Embracing Failure

Designers are one lot on the planet who are often subjected to face failure. Many of them however do not take it in the right spirit. Call it the ego that drives us, or the question to our subjective viewpoints, either ways it is something that is not right and needs to be taken with a light heart. It is something that when seen as a constructive criticism thing, can do wonders for the growth of the designer.

I remember when I was in my final year of my design education at IITG, in the seventh semester, I failed miserably at a course that was worth 24 credits. That was perhaps the largest setback that I got. But that was just academically. There are numerous incidents that one comes across as a professional designer that exposes you to failure. It could be a result of a client interaction or a misalignment with the views of the team you are working with.

Every incident made me realize the value of embracing failure in its true spirit. I started to talk more about it in my talks and lectures that I gave to varied audiences across India.

On Failure

I am of the firm belief that Design education today needs to build this aspect of Embracing failure in the school itself. I often talk to my students about this and in the last Final Diploma project class, we had a nice discussion around this.

At the end of it, we fail because we are Humans, and Designers by virtue of designing everything that is Human Centered, it is but natural that we would be exposed to failure. The sooner we learn to embrace it, the better it is.

Also I feel that, this spans not only to designers, but to a . . . → Read More: On Embracing Failure

The Social Media Construct – a case in remediation

They say that the Social Media Technologies is the in thing right now. Some call is fashionable, while some call it a necessity to keep up with the times, while some see a real value add in it. While many companies adopt it, not all understand it completely. It is now well accepted that the Social Media Technologies (SMT) are an integral part of the marketing budget of any company.  The adoption of SMT should be tied down to a business need and an assist with the business processes. Apart from the usual goals of increase in sales, the one thing that the social media technologies has done is, making the consumer more informed and help them in taking decisions that are influenced by a gamut of reasons. Come to think of it, the advent of SMTs follow a similar pattern.  resulted in the way the audiences are exposed to media. We consume stuff in a different way than we used to in the days prior to the SMTs. To support the claim of Social Media technology being omnipresent in the lives of many now, one has to understand where this comes from.

The notion of followers

Over the course of this article, I wish to do a construct of the notion of the Social Media Technology as a new kind of media. I shall refer to Bolter and Grusin, amongst others to understand why the notion of the Social Media technology is a New Media that plays out on the notion of remediation. I shall be looking into this with the example case study on Social Commerce and how the notion of media and Social media is changing and will continue to change the way we do our commerce.

Marshall McLuhan one of the greatest writers on media . . . → Read More: The Social Media Construct – a case in remediation

Kant and Experience Design

Introduction Quite often we have heard people questioning the existence and nature of design. Questions like ‘What is design?’ ‘Does design mean art?’ Is designing an object similar to saying beautification of the object? Some even say, design is common sense; and comes from intuition. If we go a bit deeper into these questions, we get to know answers to many more questions like, what role does Aesthetics play in having a good design? What are the factors to which a design owns is success? Is it pleasure it mere satisfaction? Does good design come from experience of proper understanding of a concept? Do the cognitive faculties of the human mind play a role in deciding the quality of a good design? Should a good design mean ‘globally acceptance’? Does design depend upon the culture and context? Do environments pay some role? How is a priori synthetic judgment possible?

In this essay we will see the relation of beauty, aesthetics, art and design. We will see the factor that makes an object pleasurable, and how it aesthetics is a valuable source for designers. The philosophy of Immanuel Kant, and excerpts from his essays Critique of Pure reason,Critic of Judgment, Claims of Taste have been put in; in order to give a more explainable answer to these above questions.

Concepts and Knowledge According to Kant, concepts came from pure understanding and not from experience alone as had been put forward by David Hume. Kant says that all speculation about the nature of things in themselves, beyond the phenomena of perceptual experience , is devoid of all meaning, and cannot even in principle attain the status of knowledge. Kant speaks of metaphysics- that body of knowledge that is both ‘synthetic’ and ‘a priori’ , rather than that body of knowledge which pertains . . . → Read More: Kant and Experience Design

Approaches to critiquing

I love to critique. Being in a field in which I am always surrounded by the different forms of art that have been created, there is always a scope for criticism.  So photographs that I take are criticized, and so are the designs that I make and I do so the same for any movie I see. Now there is a difference between the art of critiquing and the art of reviewing. While reviews are targeted for the common, general audience who do not have a flair for work, critiques are often targeted at a very specific audience.

