The Final Episode

Seinfeld is still my favorite television show. I know there hasn’t been a new episode in 14 years, but there is something about those characters that really resonates with me. I’ve always liked George the best (I’m sure it has something to do with his husky disposition, follicle misfortune, and that he worked for the New York Yankees). I feel like no matter what incident in life that comes my way, Seinfeld has partly prepared me for it. At times the show may not have prepared me how to respond to certain incidents, but at the very least I can find the humor in any situation. Now whether anyone else can find the same humor has yet to be determined.

The only thing that bugs me about Seinfeld is how it ended. If you recall the final episode closed with all of the main characters being placed in jail for their inappropriate response to a bad incident (carjacking). I understand the underlying current that the characters lack character but you can’t put the same characters on trial for all of the things we had grown to love about them. Maybe the writers wanted to create an unsatisfied appetite for more so that we will always yearn for more of the show.

Regardless of how it ended, it’s still my favorite show. Since that last episode I haven’t really found a sitcom that I find as much joy in. Maybe that’s me just getting older and not liking change or keeping up with the times. Maybe because there are no sitcoms any more. Perhaps it is my affinity for the ’90s. The closest show that I enjoy today is the Big Bang Theory, but it is missing something. It’s good. It’s just not the same.

So there’s good news and bad news.

First, the bad (so far as we’re concerned): This is our last installment of IBD. Today’s post will be the end. Luckily for us, Paul and I are not in jail (because we know our wives or Lisa aren’t going to bail us out). Paul wrote on Monday about Closing Quotes and ended with an apology of sorts. I want to say thank you to the community revolving around IBD.

Over the last three years the encouragement that you have provided us has been nothing short of amazing. I’ve heard my wife say to my friends, “Don’t encourage him.” Now I know what she means. We appreciate your input, comments, and the enjoyment (okay, maybe that’s a reach) of our little project.

This blog began as an idea to publish our email conversations that we were already having and to also sell books. Well, at least we published our conversations. We hope at least we perpared you for something (insert your own joke here).

So how do we end this on a positive note? I’m not sure. It is bothering us seeing it end. When I feel the anxiety welling, I think back to relationships that have been formed because of a silly blog. Much like the character witnesses that came forward in the Seinfeld finale trail, you have been a big part of our run. At times when writing was an exercise in discipline, we found inspiration from you.

But wait, there’s more.

The good news: On April 2, we are coming back in a different way (much like Teen Wolf 2, we know how well that turned out). Our new project has been titled Media Platypus. Why? you may ask. Because Paul wanted to see if I could spell platypus and seriously, what’s more fun than an egg-laying, venomous, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed mammal.

We live in a changing landscape and we have to change. Otherwise I would still be wearing puffy shirts and stonewashed jeans.

On the new site, we are going to take a different approach to what we write about, what we share, and how it is presented. You can count on it being ten times as funny as IBD (10 x 0 still = 0; I’ve got mad math skills). If you feel so inclined, we’ve got a Media Platypus Facebook page ready for you to like, as well as a new Twitter handle, @MediaPlatpyus. The website will be www.MediaPlatypus.com (though there’s not much to see there yet). If you don’t want to follow this new venture, we understand and we’ll go back to crying ourselves to sleep each night.

It’s been fun, thanks for everything. We’ll see you on the Plat.

Going with the Flow

What’s not to like about flowcharts? They are capable of transforming a complex issue or process into something that is simple, cut, and dry. I love how they work, you respond to a question and you get an answer. Sometimes your answer leads to another question but eventually you get an answer. Order can be brought from chaos through a flowchart. Now, if there were a flowchart on how I should appropriately respond to my wife, I would use it all the time. Wait, let me refer to my flowchart on when to use flowcharts…okay, I’m not so sure it would really work well after all.

Wikipedia.org defines a flowchart as “a type of diagram that represents an algorithm or process, showing the steps as boxes of various kinds, and their order by connecting these with arrows. This diagrammatic representation can give a step-by-step solution to a given problem.” (I must admit I just used this definition of flowchart to add the word “algorithm” and the phrase “diagrammatic representation” to our searchable list of keywords that will surely bring hundreds of hits to IBD.)

Paul and I often get asked difficult questions like, What color should I use in this logo? Which is better, In Design or QuarkXPress? What is the best file format for my project? and Do you know where your children are? All of these would be easier to answer with a flow chart. So why not create a FC (that’s flow chart for the really cool) to answer the ever-present question of which typeface should I use?

Thankfully I didn’t have to do it. Twenty-two year-old graphic design student Julian Hansen has created one for us. You can view the full image here. The FC asks some great questions and at the very least conceptualizes the thought processes behind choosing a typeface. Of course, much like IBD, there is an insane amount of humor woven into the chart and it shouldn’t be taken literally. Though I specifically love the path to Futura and Frutiger, along with the questions that lead to OCR.  Oh yeah, there is even a path to Comic Sans (though I think you know where we stand on that path).

