Sunday, November 30, 2008
The experience of pregnancy has changed in modern times, and one of the biggest changes is the advent of fetal ultrasound. Expectant parents look forward to the ultrasound as confirmation of a pregnancy and a chance to “meet” their child. The purpose of fetal ultrasound has undergone a massive shift; it was once used sparingly as a detector of fetal abnormality and now is most often considered a social event. Almost all modern women in the United States have at least one ultrasound scan over the course of carrying a baby – but therein lies a fundamental problem. This paper will examine the reasons women choose to have those scans, and it will further posit that popular and medical rhetoric does not adequately inform women about the potential effects of fetal ultrasound, and thus influences them to have the scans. I will analyze the situation via several different analytic approaches: the societal perception of fetal ultrasound, the messages of media targeting pregnant women, physicians’ rhetoric to pregnant patients, the patriarchal tendency to support the use of fetal ultrasound, women’s reasons for consenting to fetal ultrasound, and, finally, the ethical implications of the intersections in these areas. Those intersections may also be complicated more by the application of feminist and rhetorical theories. Although this paper is not yet complete, I expect to conclude with a number of ways in which the medical community could be more transparent and ethical in its presentation of fetal ultrasound to potential users.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
A grid, as described in Thinking with Type, is basically a network of related frames. Any sort of grid divides a given space - which is likely a frame itself - into a network of smaller frames within which a designer will then work.
I also enjoyed thinking about the different ways gridding and framing can work. In TT, Lupton discussed how typography can be a frame. "Typography is a form designed to melt away as it yields itself to content" (115). This observation goes back to the most basic principle of design: Good design is invisible. The most effective frame is one that viewers don't even notice. (Of course, this changes if the frame is actually the subject of a piece -- but, in that case, the frame is performaing an additional function besides framing that supersedes framing.) If a non-designer viewer stops to notice a frame when attention should be directed inside the frame, that's an error. (Have you ever noticed the frame on the Mona Lisa? Didn't think so.) Framing, then, is the beginning of design. It has to occur first, and the rest of the piece will flow into and around it.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Thus far, I've spent time thinking about the final format of the portfolio as well as what I want its ultimate purpose to be (aside from getting that master's degree). I hope to use my portfolio -- which will take shape as a web site -- for the very practical purpose of getting a job I will love. I also want it to be something I can add to so that I can chronicle my academic work in the event that I start work toward a doctoral degree in the future. With the format and purpose decided upon, the content is making me draw a big blank. Right now, I'm thinking I'll create sections within the portfolio -- maybe something like "Visible Rhetoric," "Medical Rhetoric," "Journalism," and "Other Professional Writing Projects." I also think I'd like to include a section about my teaching experience, minimal though it is. Something like this might be ideal.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Our projects this week had an entirely new spin than anything else we had so far done. Knowing that an actual potential client would evaluate our work and perhaps choose to expose it to thousands of people provides a little more incentive to create a clear, compelling message. The greatest challenge in such a situation is often to produce a piece of communication that is both compelling and also agreeable to the client.
There have been times in the past when I have run into situations where what was clearly a better choice ran counter to something a client wanted. It is at this point that visual rhetoricians have to decide who they're actually serving: Are they interested in getting paid, or doing it right? When does doing it right really matter -- is it moral, or just about pride? And how do you strike a balance?
In one case, I convinced a client (a humane society) to use more pictures of animals. The society wanted to project a very professional look and so didn't want to include photos of animals -- but this was central to their mission. We compromised and came up with a document that was both cuddly and sophisticated.
In another case, working on a brochure for an engineering firm, I received explicit instructions on what to include in the document. In this case, the audience was specialized and I, as a layperson, could do little more than take direction and employ my design skills to best effect.
