Archive for Content / Architecture

If These Wheels Could Talk

If These Wheels Could Talk

If These Wheels Could Talk book; 34 x 6.5in. (spread), 116ppg. / 2004

Soon after the dot-com and 9/11 crashes, my design job also crashed. I set about looking for another, through other firms, recruiters, friends, friends of friends, and so on. All unable to take on the frivolous weight of an underdeveloped type and image manipulator, I broadened my search criteria: assistant… receptionist… data enterer… Anything that would have me back in the office environs to which I had grown so entitled. But there was nothing to be had. Facing the loss of everything, the idealization of pre-crash innocence struck me. I printed out a few standard government forms, borrowed a friend’s car and found myself driving southward to the King County Metro headquarters. I was on my way to becoming a bus driver.

Public transportation is one of the great noble causes of our time, and the bus embodies the struggle most colossally: angling through bourgeois car traffic to transport the proletariat affordably to their destination. Having grown up without a car, I had developed a keen appreciation for the bus’s role, and, as the false hopes of cubicle walls crumbled, to give my hands to one of their great helms all of a sudden seemed right. But, for all my idealization, I also knew the motley reality of what goes on above the turning wheels: The bus riding masses are an odd bunch, particularly in a city where almost everyone who can drives a car instead… Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under Content / Architecture, Copy / Writing, Information / Mapping, Naming / Words, Photography / Film, Print / Editorial


On Words

Is all this really necessary? For everyone? All the time? Microsoft Word 2003 window, new document; shown approx. 50% actual size

For something with such a simple purpose, and an even simpler name, Microsoft Word sure does seem complicated. From the moment a user opens a new document until they finish—a three-word note or a three-thousand page novel—they are surrounded by an acerbic cadre of mismatched toolbars, icons and menu options. The vast majority of these are never used. Many of these never should be used. Most people using Word don’t need to do complex math equations or manage mail-merge settings, they don’t need hundreds of oddly-colored warped lettering options and they don’t need to create a web page; they need to write a paper.

As part of a cooperative workshop one of the Visual Communication Design professors at the University of Washington set up with one of Microsoft’s design leaders, the few of us who chose to participate were asked, “What should Word be like?”

DPJ Word interface mockup, new document; 1024 x 768px + / 2004

Writing often requires intense focus. The primary goal of my prototype was to provide the least distracting, most intuitive and flexible interface for paper writing, editing and reading, while integrating simpler navigation of documents large and small… Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under Content / Architecture, Interactive / Web


What Happenned?!!

Election 2000 introductory screen; Flash interactive interface; 1024 x 768px. / 2004

All U.S. citizens are deeply affected—for better or worse—by the president in office. However, very few people know the intricacies of the presidential election process. This is not surprising, as it is super freakin’ complicated. The problem is that most are too jaded to care, even when their country is on the line.

For Interaction Design, one of the Senior year courses in the University of Washington Visual Communication Design program, we were given the task to explain the unexplainable to your average ignorant know-it-all who doesn’t want to be explained to. The aim of this project was to create an interactive interface to help inform the average high-school or university student about the United States presidential election process. As with several classes before, the project was divided into two distinct phases: In the first, we worked in groups to research the process and the various forces involved and brainstormed different interpretations thereof. In the second phase, we set off individually to define and create interactive Flash-based demonstrations of our particular concepts.

I had the good fortune of having three brilliant brains with whom to storm in phase one: Stephanie Cooper, Luke Jung and Tim Turner. As part of our comprehensive research process, we developed various interpretations of how the presidential election could be understood. We first set out to describe the components, both legal and otherwise influential…
[roll over images to enlarge]

U.S. presidential election variables, influential and legal; digital output; 11 x 8.5in. / 2004

We then divided the country (as elections do so well) to figure out how the importance of different factors were distributed geographically… Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under Content / Architecture, Copy / Writing, Information / Mapping, Interactive / Web, Naming / Words