I wish design decisions could be this easy. For years we have advocated that one of the most important areas for designers, non-designers, and interpretive designers to grow in is the ability to verbalize to supervisors, co-workers, and advisory boards on the reasons behind design decisions such as font selection. As the designer, if you can’t explain why you made a decision to foster support you shouldn’t expect support. Saying something like I just like it, or because I said so, only works with my wife.

If you haven’t created a FC in while take the time to do so. I use them in developing complicated PowerPoint programs, to map project progression, and as a way to conceptualize problem solving/solution finding. There are plenty of programs that more than likely already on your computer to help you with the process or you could always use free downloads such as SmartDraw. You could also go on with life, as a normal person.

Blogging Blog

I should have thought about this long before I went to Paul and said, “Hey, we should start an IBD blog.” Knowing that Paul would be looking for anything to do (in an attempt to take away the pain of being a redhead and a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies), I should have known that he would have taken the idea and run with it. Of course we put some thought into it (and by some I mean some), but really what is the purpose of this blog and blogging in general? Really, I’m asking you. What is the purpose of this blog and blogging in general? Again I need your help.

This post is a continued thought process, path of self-discovery, and evaluation that began in my post last week (Relevance for the Irrelevant), in which I challenged our readers to tell us what it is about IBD that keeps us relevant in your lives. As always, we both appreciated the comments and constructive criticism that was left in the comments section (Jen, for your benefit there will be no “stabs at humor” in this post, only critical lunges).

From the beginning of IBD we have stated that the purpose of the blog is to make the world a better place one post and typeface at a time. Which is a fancy way of saying we have such a big and lofty goal that it cannot be accomplished and therefore we can write about any topic we want and it applies to our mission. Since we put very little (uh, I mean some) thought into why we blog, I decided to research why it is that others blog. I was hoping that through this process it would improve our end product for you but realized many of the conclusions I was drawing may apply to your interpretive site, consulting business, or design firm.

For the longest time I have operated under the concept “If others are doing it, I should do it too.” That, along with the statement, “Come on, I’ll be your best friend,” have gotten me in a lot of trouble. Now that I’m a parent (eh, blogger) I understand the statement, “If others are jumping off a bridge, are you going to as well?”

Why should we blog? The Graphic Design Blender blog (yes, this is reference to a blog about blogging on a blog about blogging, and if you look closely at the image above it is a picture of this blog, with a picture of this blog, embedded with a picture of this blog) list the following as most common reasons for designers to blog: establish yourself as an authority with the design community, create good relationships with other designers, become “popular” and generate a large following, or make money.

Wow, those are great reasons for having a design blog and sure this is a design-ish-type blog. But let’s face it, no one respects our authority, our relationships are nothing short of artificial, becoming popular would be awesome but it hasn’t happened in our combined 74 years of life, and no one is making money. Okay, I’m not sure if I answered my own question about why we should blog.  So, let’s move on.

Why should you blog? (I like that question, since it takes the heat off of us and puts it on you. Paul, maybe we shouldn’t be blogging.) For the two years I have been writing on this blog, I have learned more than I have shared. I’m not holding back, but the practice of blogging teaches discipline in writing and makes you look at world in a different way in order to share your voice. If you are considering a blog for your interpretive site, you will become immersed in your resources in an attempt to have something to share.

After spending 16 years working at interpretive sites, I know how easy it is to begin to take where you work for granted. Blogging can cause you to find details, try new things, and explore in a way that may or may not have done in a while. You might just remember what it was that drew you to that location in the first place before the emails and evaluations took you away.

I have a short attention span in general and blogging has taught me dedication. What was I saying here? I don’t know really but I’ve got to finish this post because I know four people will read it. Oh, maybe that’s what I was saying. When you have an audience that cares about your subject or resource, you place more effort in being the expert and leaving no stone unturned (literally or figuratively). I joked above about our relationships being nothing short of artificial, which is totally untrue. It wasn’t necessarily a planned objective but lifelong friendships and relationships (I predict the first IBD marriage will be in 2013 where Paul and I will have to draw straws to see who will be the best man and who gets to design the invitations) have been developed through IBD. Relationships to your site, story, or products can be developed in the same way.

Blogging can drive your creative prowess for you and your audiences. For us it has led us to research the history of typefaces (okay, Paul already did that on weekends), visiting unusual places, carrying our cameras everywhere (even bathrooms), and visiting new baseball stadiums (okay that has nothing to do with what it can do for you). If you blog about your site, you will become a better interpreter of that resource for your audiences (who it is all about). In blogging though, you should know who you want your audience to be. This is difficult for interpreters who are used to meeting the needs of various audiences and mixed audiences. As a blogger you can build your own audience but you have to know who that is to do it right and be successful.

Design Blender states that designers who want to attract clients should blog about basic design principles, how to find a good designer, and what to expect when working with a designer. If you are interested in attracting designers you should blog about inspiration, interviews, and advanced design tutorials. For interpretive sites who want to attract support, you should blog about mission, core values, staff, offer interviews, and discuss current topics. If you are interested in attracting visitors you should blog about topics that may create discussion, discuss events, post images that will attract, offer something behind the scenes, list possibilities, and share experiences.

Paul, we should talk. After all, you promised to be my best friend.