My point, I suppose, is that it's vital to communicate with clients. You may be able to create a better product if you can loosen their limitations. Or, they might teach you a thing or two. In rare cases, it might turn out that the client's prescriptions are unpalatable enough that the partnership can't work out -- echoing Rock's worries. His essay, although pretty abstract and vaguely reminiscent of something out of a superhero movie ("Peter, with great power comes great responsibility") does strike a chord. In order to work in the field of visible rhetoric, one will also have to be able to work with people.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
This week's design readings were informative for me in a number of ways. They made me feel a little schizophrenic - as talk of design often does - because I wanted to engage them in about six different ways at once. (As Schriver notes, design is in everything from the newspaper to the height of your high heels.) While the principles of design are constant (as is the knowledge that sometimes breaking with principles is the best course), they can be applied in very different ways depending on context.
I was most struck in Schriver's piece by the acknowledgment and foregrounding of the fact that design does not happen as the last step in a document (at least, not in an effective one). We recently developed a set of templates at the newspaper where I work. Although these templates were intended to be for use during elections (they provide visual rhetorical strategies for comparison using all the CRAP principles), they could be applied to a lot of other things with the aid of a competent designer -- and reporter. These templates are examples of design coming before textual content is even a thought. I might send a reporter out to get me a photo of each of several candidates and the answers to certain questions in order to complete the document I have designed to flow with that particular content. (See the example above -- the reporter had to know and understand this design before beginning work on textual elements.)
Context was also a major facet of Markel's analysis, particularly in the final section that focused on critique. For example, one image was from a company magazine and a question accompanying it asked if there was a enough white space. For a magazine, the answer was no. For a newspaper, the white space allotment was acceptable. That point, for me, is the most important. All the CRAP principles, accessing tools, resource limitations and audience engagemtn techniques aside, a good designer always, always has to be aware of context.
That said, I think context is also the answer to Schriver's naming quandary. What I call "document design," whenever I do it, depends on who I'm doing it for. When I volunteered to design a magazine for a fifth-grade class, I called it "magazine design." When I work at the newspaper, it's "page layout." When I'm working on a project for school, I tell people I'm doing "technical communication." And when I'm talking to a fellow technical communicator, I generally say "professional communication" -- because, to me, that seems to be the most apt term for what I do.
But then again, I am my own context. It'll be different for everyone.
Monday, November 3, 2008
I am still incredibly excited about the module we're currently working on, because I've always wanted a good excuse to learn a bit about Photoshop. People always say Photoshop is the most powerful tool out there of its kind. Even my PC-bound newsroom has a copy of Photoshop that's compatible with Windows. I now know a little bit about Photoshop -- but that little big is enough to make some impressive-looking stuff.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I almost forgot to blog this week, because I've spent hours on my latest project. (I might have gotten a little over-excited ... )
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I had one of those "Aha" moments when I sat down to watch this week's assigned youTube videos.
Monday, October 20, 2008
1. Klein sarcastically responds in the article, to companies' apparent brand identities--that Nike, for instance, is not selling shoes, but instead communicating “notions of transcendence.” Take a look at the front/main pages of these three web sites:
2. What is the outer truth visible here (e.g., what’s being sold)? What is the “inner truth” identified here?
On Hummer’s site, I think freedom is the equivalent of Nike’s transcendental offer. The Hummer at the top plowing through water lets viewers imagine themselves in exotic places doing exciting things. In reality, GM is selling a car, a means of transportation to and from work and other daily chores.
The Agent Provocateur site was the most interesting of the three – it played to a sense of adventure as well as to freedom. I found it intriguing that it offered two main possibilities: shop or explore. This is an interesting way to back up the claim to being more than just commercial. But, when it comes down to it, prices and products are listed in a catalog-like format.
Microsoft is known as one of the most successful companies in the world, and its marketing is direct. Before a consumer can even visit this page, a pop-up ad intervenes, offering a new software to make the Internet experience better. Once on the page, consumers get an appeal to fear (Protect yourself from phishing!) and an appeal to modernity (Get the latest version!) right away. The main panel is about the Mojave Experiment, in which testers renamed Windows Vista and had people try it again – and ended up with a higher approval rating. This is probably in response to the bad reviews Vista has gotten recently, so it also is a direct appeal to consumers to keep buying.