A Killer Project

lives being lost to Cardiovascular Disease (shown in real time; multiply by 25,000 for annual number) animated illustration for presentation; source: 2000 U.S. Census; originally 10 x 7ft. (projected) / 2004

Data is boring. It’s just facts and figures; numbers on a page. There’s no life in it: No blood, sweat or tears, not to mention sex. But actually, there almost always is. Nearly all data is merely classified results of the choices people make. If someone didn’t make enough money to pay their phone bill. If someone trained hard enough to win an Olympic bronze medal. If someone was found 30 stories below a penthouse balcony. There is data that can tell us all about these things. Unfortunately, it’s too often left flat, or worse, twisted up in knots, suffocated and sputtering in it’s own purple ink. It is in the mindful extrication, marrying and expression of data that its ones and zeroes may come to life, breathe in our faces and tell us to pay attention for a minute because it’s going to help us understand the beautiful and the terrifying things we’ve done. This is information design.

Nothing should teach us more about ourselves than adversity, and that’s what we were faced with in Information Design, one of the most sweat-worthy courses in the decidedly rigorous Visual Communication Design program at the University of Washington. Indeed, the subjects of our designs were nothing short of catastrophic: groups were assigned strains of natural disasters or epidemics to seek out, research and present based on their potential merit to inform through design. After this, we were to design at least three magazine spreads of narrated information graphics individually.

Our research team, comprised of Jesse Graupmann, Jim Nesbitt and myself came upon Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), by far the United States’ most prolific killer. In terms of deaths and monetary expenditures, raw data makes it clear that CVD, which encompasses Heart Attack, Stroke, and various other arterial conditions, is a significantly larger problem than any other known phenomenon.

comparison of annual deaths between Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, Alzheimer's Disease and AIDS, as well as annual deaths by accident, automobile collisions, suicide and murder, and the total deaths accrued in all significant U.S. wars

comparison of annual deaths between Cardiovascular Disease, and other notable causes of death, as well as the total deaths accrued in all significant U.S. wars; (roll over to enlarge) [sources: American Heart Association, 2003; Centers for Disease Control 2003; U.S. Pentagon, 2000]; originally 10 x 7ft. (projected) / 2004

Currently, on average, CVD kills about 1.5 million people per year in the U.S. or one every 33 seconds, accounting for 39.4% or one of every 2.5 deaths in the year 2000. Even all forms of cancer combined don’t kill as many people as does Coronary Heart Disease alone, just one of several types of Cardiovascular Disease. This is not to mention non-disease related deaths such as murders or accidents, which also pale in comparison to CVD. Perhaps most shocking is that more people die of Cardiovascular Disease each year than were killed in every major U.S. war, combined.

comparison of annual costs between Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, Alzheimer's Disease and AIDS, as well the combined annual budget for the U.S. military

comparison of annual costs between Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease and AIDS, as well the combined annual budget for the U.S. military (roll over to enlarge) [sources: American Heart Association, 2003; Centers for Disease Control 2003; U.S. Pentagon, 2000]; originally 10 x 7ft. (projected) / 2004

In our presentation to the class, we introduced these and other such daunting facts with the animated chart at the top of this post projected behind us, illustrating deaths occurring due to the disease even as we were making the presentation. We made a pretty good case, and we were off on our own to dive in and make those facts dance their deadly dance in the pages of our own magazine articles.

But having the undisputed king of killers wasn’t enough for me. I was thirsty for more blood. I suppose I wanted more sex in it, too. Based the numbers above, Cardiovascular Disease sounds pretty bad, but how could it be worse than HIV and AIDS? I set out to answer this question by comparing the two based on five critical factors… Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under Content / Architecture, Copy / Writing, Drawing / Illustration, Information / Mapping, Print / Editorial


Multiple Choice

Multiple Choice, Alternatives to the Worn Out Model of U.S. Transportation booklet; front cover; 4.5 x 4.5in.; 28ppg. / 2003

Teen angst is a powerful force not often harnessed for forward progress. At the same time, many of today’s most overwhelming transportation problems are fueled by inertia. There is one predominantly accepted model that most people of driving age accept as given and therefore perpetuate. If there’s one thing kids hate, it’s being told that they have to do something a certain way. Multiple Choice plays between both of these phenomena.

