Multiple Choice

I love it when you can manipulate and manage the same data in multiple ways.

Dealing with the same information in different ways allows more flexibility for the person dealing with that information. The trick here is to avoid so many options you do not know what to do with all the options staring you in the face.

Sometimes the simple is so obvious it eludes you until someone shows you how to do it right.

Take VoiceCloud's version of voicemail. You can receive messages directly to your mobile phone in a text message and you can also listen to the original message in your email as an MP3. As shown below.

Manage all of your messages by way of email, without going through the linear "old-fashioned" way of one message then another when there are many to deal with (such as after a vacation or being a very connected person).


Where to park?

Don't even get me started on the signage within California state. Which will be a post at some point.

The image below demonstrates how assumed and accurate signage ideologies merge, and can easily confuse people without constant exposure to the norm. My perspective stems from: "What if a foreigner arrives and there are no examples given to follow?"

The image above shows "normal" vehicle parking positions, as the signage is marked in San Diego, California. But that is simply my point. The parking signage shows bounds that do not completely apply. Look at the direction of bounded enclosure space for the vehicles. If you followed the bounded enclosure, you would think that San Diego allows for double vehicle parking, as shown below.

Pretty cool, no? Not unless you want to get a parking ticket.

The appropriate boundaries should be marked as follows.

Simple, straightforward and not confusing.

Case closed. Well at least until the next California signage posting.


Multiple Lenses

People see things in different ways. Even individuals have their own perspective due to their experiences. Take any object and have many people describe it and you will receive different answers.

This is concept is similar to applying themes to so-called Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs), so prevalent today and mostly useless. Themes are applied with: mobile phones, email (such as Google Mail), Operating Systems, etc.

What if you could switch that around and have completely different interfaces, instead of themes, to the same information?

Case in point. Check out Henri Derudder's portfolio.

First of all he uses one of the most fundamental questions on the Internet, asking which language you would like to view the site. Most web sites are under the assumption that the whole world speaks one language.

Once you have chosen a language, the site loads and presents you with a modifiable interface. Loading with thumbnails of the work done.

Additional interfaces can be selected in the top left including: thumbnails, circular, chronology. Each one presents the information (Mr. Derudder's portfolio) in a different manner.

On top of that, each interface can be filtered with the category of work.

Brilliant. The first time I saw the site, I was amazed and spent a bit too much time than I should have. Probably one of the best uses of interface design presently on the Internet.


What time is it?

Is it midnight or noon?

That is often the question that arises from people dealing in time zones outside of the USA that use 24 hours to signify a day's hours (instead of the USA using two 12 hour segments in a day), when someone says at "12 o'clock".

Confusion. It seems that much of this world creates confusion from lack of consistency. Different measurement systems of all sorts (time, weight, liquid, year, etc.) allow for understanding that interface with less depth and thus results in barriers to knowledge.

How many hours are in a day? That's obvious. 24. Ask a child that in the USA while they are learning about time, and the answer may surprise you. It seems you have to unlearn what you know due to divergent systems.

Many thanks to Pete Boardman's www.24hourtime.info site for exemplifying the use of 24 hour measurement clocks.

So why deal with confusion of a 12 clock? Is it because people have a hard time counting past 12? I think not. Well, one answer is because we have to. Or do we? We can adopt whatever time counting system we want.

Why do you think the military uses a 24 hour system?

Don't even get me started on Daylight Savings Time.

Give me 24 hours in a day, the reality, instead of splitting the day into 2 parts of 12 which makes one feel like there is less time in the day. I'd rather keep with the natural rhythms of the solar system.


Interface or Design?

Good design, like good interface, should not be obvious. It should be subtle, and yet be strong enough to get the message intended across to the person interacting with it.

Interface, considered by many to be a subset of design, is in my mind is even more subtle and pervasive.

We interface with everything every moment of every day. And humans have been doing so for a very long time, even before design was perfected to be borne as a profession.