3. Find an example of “anti-brand activism.” How does what you’ve found work to break the hold of “broken promises” and “unfulfilled desires” perpetuated by brand campaigns?
The first Web site that popped up on my “anti-brand” Google search was brandchannel.com. I’m not sure I would actually classify it as anti-brand, but it’s certainly interesting, and it could potentially be anti-brand. The Web site focuses on demystifying brand identities. For example, a multiple choice question on its front page asks audiences a trivia question: Which brand says the environment is part of its DNA? In doing so, it also asks consumers to evaluate whether or not this claim is true. Is this an example of a broken promise? An unfulfilled desire? I actually find brandchannel.com (which bills itself as the world’s only online exchange about branding) to be a far more socially responsible movement than the anti-brand movement. It opens up discussion for anyone to participate in (see the site’s “debate” section) rather than simply replacing one dominant view with another.
Holland, “Keeping Promises: The Impact of Brands on Society”
1. How does Holland explain the rise of brands? The “void” that brands fill in our society?
Holland says branding filled the void when Americans became disillusioned with religion and other social interactions like clubs. She even says the move away from the nuclear family has contributed to this shift. I would argue, additionally, that the Internet age has both caused this shift by increasing the amount of time a person spends “alone” (e.g. at a computer or television, with access to the world at her fingertips) and by providing a new way for brands to reach consumers. As our society increasingly produces people who live and work with less and less face-to-face social interaction, branding will continue to become a more and more powerful influence.
2. Take a look again at the three sites listed above. What identity does each brand offer us? Promise us?
Hummer promises adventure as well as comfort and luxury. Based on the exchange value of the Hummer, it also likely offers a certain amount of prestige. The site says: Anyone who owns a Hummer must be part of a group that is adventurous as well as wealthy.
The Agent Provacateur site offers beauty and sexual freedom. It shows attractive models with mainstream body types, but it puts them in an atmosphere that is not mainstream (at least not for the U.S., although the site is European). The implication is that anyone can look like those models if they wear this lingerie. The site also offers a section for “exploring,” which leads into a soft-core, choose-your-own-ending sort of sequence. This emphasizes sexual freedom and the ability of the woman (the intended viewer) to choose her partner and preference.
Micrsoft’s Web site welcomes viewers into the club of professionals. It offers sleek, easy-to-use software and implies that those who use Microsoft products will be in good company. It also is the most direct in terms of framing the viewer as consumer – a good consumer, it says, it up-to-date. The Microsoft viewer is someone who is willing to spend the money to have the most current technology.
3. What strategies does Holland suggest for not underestimating your own power? For researching and being an activist in the face of corporate identity strategies?
Holland suggests using the very power that companies are after when they create brands: the power of the consumer. The opinion of the consumer – whether expressed through oral statements, written letters, protests, or simply purchasing power – is our most powerful weapon in shaping the paths taken by companies.
Awareness is the major requirement for being an activist. Research is vital to understanding how companies work, and self-reflection will help consumers decide how to use their power in terms of supporting or not supporting those companies. For graphic designers working in the advertising industry, Holland suggests taking a step back to think about if you would be proud to see a newspaper story on your recent work. Holland also suggests perusing the annual report of a company you’re interested in.
Sullivan, “Flogging Underwear: The New Raunchiness of American Advertising”
1. What’s the deal? How come men are being sold products with male sexuality? How is it that “male bimbos” in ads work to convince men to purchase a variety of products?
Sullivan says at one point that most of the sexuality implicit in these images is narcissistic. The male model is “in love” with himself; thus, male viewers may construe this fabrication as a message that if they use Product X, they, too, will love themselves. More likely, I think, is Sullivan’s argument that women buy most of men’s stuff. The makers of the Hom ad, for example, said the ad was directed at women because it is women who buy most men’s underwear. There are also two other possibilities that Sullivan glosses: the rise of metrosexuality (and, by extension, the rising acceptance of homosexuality) and fact that ads showing the “male bimbo” simply attract attention. On page 209, Sullivan notes that what kind of attention an ad attracts doesn’t matter because viewers tend to disassociate the message from the sponsor rather quickly. What is important is getting them to see that corporate logo in the first place.