This book, one of a few projects undertaken for the Publications course in the UW Visual Communication Design program, was designed as a thought leadership piece that might be put out by a major car maker to mark an openness to new ideas, sparking productive discourse on the future of transportation… Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under Content / Architecture, Copy / Writing, Drawing / Illustration, Naming / Words, Photography / Film, Print / Editorial


Working with Nature

National Park Service Research Opportunities promotional brochure; front cover; 5 x 8.5in.; accordion fold / 2003

Because I am into competitive cycling and ride outside all the time, many people assume that I am one with nature, which is actually pretty far from the truth. It’s not that I dislike the great outdoors, but the thought of being in the woods doesn’t give me any kind of rush. However, there’s a big difference between knowing nature is there and being on a mountain. There are some points of our environment that are undeniably awesome, and I got to experience many firsthand in a project for the National Park Service.

Our design team at the Design + Innovation Lab, including myself, Jim Nesbitt and Jason Tselentis, and directed by Doug Wadden, worked with The National Park Service to create an informational brochure and comprehensive web reference for their collaborative research program, dubbed simply “Research Opportunities.” This program invites public, private and academic researchers to conduct their studies in seven Pacific Northwest parks. This symbiotic relationship allows researchers access to some of the greatest ecological resources in the Northwest, while the Park Service gains additional relevance by being linked to significant scientific research and discovery in prominent publication… Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under Content / Architecture, Copy / Writing, Interactive / Web, Print / Editorial


Manufacturing Consent

Manufacturing Consent, A Propaganda Model book in acetate slipcase; 9.5 x 9.5in., 28ppg. / 2003

What is the role of American mainstream media? This book visualizes Noam Chomsky’s and Edward S. Herman’s message that a few powerful individuals and corporations mask their own deceit and corruption through their control of the mass media. As the writers urge, the reader must take an active role in looking beneath the messages “filtered” by these entities in order to understand the real content.

In this piece—a project undertaken for the Publications course in the University of Washington Visual Communication Design program, in which we were to interpret an excerpt of this seminal work—expressions of manufactured mass media content are printed in light cyan blue while the Chomsky / Herman text is printed in red on white paper. Red acetate “filters” sharpen contrast of the cyan while obscuring the copy.

The first action the reader must take is to remove the book from its masking slipcase. Once removed, the subject’s title becomes immediately visible, while the mass production of American perception recedes.

Manufacturing Consent, A Propaganda Model book drawn from acetate slipcase; 9.5 x 9.5in., 28ppg. / 2003

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Filed under Content / Architecture, Packaging / 3-Dimensional, Print / Editorial


Let Me Introduce You To…

No matter how long it lasts and what happens along the way, the most fascinating aspect of any relationship is almost always the beginning. When was the last time you met someone new? When was the last time you met someone that made you feel new? How did it go down? Can you believe it happened? A proper introduction isn’t just an exchange of information; it’s a chemically transformative event that forever changes the course of your life. In 2003, the heads of state at the University of Washington engaged our team at the Design+Innovation Lab to help them properly introduce the school to the world wide web.

As a great ad man (or woman—I’m not sure) once warned on behalf of a deodorant: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Well, leading up to our project, more and more people were getting their first impression of the University of Washington from its web site and, frankly, it stank. The UW is an expansive, influential institution of over 50,000 students, faculty and staff that has been an established leader in many academic and athletic programs for well over a century, and it’s Seattle setting is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It had the brains, the brawn, the experience and a pretty sweet place. But then was a transitional era in the understanding of communication and media, and web site design was oft-still an afterthought doled out to reluctant comp-sci geeks. As such, the UW’s site betrayed a persona that was uncharacteristically inscrutable, unsightly and unwelcoming; you probably would want to steer clear of interacting with this one.