As many are familiar, an interface is known as an User Interface (UI) on a display to interact with to move things around, show pictures or movies and read text. In other words control the workspace. However, that is just the "virtual space". The human interface is the computer input: most notably the keyboard and mouse to most. While computers have other means of interfacing with the device (speech, eye-tracking, brain-wave), these are not as well refined or implemented at this time.

Today's computers are simply complex tools. Tools of older generations of humans had tools of wood, stone, etc. to interact with their world. Tools come in many forms, including: pencil and paper, fork and knife, water in a glass, chest of drawers with clothes, gas stove to cook food, lock and key, etc. Each a technology at the time invented. Collectively, also each an interface.

Architecture is one of the best human interfaces ever created. People interact with the spaces they live and work and gather in. Well architected interfaces last many decades or even centuries. With good construction materials, even millenniums. Well done things tend to be kept in use.

A book is a great interface that has lasted centuries. It contains information in text and sometimes pictures and/or diagrams. It is portable, can be easily transferred, and has the ability to become a historical item when it survives for a long time (and thus an indirect interface to that time period).

Good signage, a must to inform someone in an unfamiliar territory or provide a warning, is also an interface. It communicates to the person a message.

That signage is really useful when in a vehicle, an interface to move you faster than walking.

In short, anything that interacts with something else is an interface. Even the mind interacts with the human body to interact with the "outside" world.


Serving Black & White

Black and white have an intimate relationship.

Together they carry the connotations of good and evil, light and dark, positive and negative, yin and yang. Without one you cannot have the other.

Traditionally, black ink has been printed on white paper. As goes so many technological advances, cost is involved. So much so, that ink was expensive and minimal usage was necessary. However, other understandings emerged from this circumstance. Specifically, the knowledge that ink/printing on paper is a reflective technology. Meaning, that (sun) light bounces off of paper to create an image on the eye.

With modern technology, such as television and computer displays, they are transmissive. Thus, transmitting light to create an image on the eye.

While the eye is attracted to an object in a blank space, such as large white circle on a black printed page, what also should be considered is what is easiest or more comfortable on the eye. The near equality of use of black on white with both paper and computer displays is the focus here.

As a transmissive technology, computer displays beam large amounts of artificial light when its display is white. A large portion of the Internet's web sites have a white background. My guess would be around 80%.

This seems to me that people (and even designers) believe the print world and digital world to be equivalent to present information. Obviously, that is not true. However, omitting the additional traits that digital information can be dealt with, let us remain with the colors on a static presentation.

With completely white screen on a computer display, all pixels are on. Thus, a bombardment of transmissive light enters the eye. This is counter-intuitive to a natural eye attraction to an object.

Going back to the circle presented, we can interchange the focus appropriately for the medium (paper or computer display). A white circle on a black background for a computer display would focus all of the emitted light from the circle, which would naturally attract the eye there (both from an energetic/active level as well as an object to view). A black circle on white paper brings the eye to it because it has modified the paper by adding ink to it.

In summary, best usage of:
print = black on white
screen = white on black


Interface - it's not just for breakfast anymore

Interface, like design is an under-appreciated thing. When done well, you don't notice it because the message that is delivered is obvious. When poorly done, many questions usually arise.

As was the case this past weekend: interface done well.

A weekend trip to greater San Diego granted me one of the best interface experiences yet: a music venue. This time done right.

I can't tell you how many times I've been in a structure, professionally done or not that has had a bad sound experience. From overbearing decibels (loud music), a questionably professional band, no pre-check of sound levels, no sound engineer (or conscious one), poorly played instruments or those who thought they did, etc. I could go on and on.

Suffice it to say, that Anthology in the Little Italy section of downtown San Diego has it right. This is the first time I can say that I have heard perfect sound in any structure. I've been to symphony halls that if you move around enough, you lose a particular sound range. In Anthology, you can walk the entire space and still hear everything. Amazing. What makes me now question: "How come this is the only one that I have experienced? Are there any others? Why so few?"


No Monday post

Thought there would be time to finish up an article in progress. However, due to being out of town on business travel that has been more time constricting than expected I have put up a poll instead.

Not sure about next Monday since I return that day. It remains to be seen.