2. What does Sullivan accuse today’s fashion photography of lacking? Do you agree, disagree? Explain.
Sullivan says today’s photography lacks creativity as well as a connection between personality and product. The new wave of consumers are defined by their “denial of individuality” (210). Sullivan describes several ads which depict young, beautiful people doing absolutely nothing. They’re not active, they’re not communicating, they’re not even looking at each other or anything else. They’re just … there. These ads incorporate little creativity and no personality, according to Sullivan. I disagree. I do think these ads are creative, to some extent. I think, in many cases, they represent the disillusionment of young generations with the messages preached by their predecessors. This denial of individuality could be interpreted as an expression of oppression. However, I think Sullivan is correct in saying these ads do not display a connection between personality and product – rather, they display a connection between consumer and brand. And that, today, is all a company needs.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
1. What are some of the historical and cultural reasons why consumer culture has appeared and proliferated?
The use of advertising - which almost always incorporates visible rhetoric - has been a staple in the spread of consumerism. "Increased industrialization and bureaucratization in the late nineteenth century meant a decrease in the number of small entrepreneurs and an increase in large manufacturers ... " (191). People also began to do a lot more traveling, and more public places sprang up that could support commerce. In other words, increased competition and increased visible rhetoric are directly related. This phenomenon is occurring again with the rise of e-commerce and telemarketing (192). People can now participate as consumers without ever leaving their homes. It's easier than ever to be a consumer now - plus, the government encourages consumerism, especially now, in order to prop up our failing economy.
2. How did the rise of consumer society change homes? Change family relationships? Change the dynamics of the private and public spheres?
The consumer society discussed above brought with it a number of changes. Space for advertising is now available in the average American living room. Families gather around the television rather than talking over dinner. The public sphere continues to encroach upon - and sometimes masquerade as - the private sphere. The quote used below in question number 3 illustrates the extent to which this has occurred.
3. On page 193, the authors note that some media and cultural theorists have argued that "advertising replaced what had previously been the social fabric of communities, becoming, in effect, a central source of cultural values" (this is also an argument presented in Klein's and Holland's essays). Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why or why not?
While Sturken and Cartwright present this view as somewhat extremist, I think it's exactly right. That's not to say that all demographics have undergone this change, but I believe the average American is far more consumer-driven than anyone realizes. We live in world of needs that are really wants. Everything is marketed to us, from cars to food to nursing homes. Millions of people have spent hundreds of dollars for the social status of owning an iPod (see the dicussion of NIke on page 201), when a similar mP3 player is often half the price. The social makeup of our world is driven by advertising.
4. Think about your last visit to a local mall. What aspects of the design, layout, and visual elements of the mall lent themselves to shopping being constructed as a leisure activity? A pass-time? What design aspects contributed to the cultural ideological belief that shopping is expected of us? That consumerism is good?
The last mall I was at was White Oaks Mall in Springfield, which features a centralized design with spokes that contain larger chain stores at their ends. Stores are not grouped by category, but spread out so that a person on a mission for one thing will have to walk all over the mall, past all other kinds of stores, during their search. This layout also allows the mall to have more doors, and closer parking access, thus allowing people to easily return to their cars to leave their purchases and then go back into the mall to continue shopping. Recently, even more signals than usual have impinged upon the American consumer to fulfill the duty to spend money. This tax season, anyone filing was given about $600 in "free" money and encourage to pour it directly back into the ailing economy. Consumerism was framed as a healthy goal for the economy.
5. What's the difference between exchange value and use value? What examples do the authors use to articulate these concepts?