By the end of this summer-long project, our team—comprising myself, then fellow Visual Communication Design (VCD) undergrad student Jim Nesbitt and then VCD grad student Jason Tselentis, and directed by Doug Wadden, then Chair of the UW Division of Design and now Executive Vice Provost of the entire University—had redesigned the UW web site; a not-inconsiderable feat. However, we initially were not charged with doing anything with the actual site; we were only supposed to design an introduction to it… Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under Content / Architecture, Copy / Writing, Interactive / Web


A Fast Train to Nowhere

Seattle Monorail Online web site / Welcome page; 1020 x 440px. / 2002

Every time I visit Seattle (my hometown), which tends to happen more than once a year, I find it surprisingly different than I left it last. Startups become stalwarts, old favorites become new failures and areas of complete desolation become constructed destinations. But, until very recently, the ways to get to and from any of them had hardly changed a bit. Despite its squeaky-green image, Seattle has always been a car town, with a public transit system whose progress comes and goes in fits and starts but never seems to get anywhere useful by any reasonable timetable. As someone who grew up without a car and as a recalcitrant fan of progress (perhaps even Futurism, to some extent), one of the most personally frustrating examples of this city planning torpor is the Seattle Monorail.

As of 2002, when I decided to use it as it as my muse for a web site design class in the Visual Communication Design program at the University of Washington, the Seattle Monorail had been the beginning of something great for about forty years. Originally built in 1962 to shuttle visitors between downtown and the Seattle World’s Fair, the Monorail had since served as little more than an icon of the city’s once future-driven spirit, though there was a resurgent and concerted effort to evolve the system into something much more impressive. In fact, the wheels had been in motion, so to speak, for several years and, despite the work of some determinately opposed political factions, it looked as if the Monorail might actually realize its potential in the foreseeable future.

Even considering its terribly stunted scope of service at the time (it ran just over one mile, end-to-end—only about .1 mile longer than it had run in 1962), the Seattle Monorail was a fascinating entity, in that it was at once an historical landmark, a thriving attraction and the major source of inspiration for what possibly could have been the future of Seattle’s public transportation system. This web site was to celebrate the Monorail system’s rich heritage, facilitate its everyday usage and promote its promising future. As such, I architected the site accordingly, creating sections related to the system’s past, present and future, and built relevant content into each section… Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under Content / Architecture, Copy / Writing, Interactive / Web, Photography / Film

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Prosophobia promotional poster; 24 x 36in. / 2002

The most celebrated role of the designer has always been that of creator of positive change through innovation, but battling the public’s inclination to treasure the old and suspect the new has historically been tough going. The current of ominous world events (especially at the time of this project’s conception, painfully close to 9/11) only serves to shore up such public reservation. For many people, the comfort of the familiar is too valuable to risk on new ideas. This promotes a homogeneous, retro-centric design market in which the new is often merely another iteration of the old.

Prosophobia (“fear of progress”) was a concept for an international design conference that would explore why many of these constructs exist and how we as designers can continue to champion progress in this environment. Featured presentations were to be given by historians, behaviorists and economists, as well as a diverse range of design leaders successfully implementing progressive work, despite this prosophobic culture.

Being a design event (and a design school project, no less), a promotional / informational poster was a critical application, and set the visual theme for the balance of the comprehensive identification and communication suite. After several dramatic, antagonistic early concepts, including a God-like hand pushing down the sunrise, a Volkswagen “New Beetle” reversing into the viewer and even a revolver loaded with antiquities and ready to fire, an approach more considerate of both sides of the matter prevailed. The front presents the issue in a re-contextualized image reminiscent of the silent film era, showing a figure literally hanging onto the past for dear life, while the flip-side speaks to the present (signified by digital visual language) offering information on the voices on offer in the conference, and an invitation to participate in the future… Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under Content / Architecture, Copy / Writing, Identity / Systems, Industrial / Product, Interactive / Web, Naming / Words, Print / Editorial, Signage / Display


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