Wrigley Field enjoying the national pastime within the “Friendly Confines,” we returned to our families and found another version of the “Friendly Confines,” the Chicago Children’s Museum. Paul and I presented the option of us taking the children to the museum while the women enjoyed some much needed (and lightly demanded) downtime. They accepted. I’m not sure that we negotiated to the best of our abilities based on their quick acceptance. Note to self: start low and work yourself up in the negotiating process.

There was no better place for our childlike minds (also for our children). The Children’s Museum is well planned and well designed. The children loved it. The strongest design element that we noticed immediately was the impact of color. The use of type was effective, but secondary to the use of color. Paul was especially happy that the museum was devoid of Comic Sans. (This post is not about type, but we want to point out that designers had found multiple child-friendly typefaces without resorting to Comic Sans.)

The color palette used went far beyond the primary red, yellow, and blue. In fact, the colors used in particular exhibits reinforced the children’s experiences. Reds and yellows used in the “Play It Safe” exhibit evoked danger, but not in a scary, overpowering way. Multiple shades of blues and greens were used in the water works area. (However, if these colors were meant to have a calming effect, it didn’t work on our children.)

children1Even the donor exhibit, which was designed for adults, had an appealing childlike quality that could be appreciated by children while read by adults. This was achieved through bright colors and stylized, oversized hands.

The festive colors used in other portions of the museum looked to the visitor that they could have been chosen by a child with a box of crayons, but were in fact carefully selected by designers thinking like a child. For some, this could be difficult. Based on our wives’ comments this week it should be easy for us.