Both of these terms are dependent upon the society they are used in. Exchange value refers to what a products costs within that society, and use value is about the item's use in that society. Sturken and Cartwright suggest rice has a high use value - it can keep you alive - and a low exchange value - it's cheap. Perfume, on the other hand, has little use value, but often is quite expensive. Their best example, in my opinion, was comparing a Honda to a Mercedes-Benz. These items have exactly the same use value, but vastly different exchange values. (199)
6. What did the Frankfurt School theorists mean by the term pseudoindividuality? (See page 205.)
Pseudoindividuality is the idea of mass marketing based on individualism. The example given is of perfume. The mass marketing campaign says the perfume will smell different on everyone, thereby priveleging individuality even as the ad markets to the masses. This technique is quite popular today, with many ads encouraging people to "think outside the box" or "be different" and take a risk on this new product. Of course, if everyone does so, no one is different. That's where the "pseudo-" prefix comes in.
7. What would ads be like if they didn't work to create a sense of dissatisfaction? If they didn't prey on our anxieties and insecurities? If they didn't make us feel weak and needing?
I disagree with the basic assumption made by this question (and, at times, Sturken and Cartwright) that all ads do create a sense of dissatisfaction. I think there are a number of very positive ad campaigns that make a point not to prey on anxieties and insecurities, ads that try to promote a sense of power and confidence. These ads are often directed at women, a group that is perhaps the most in need of empowerment. While I know some would make the argument that these ads are the worst kind as far as playing on people's fears, I do not believe that is their intent. They do not "work to create" this strife.
Nevertheless, many ads do - and the world would be very different without them. A world without ads working for dissatisfaction would certainly not be so consumer-driven. Needs and wants would be much better delineated in the mind of the average person. There would also be a lot more space in which people could value other sorts of communication. At the same time, though, we could not live in a free market society if this were the case. A sense of dissatisfaction can be a very good, motivating thing. Without advertisers for motivation, we might not achieve as much. Frankly, the idea of a world without advertising playing on personal dissatisfaction is so far removed from reality that it is impossible for me to imagine.
8. What's the difference between bricolage and counter-bricolage? Can you think of an example of each?
Bricolage is when consumers (often youthful ones) appropriate a product and imbue it with a new meaning. This is often seen as very hip, forward-thinking, or individualistic. Counter-bricolage is when commercial culture takes that product or idea back and reconfigures it. The book's example is the advent of designer boxer shorts based on the fact that young men were wearing low-hanging pants (224). Another example would be the rise of rap music. Rap was born as a cry against hegemonic forces, but was promptly appropriate by suburbanites (bricolage). Now, rap artists have altered their message to appeal to those suburbanites and gain profit (counter-bricolage).
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Monday, October 6, 2008
The day after the debate, I was working on putting together a national news page for the newspaper where I work. I picked out a story about the debate, then clicked to go to the accompanying photos. The first photo that popped up was a close-up of Palin’s legs from behind as she stood at the podium. (And, try as I might, I could not find any photos of Biden’s legs.) While I realize the photographer may have just been trying to make an interesting statement, there’s a whole brand of ethics involved that seem to have been pretty well glossed over.
Yes, Palin has shapely, womanly legs. Yes, that is part of the visible rhetoric through which we perceive her. But I don’t think a close-up view of those legs, sans any other body part, is a necessary or responsible visual message for the public. (Never mind that this photograph was taken from behind and below, in a very voyeuristic manner.) There are so many feminist arguments involving the use of women’s parts separate from their whole bodies that I can’t even risk going into that sort of analysis of visual culture for fear of overloading the blogspot server.
Prior to this discovery, I still found the debate to be one rich in visible rhetoric. There are obviously some laws of visible rhetoric that both candidates knew and followed. Both wore black, a neutral, professional color, with some accents. Biden wore a blue “power tie,” and a small flag pin (the same pin that caused an uproar earlier this election season between the Democratic contenders). Palin also wore the flag pin, and she used some other accents to break up the black theme, although her gender allowed her to be more creative. She used earrings, her now-famous glasses and her hairstyle – as well as having less black on by virtue of bare legs – to soften the severity of her all-black outfit. (It is interesting to note that moderator Gwen Ifill also obeyed these conventions.)