When we view an art / design we start with an impression of it. Over a time we start to develop an opinion about it. And these opinions over a period turn into judgments. These judgments are what we call critiques. Thus if we analyze, any judgment is therefore ultimately what is what the judge thinks about it. And these judgments are subjective. Thus criticism is a subjective act. A critic is a judge of a piece of art, who gives his or her subjective judgments based on the opinions formulated after the impression of the artwork.

Now criticism has been prevalent in the society since a long time but it is only recently that I felt that there is a need for a sincere effort for an organization to send out an honest opinion without any bias. Often one confuses criticism with only negative feedback. The art of criticism is supposed to see the piece of art a consummation of efforts. So the good things, as well as the bad things should be highlighted in a critique.  A good practice that I follow and propagate people to follow is to start by saying a positive thing about the cultural expression. This . . . → Read More: Approaches to critiquing

Understanding experiences in photography exhibitions for Interaction Designers

This is a final paper I wrote for the Interaction Culture class at Indiana University.

ABSTRACT As Interaction Designers, two of the most important things that one needs to consider are the experience and also the audience being designed for. The presentation of the cultural expression is dependent on the presentation style and a thorough understanding of the audience. This paper aims at giving a close phenomenological understanding of a highly successful photography exhibition by India’s most renowned photographer, Raghu Rai. In the later part of the paper, from these points and an overall experience point of view, it is aimed to generate points for a framework for its application in Interaction Design.

Author Keywords Phenomenology, experience, exhibition, photography, interpretation, culture

Excerpts from the paper Interaction Design and HCI are constantly seeking for analogies from the established fields like computer science, the cognitive sciences, and other disciplines like sociology, anthropology, critical theory and philosophy. There has also been considerable efforts in trying to get an understanding from film theory and looking at experiences in film.

Photography exhibitions on the other hand are highly subjective. It is therefore more likely that any critical accounts of such exhibitions are phenomenological in nature. There is always the vision of a photographer that is being conveyed. And more often that not there is a mismatch between the intent of the photographer and the intent with which the viewer interprets it. There is also the element of time that comes into the picture when doing an analysis of the exhibition.

Conclusion Feelings and sensibility cannot be rationally expressed in words. It can only be experienced. Any exhibition of this kind, not only expanded the horizons for what can be exhibited in the Indian market today, but also helped in understanding what goes on in . . . → Read More: Understanding experiences in photography exhibitions for Interaction Designers

A Flashy Subculture

After reading an article by Hebdige on Subculture and Style, today, I tried to go into the cultures and subcultures that exist within the frame of Interaction Design. I was surprised how the thing that first sprang up was the culture of Web Design. And inside the culture of Web Design, we had (or still have) the subculture of Flash Websites.

When I dug more into this topic I found that it is really interesting to analyze from the days of the flashy banners (one subculture) , to the days of Web 2.0 (another subculture)

Initially the websites were full with texts, monotonous and boring content. In order to break away from this monotonicity, it was followed by the usage of lots of pictures and providing more and more links in order to make it more interactive for the user.

However in the gamut of links available for the user who often got confused, the notion of using flashing texts, and blinking images were introduced. This led to a surge in the number of websites trying to do it. And yes, what better way to gather attention then have a extremely harsh color like pink, orange, bright greens on a black background. Visual ergonomics took a back seat. It was all about garnering attention. Anything that helped in doing so, was in fashion. So many sites had extra borderings around content, in bright colors to lay emphasis. Clip arts were used to add to the texts to make it look more stylish. I am sure one can look at the prime background colors of the websites during this period and see that it was black.

This was similar to the punk subculture where the appearance itself was enough to get attention. Since what was accepted in the . . . → Read More: A Flashy Subculture

Semiotically analyzying parody posters

One of the most interesting application of the semiotic theory and the various functions in it, I find; are in the area of graphic design, and posters in advertisements in particular. The more minimalistic the poster in terms of the elements that make up the poster, the more meaning it makes and the more the viewer is forced to hunt for the signifiers and also make meaning out of it. Disclaimer: This is a parody for a GAP Khakis advertisement. I am pretty sure this is not an authentic GAP ad. I just happened to come across this on the internet. The idea behind this post is to see how a semiotic understanding of the parody posters could send in negative as well as positive vibes with the audience.

referential (content) An advertisement poster for GAP Khakis.

metalingual (code) The text (Hitler wore khakis) that supports (or reinforces) the statement made by the central character in the frame.

formal (form) The form is a poster that is either in print or on web medium. It is not known which one it was first made in. It is a nevertheless a bold cultural expression. The absence of color makes the statement more prominent. The user is forced to get their attention on the chief components of the frame. The first attention is on the face and the stature of the man (placing his hands on the hips- a signifier of achievement, and dictatorship). Then if your attention digresses towards the top, it is making a strong statement – “Hitler wore Khakis”. And if your focus digresses towards the down, then there is the brand name – “GAP KHAKIS”. Either way a statement is being made.

