January 30, 2012

AHA! Journal- January, 2012

Week 1, Jan 9, 2012 

The red balloon - a symbol of dream

The Red Balloon is a fantasy short film directed by French filmmaker Albert Lamorisse in 1956.  It tells a story that a boy finds a large red balloon on his way to school one morning and realized the balloon has a mind and will of its own. This is a film which has a music score but almost no dialogue. It’s noticeable that the colors used in this film create a contrast between dream and reality. Balloons, which represent dream, are colorful and have highly saturated colors in the film. Others, which represent reality, the colors are low saturated.

Another distinctive feature in the film is the director uses a lot of long shots to perform the interaction between red balloon and the boy. It creates a feeling to audience that the red balloon is alive, as if it should be like that in the real world. I even didn’t notice the special effects when I was watching the film. I felt like that the red balloon was a spiritual actor rather than a performance props.

Because there are not many colors in the film, the picture looks pure throughout the entire movie. Watching the movie was just like recalling some memories from the childhood. Every kid has a pure dream and always finds something precious in their early childhood, even if it’s nothing special to adult.  Do you still remember how you protect something which was important to you in your childhood?


Week 3, Jan 23, 2012 

Gestalt Principles and Web Design

Gestalt principles, or gestalt laws, are rules of the organization of perceptual scenes. It’s a psychology term of visual perception. The word Gestalt means “shape” or “form”.  The principles reveal how people perceive complex scenes when looking at the world. There are Similarity, Figure-ground articulation, Proximity, Closure and Continuity. In visual perception, such forms are the regions of the visual field whose portions are perceived as grouped or joined together, and are thus segregated from the rest of the visual field.

           Picture are cited from here

When applying these principles to web design. I think there are something we should pay attention to:

1.      Delete
It means to eliminate the unimportant part from the composition, retaining only those absolutely necessary components to achieve visual simplification

2.      Classification
To classify all related content on your webpage. The simplest example: when dealing with different contents of images and their descriptive text, as long as putting related pictures and text together, maintaining certain spacing between the different graphic combinations, readers won’t mistake the relationship between images and text paragraphs without guideline

Week 4, Jan 30, 2012 

An interesting Video about Automobile claims

3   This video is made according to a real telephone record.  It a vehicle insurance claims from a person who doesn't speak Chinese mandarin. The customer service who answer the phone doesn't speak the dialect that the client does. Thus, misunderstanding is inevitable.  With creatively use of visual effects, annoying misunderstanding becomes a comedy.

     To be honest, without the visual elements and interpretation in Chinese character, I probably couldn't completely understand what they are talking about like people who don't speak Chinese do. If you can read Chinese, I bet you would enjoy this video because it is really funny. If you don't, it doesn't matter. I put the video here is to show an example that how use of visual elements can affect people's feelings. A good visual designer is good at conveying emotional feelings to his or her audience while conveying the information.
      The following is the video of the poem that Ms. Galloway showed in the class. Although it is used the same Gestalt principle, the feeling that it expressed is totally different.


Movie Task- Helvetica

1. What do you feel is the message the director is trying to express in this movie?  Support your answer with examples.

 Helvetica is a documentary about typography, graphic design, and global visual culture. Through the film, director tells us how type affects our feelings and our lives. The film is an exploration of urban spaces in major cities and the type that inhabits them, and a fluid discussion with renowned designers about their work, the creative process, and the choices and aesthetics behind their use of type.

 Here are some quotes:

a. Helvetica is everywhere.

Michael Bierut: "Everywhere you look you see typefaces. But there's one you probably see more than any other one, and that's Helvetica. You know, there it is, and it seems to come from no where. You know, it seems like air? It seems like gravity?"

Erik Spiekermann: "Most people who use Helvetica, use it because it's ubiquitous. It's like going to McDonald's instead of thinking about food. Because it's there, it's on every street corner, so let's eat crap because it's on the corner."

b. Different opinions about typeface.

Rick Poynor: Type is saying things to us all the time. Typefaces express a mood, an atmosphere. They give words a certain coloring.

Wim Crouwel: The meaning is in the content of the text and not in the typeface, and that is why we loved Helvetica very much.

2. If applicable, discuss if you think this movie has accurate depictions of minorities or if they are situational? Why or why not?

 It’s not applicable to this film.

3. Explain if you think the director’s ethnic/cultural/professional background played a role in directing this film?

I don’t think director add personal feelings or preferences to this film.

4. What groups (people of color, nationality, culture, class, gender etc.) may be offended or misinterpret this movie and why?

I don’t think people may be offended or misinterpret this movie because it is a documentary introducing Helvetica in an objective perspective.