The fact that the debaters were of different genders was certainly a central factor, and I found myself siding with the majority: I felt more at ease with both candidates afterward, as did more than half of Americans, according to CBS polls. Both came off as polished and intelligent. Visible rhetoric is vitally important to politics in this manner, and this is precisely why candidates agree to such forums. Through TV and other media, candidates come right into our living rooms and we familiarize ourselves with their styles. Their features become familiar to us, and familiarity results in goodwill. This is an easy conclusion just based on my statement above that I liked both of them “better” afterward – because I’m not a fan of the politics of either of them.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
The other major connotation of the color purple that we have run across also stems from the crucifixion of Jesus. Purple is the color of persecution, pain, sorrow, and suffering. It is not difficult to follow where these ideas might have come from in reference to the paragraph above.
Another connection I am trying to make is one of purple as empathetic. It seems that empathy might be a quality also associated with royalty, at least in some cases. Many political Web sites also discuss purple as a color of cooperation, because it is what emerges when red (Republicans) and blue (Democrats) work together. States known as "purple states" are the states that are most moderate in their political leanings.
Returning to the project at hand, Stephanie and I are particularly researching the connection of the color purple with the Christian seasons of Lent and Advent. Both have direct connections to events in the life of Jesus, so the royalty connection is easy to make. I also think we can draw a connection between purple and Lent because Lent is the time Jesus spent in the desert being tempted by Satan. This certainly involved sorrow and suffering. Advent is the time leading up to Jesus' birth, which might connote suffering on the part of his parents. These are just a few of the leads we intend to follow as we continue to flesh out this project.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Greene, Jeremy A. Prescribing by Numbers: Drugs and the Definition of Disease. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.
Monday, September 22, 2008
1. According to the author, what’s the most intelligent design decision you can make?
Informed use of white space is the most intelligent design decision one can make, according to White. I tend to agree with this statement. With the exception of content (which, I would argue, is also often a design choice), white space is the largest deciding factor in how a document’s final design will look.
2. How does White define “conventions?” How are conventions useful?
For White, the word “conventions” seems to be equivalent to “rules.” White does say, though, that any convention can be broken – it’s just that a designer must be informed about the convention before knowing enough to break it effectively. She details eight conventions that are perhaps the most widely known.
3. Are conventions universal? Should conventions be considered “rules?”
Although “rules” is the word I used to define “conventions” above, it is important to realize that they are breakable. A good designer will always take into account the context of a piece and which conventions might be limiting in that context. Conventions are certainly not universal.
Williams, “Readability and Legibility”
1. What is the difference, according to Williams, between readability and legibility?
Readability refers to the ease with which a person can quickly navigate body type or anything else that would have a large amount of text as one entity. Legibility is more applicable to headlines or other title-type elements that occur in small sections.
2. What makes a typeface or font face readable?
Several elements make a typeface or font more readable. Williams says it is a moderation of features. This means the face should not incorporate anything that really stands out – it should be average-sized with average thickness and an average x-height, etc. It is also noteworthy that serif typefaces are generally considered more readable, and additional leading can make up for other deficiencies in readability by allowing the eye a space to move back to the beginning of each new line.
3. When does text have to be legible? When can text serve more decorative, artistic functions?
Text should be legible when people are reading quickly – in situations where the reader will be skimming, scanning or making a quick judgment. Text can serve artistic functions in these cases as long as the designer is aware of the conventions being broken and how those broken conventions work within the piece.
Brumberger, “Rhetoric of Typography”
1. Do you think the typeface in which this article is presented is "rhetorically appropriate?" Why or why not?
Yes and no. This article was meant to be read in a printed journal from a physical page. The typeface (which looks like Times?) is serif and very average. It is extremely readable. However, I read this article on the computer screen. On the screen, the serifs were too skinny to do much good and the weight of the lines was not thick enough to be readable until I zoomed far in. So, in terms of its expected rhetorical situation, the typeface chosen was appropriate. But, I read it outside of the expected rhetorical situation, and the appropriate typeface choice for my rhetorical situation would have been different.