expressive (addresser) The addresser here is GAP, the garment . . . → Read More: Semiotically analyzying parody posters

Rhythmic Dance of Aesthetic Expression

Reflections from McCarthy and Wright: Technology as Experience. Have you ever felt the adrenaline rushing through you in a movie.. or the sound of silence falling into the valley.. onto to rise into a crescendo, only to fall back into an inquisitiveness… that slowly slowly catches you.. comforts you.. and then .. then there is the sudden jerk of emotion again .. and the cycle keeps repeating itself again and again… You keep moving from one an experiences to another… In the end you say .. What an amazing Experience! Movies after movies , roller coaster rides after rides… and photo exhibitions after exhibitions..

Here we talk about the Rhythmic Dance of an aesthetic expression. Dewey previously mentions about the rhythms of life, tensions and releases of engagement, and feelings of vulnerability in the face of our own needs and desires. Thus “rhythmic flow of life is the basis of our experience of meaning and value in the world.” Basically there are four components to it. It has an internal, dynamic structure. Its called the Cumulation, the Conservation, the Tension and the Anticipation.

Roughly Cumulation is the build up of the experience in the absence of a priori information about the experience. This is a build up over time. The human capacity of deriving meanings over things increases in a temporal flow. Cumulation is a thing of the past, leading to the present. Without such a build-up there is no fulfillment and without fulfillment there is no aesthetic experience.

Conservation is the tendency to hold onto the some of what one has gone through before, in-order to make sense and a better experience of what is in present. Conservation is in the present. This takes cues from the past and is creating the experience along the present. An example for . . . → Read More: Rhythmic Dance of Aesthetic Expression

Definitely Male : Structuralist approach to understanding brand identity

A bit of a background, Bajaj Automobiles is one of India’s industrial powerhouses. In the 1980 and the 1990’s their flagship product was a scooter.Their advertisements were targeted at the general Indian public and were only showing a scooter. Till this time I am sure hardly people in India would have known that the scooter was associated with a female following and that it stood for what we read in the Barnard book and also seen in this ad.

This is the ad that appeared in 1989 and aired for a few years. [ Instead of focusing on the usage of the metaphor of a feminism with scooters, Bajaj here was trying to capture the attention of a nation with something more important to people in this lifeworlds. So they promote the issue of Indianism and being a proud Indian and how that a Bajaj scooter defines being Indian. The signifiers that is used in this ad above were that which were very traditional. So we have the person meditating, the family values, the emphasing on social interactions, the pride in owing a scooter, the worshiping of the vehicle and the rural roads that signified that the scooter was all about being proud Indian. It signified that the scooter was ruggid, was able to resist to harsh conditions and still be a loving commodity in the lives of the people.

In 1984, the Hero Group, then the world’s largest manufacturers of bicycles, entered into a joint venture with Honda Motors of Japan to create Hero Honda Motors Ltd, which has gone on to become the world’s largest manufacturer of two wheelers. In the 1990s Hero Honda starting to eat the scooter market. There was a strong emphasis on fuel efficiency and mileage. Bajaj Motors too entered this segment, . . . → Read More: Definitely Male : Structuralist approach to understanding brand identity

Semiotic Theory application in Graphic Design Critique

I think that understanding of the sender / recipient , addresser/ addressee is really important as a designer. Just like we discussed in one of our class with the case of the User Research, I think that using this understanding is really important while doing brand identity and logo design. Here is a case of Bharti , one of India’s industrial powerhouse. The context being discussed here is the company changing their logo recently.

Old Logo

So when a company goes in for a change in their brand identity, in most cases they they get it done by a different design company (or individual at times). So we have a change in the sender. For the designer doing the design, the recipient of the design is the client. But the final addresser perhaps would be the entire company and the addressee the audience to which the design is presented (the you and me). Thus one can see how they are all different in this case.

New Logo

The sender (the actual person) here would be the person who designed the logo in the design team (which one is not sure, as many times groups in India have it done by non-designers), the actual addresser in this case is the company, Bharti (group of companies rather). This is not the same as , the founder / owner of the company speaking through the design. It’s a non human that we are being spoken by. In this case one does not even think that its Sunil Mittal the CMD, who is speaking to the addressee.

When the client (addresser) has a vision , then does it hold the same for the designer (sender) as well? While designing a logo for a company with any . . . → Read More: Semiotic Theory application in Graphic Design Critique