5. What the movie added to your visual literacy?

Through taking Principles of Publication class last semester, I had a general ideal of typeface families. I learned that different typeface would add different visual effect to our design. I like sans-serif family because it looks, clarity, readable and straightforward. However, prior to watching Helvetica, I neither seriously compared what differences between Helvetica and other sans-serif fonts nor expected and noticed that Helvetica was so widely used in our daily life. Apparently, no matter we like it or not, Helvetica has become an industry standard. Rather than just add aesthetic element to the designs, Helvetica affects our emotional feeling to the designs as well as the entities behind those designs. As mentioned in the movie: “Governments and companies love Helvetica because on one hand it makes them seem neutral and effective, but also, its smooth-settle letters make them seems almost human. That is quality they all wanna convey. Because of course, they have the image they always fighting that they are authoritarian, bureaucratic and oppressive. So, instead, by using Helvetica, they can come up seeming more accessible, transparent and countable, which all the best words for the corporations and governments are supposed to be today. They don’t have to be accessible or transparent or countable, but, they can look that way.” Hence, visual symbols no only convey information but also feelings to their audience in an effective communication. Nevertheless, how the same visual elements express different meanings and feelings under different circumstances, depend on designer’s ideas and tastes.

6. What kind of artistic and/or visual means did the director use in the movie to focus our attention?

It’s a documentary constituted by different designers’ experience and opinion of using Helvetica. I like how director organized the film. The movie is just like Helvetica, without special effect and decoration, which is clear, simple, and neutral. However, like Helvetica, someone may feel it is boring and less creative.

7. Additional comments/and or analysis/and or other movies recommendations.

I noticed that there is controversy between designers about this popular typeface. Put aside whether Helvetica is good or bad in design, it is undeniable that it represents a new design trend after World War II. It has a strong kinship with Bauhaus architectural style and Op Art. It’s well known that people’s taste of art closely linked to their education background and life experiences. However, like Op Art, Helvetica aims to create an undifferentiated transmission of information to different people. In comparison with complex handwritten font and solemn serif font, Helvetica is balanced, simply, lace of emotion. This kind of design wouldn’t override the content, making audience concentrate on the text they are reading. This is the strength of Helvetica, on the other hand, is also a drawback. Emphasis too much on the typeface serving for content, ignoring the information that passes out from typeface per se and the interaction between them and audience, the design eventually becomes outcome of pragmatism rather than art. It is the biggest shortcoming that being criticized.

January 23, 2012

Visual Symbols in My Life

(Chinese characters in evolution, picture from internet)

In today's society, we can see visual symbols everywhere, conveying a variety of information to people via the line, light, color, strength, performance, balance, form and other symbolic elements. The most typical visual symbol in my life is Chinese character. Written language is one of the most important medium to disseminate information and knowledge among people. Unlike English letters, which are alphabetic, Chinese characters are pictographic. Even though through undergo constant evolution, Chinese characters has been changed from traditional ones to simplified ones for reading and writing convenience, kids in China are still taught in visual way when they are beginning to learn and remember Chinese characters.  The Chinese textbooks for low grade students typically show the pictures and the characters of objects at the same time. With the contrast, it’s easier for kids to understand and remember the composition of corresponding characters. As soon as they have built a imagination between characters and objects, they can easily recall how the characters look like without rote learning.

People always reflect expeditiously to visual stimulation because it is intuitive and easily obtained by human brain. In this information age, human beings are entering a high-speed, near-offset disorderly living environment. They are no longer satisfied with exchanging message by written language. People urgently need a most convenient, fastest and most efficient way to pass the information to others. At this time, visual symbols are undoubtedly the most appropriate choice. Research shows that the prime way for human being to perceive the world is watching. There is more than 80% information people obtaining from vision, in comparison, the information get from other senses together account for less than a total of 20%. One – third of the human brain is dominated by the visual nervous organ.  Nowadays, dissemination of visual culture phenomenon appears in all aspects of our lives. American movies, TV-series, Variety Shows, Japanese animated movies are hot around the world; pictures in newspapers and magazines have greatly exceeded the space devoted to text; ads throughout every corner, dress, architecture and so directly in sight. Popular culture is increasingly dependent on visual symbols of communication. Because of busy life and intense work, people are reluctant to read texts but prefer to see visual symbols. Visual symbols convey much more information than text do, as well as easy to be accepted and understanding. It explains well why some online social networking services with large part of visual elements such as Youtube, Facebook are so popular all over the world.

(Snowing on UNI campus, photo by Min Zhang)

I am not a designer of visual symbol, but I love to see excellent visual symbol in my life, from logo design to building design, from advertisement to Hollywood blockbuster. Like most young people, I love to record my life and express my idea and thought through posting pictures and videos to my blog, Facebook and Youtube to share my happiness and sadness with my friends and family and communicate with others. In the interactive communication environment, everyone is both audience and producer of visual media, getting and disseminating information and resources. Visual symbol tend to give more room for imagination, that’s why we often see different people have different understanding of the same visual design. Visual symbol gives rise not only in the form of visual association, more importantly, it can evoke thought association and, thus, empathy, achieve emotional resonance.

Along with intensification of globalization, efficient and effective communication around the globe becomes increasing important than ever before. The ultimate goal of visual symbols in the cross-cultural communication is to achieve global sharing of information and resources, alleviating the limitations of communication among people from different cultures and backgrounds. At the same time, visual symbols enable people from different cultures to demonstrate their unique value, forming an open, free, balanced, diverse international cultural communication order. As Edward T. Hall said: Culture is communication and communication is culture.

As one of the most direct and effective way to pass the message in 21st century, Visual symbol is ubiquitous in all walks of life. Learning how to take advantage of visual symbols to teach students in an easier and more engaging way is a required course for all educators.