2. What does the author mean when she argues that typefaces have "personas?"
She means that typefaces can evoke certain feelings and connotations within our minds. They may give the text characteristics that we would not otherwise have attributed to it.
3. Take a look at the chunks/passages embedded on one of your favorite webpages and rank the attributes of each using the scale Brumberger used and presents on page 228 of her study.
CNN.com uses the same typeface (with a font change for the main headline) throughout its home page. They choice, a sans-serif that is highly “invisible,” projects seriousness without being too cold. In my opinion, it is confident and professional. Going from the top of Brumberger’s scale to the bottom, I would rate its attributes as follows: cheap – 2, cold – 3, confident – 7, dignified -6 , elegant – 6, feminine – 2, formal – 5, friendly – 6, inviting – 7, loud – 4, masculine – 5, playful – 1, pretentious – 3, professional – 7, relaxed – 4, scholarly – 7, serious – 7, sloppy – 1, straightforward – 7, warm – 5.
4. What's the "so what?" of Brumberger's study? What are the conclusions and implications she draws? What can we learn—as writers and editors—from her study?I was disappointed by Brumberger’s study. I had hoped that she would be able to prove at least one of her hypothesis. I do think she succeeded in demonstrating how differently people can perceive something as “simple” as typeface choice. This shows us that, as designers, every detail is vitally important. The choice of typeface can evoke a number of different ideas if we know how to use the conventions surrounding that choice correctly. As writers and editors, we must be aware (even in a text-only document) of how our typeface choice affects the way readers perceive our work.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
I completed a draft of my module two project before doing the assigned readings for this week. After having done the readings, I plan to create a second draft before our rough draft is due. The ideas I was able to draw from the three Blackboard readings were very helpful. In particular, I will do more work with kerning and line spacing.
Originally, I chose to work with the lyrics from the Brad Paisley song "Ticks." I placed the lyrics, repeated to fill the page, into a document and turned them green to reference a field that makes an appearance in the lyrics. I then turned select bits of text black, trying to form the shape of a tick. This proved more difficult than I had imagined. The tick just did not show up very well. I bolded the letters, which helped a little. But, having read the assigned readings (especially the one from the Non-Designer's Type Book), I know I can do a number of things to make that text stand out more. My tick is basically functioning as a serif -- his little legs are getting lost like the feet on a serif typeface when used as a headline. Mostly, the image needs to appear more dense, and I now have a number of tools at my disposal to make that happen. (I also think peer review will be a great help in this project.) I have a feeling this is project I could tinker with forever and not be entirely satisfied. Typography, clearly, is an addiction!
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I found Lupton’s chapter on text to be fascinating. This is at least partially because I use most of the techniques she talks about every day in my job as a newspaper editor. I’ve heard my colleagues talk about the days when leading was literally leading. But, I did learn some new techniques as well. I particularly enjoyed Lupton’s discussion of kerning. The relationships of letters to each other changes depending on the typeface and font. Kerning allows for a manual override – ironically, it’s a way to manually make things look more natural. It’s an extremely valuable tool.
I was particularly interested in Lupton’s observations regarding the differences between print and Internet readers (p. 74 especially). It makes perfect sense that, although the same person may be a user of both, expectations are different when using the Internet. Immediate gratification is the norm for Internet users, and any delay in processing information becomes extremely frustrating.
In fact, I would posit the Internet has changed the mentality of consumers as a whole. We regularly get calls at the newspaper from people who take their news on the Internet, and they often complain that the news doesn’t go up fast enough or that they can’t access everything on the Web site that’s in the print product. I politely explain that to get all the news, they have to buy a newspaper instead of just visiting the Web site, and generally the point is well taken. Sometimes, though, the person’s sense of entitlement (“Isn’t the news you report in the public interest?” They ask, and they have a good point.) is such that I have to make comparisons to other professions (Would you expect a surgeon to operate on you for free, even if you’d die if she didn’t?). My point here is that the Internet has not only changed the audience and forum for text, it also has changed the value of text. Information is now available for free, and that is how people think it should be. Newspapers – probably the greatest users of text in the world – are in deep trouble because of this phenomenon.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
After considerable anguish, I settled on something pretty similar to my first draft of my cultural identity map for my final product. After talking with peer reviewers, I did make two major changes (as well as a number of smaller tweaks). First, I deleted the camera in the lower right corner. It had represented Lacan's gaze as well as my photography work, but I decided neither were really significant enough parts of my life to merit inclusion on my map. The second change involved two parts: I enlarged and made more central the liberty figure that is now at bottom right. This figure, which is borrowed from the Libertarian Party's logo, represents my political ideals and how I try to live my life. I also included watermarked text of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in the background of my map, because my studies of the affects of the First Amendment have had a huge impact on my political and cultural outlook on life. I also made another significant choice in this final map: I chose not to alter the image of Rosie the Riveter. Although I modernized her (OK, let's be frank, I turned her into a badass) for use on my button, I felt that on my map she represents some sense of tradition, which I am proud of, as well as progress. My map demonstrates my ideas about progressiveness pretty clearly in other ways; I liked Rosie as a sort of nostalgic element.
Monday, September 8, 2008
I’ve always been told that you’re a good page designer when people stop telling you that you’re a good page designer. In other words, the design was so effective that it was invisible. It seems to me that the use of proper lettering – using the proper typeface – is much the same. If the typeface is distracting, like the bitmapped letter compared to the anti-aliased letter, then its use was a poor choice. The goal in choosing typefaces is to be so good that you’re invisible.
But maybe not always.
In my designing work, certain typefaces have already been chosen for standard headlines, but I am free to choose any typeface we have for feature stories, graphics, and other oddities. In this case, I’m not so sure invisibility is the goal. Sometimes, the typeface is precisely the element that needs to jump out. I would argue that this goal – using a typeface that jumps out – has made for some of the best and worst page designs in newspaper history. One thing I do think is really clever is the suggestion that hand lettering is still a driving force in graphic design (See the "POW!!" on the newspaper page above at left.)
Utilizing non-textual elements also is an important task for media. Magazines, particularly, tend to use a lot of visual elements in their layouts. Often, these are in the form of simple tables, graphs, and charts. As shown by Graphic Design, there are myriad more creative ways to do such things. But they don’t get done. My question about this is: If people care so much about graphic design, how come they won’t pay a little extra for a superbly designed magazine? The answer: Substance. If that superb design carries with it some meaning, some purpose, then it is actually worthwhile. I don’t mean to sound down on graphic design. It’s actually something I really enjoy and admire. But it frustrates the heck out of me when I want to try it at my job and am told there simply isn’t time/money/resources to do so. I worry that newspapers are dying, and graphic design for print will soon follow. In some ways, maybe, the Internet is a not-so-good thing.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
I was, however, very frustrated with the seeming inequality of the discussion surrounding the power endowed by the gaze in terms of gender. It seemed to me that the authors felt that anytime a woman is gazed upon, she is objectified and somehow lessened. Yet in the example showing a male being gazed upon (page 88), they suddenly observe the subject as maintaining power by refusing to acknowledge the presence of the gazers (who are women). While I can't begin to fathom the complexities of the psychoanalytic theories surrounding studies of the gaze, I did feel that Sturken and Cartwright's interpretation was lacking in the manner. I can think of myriad examples in which women are gazed upon and, in being so observed, wield great power. Likewise, I can think of examples, though not so many, of when men are gazed upon and thus made inferior. Both male and female gazers can also be on either end of the power spectrum.
I am reminded of a study I once did on feminism and pornography. There are two basic camps (in reality, there are far more). One side argues that women are being turned into commodities against their will in a fashion very akin to slavery. The other side says women have learned to use their sexuality as a commodity that they can then use to make slaves of consumers. In other words, these two camps see the power of the gaze in very different ways. One believes that the gazer holds more power, while the other believes that the subject of the gaze is the more powerful of the two.