Revolution Lullabye

June 6, 2009

Drucker, Figuring the Word

Drucker, Johanna. Figuring the Word: Essays on Books, Writing, and Visual Poetics. New York: Granary Books, 1998.

This is a collection of Drucker’s essays from the 1980s and 1990s that focus on her central scholarly, artistic, and literary investigation: the importance of understanding and being aware of the materiality of writing, of mark-making. She explains in some of these essays how electronic, digital writing is changing her understanding of the physical materiality of writing and printing: it loses some of the historical and identification certainty of a handwritten, signed, physical text since it is vulnerable to change and feels alienated because computerized text loses some human individuality. For Drucker, physical materiality encodes history and identity in a text.

Quotable Quotes

“It is clear that significance inheres in the written form of language as much on account of the properties of physical materials as throguh a text’s linguistic content.” (57).

“In the world and of it, written language materializes thought into form and form into history, culture, and record” (74) both these from “The Art of the Written Image”

“The forms in which language occurs adherese more or less to norms which enable messages to be recognized” (87) “Hypergraphy” – connections with genre theory?

“The word is made flesh not as a voice, not as a score, an image, an icon, or an event but as a text whose visual properties and idiosyncracies enact themselves for the eye, upon the page.” (109) from “The Interior Eye”

“My interest is in extending the communicative potential of writing, not in eliminating or negating it” (146) from “Letterpress Language” – use the constraints of typography, letterpress, structure of the page

The materiality of signification: how “material substrates and visual/typographic/written (and, by extension, verbal) styles encode history, identity, and cultural value at the primary level of the mark/letter/physical support )and in non-written form, the qualities of voice, tone, tenor, rhythm, inflection, etc.)” from “Language as Information: Intimations of Immateriality”

Notable Notes

writing as both noun and verb, process and performance, visual and verbal, text and the work of the hand, individual and social

programming language as rules, not codes – describe, not embody language

writing as a form, image of the self

linked to Morris, Blake – stretches the bounds of the book

June 3, 2009

Kirschenbaum, Machine Visions

Kirschenbaum, Matthew. “Machine Visions: Toward a Poetics of Artificial Intelligence.” electronic book review 6 (November 1997)http://www.altx.com/ebr/ebr6/6kirschenbaum/6kirsch.htm

In this hypertext, Kirschenbaum reviews three non-canonical webtexts: Throwing Apples at the Sun, which is an interactive CD-ROM by Elliott Peter Earls, Johanna Drucker’s artists’ book Simulant Portrait, and Darick Chamberlin’s artists’ book Cigarette Boy. Kirschenbaum argues through his analysis of these three digital texts that they are poststructural examples of new digital media, media that is self-reflexive and aware of its materiality, dependent on a dialogue between the human and the computer (“artificial intelligence”), and cannot be read outside of the digital form. He advocates for 1. a broader understanding and appreciation of the possibilities of digital texts – to move beyond things hailed in Wired and to push for experimental work in post-alphabetic graphic and digital design – and 2. a realization that the computer is more than a word processor; it has multiple design tools and options that can be used by writers and designers to create texts that push the limits of their audiences. This integration of the visual and the verbal is in the tradition of William Morris, William Blake, and the Book of Kells.

Quotable Quotes

on the computer: “It is an instrument for crafting writing environments.”

“The poetics of artificial intelligence are aestheticized instances of the digital wor(l)d and its virtual subjectivities, realized in the form of an incarnate and embodied text – whether than text be codex or electronic in form.” – its more than just computer-generated text

These complex, embedded, multi-vocal texts cannot be “read abstracted from [their] presentation”

January 12, 2009

Lupton, Thinking with Type

Lupton, Ellen. Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004.

This book, written for both designers and students, gives a broad overview of the histories and theories of typography and broader text design along with specific techniques on how to analyze and create type, text, and entire documents. The book is divided into three major sections – letter, text, and grid – and each section begins with a historical essay followed by several practical examples of the design elements discussed. Lupton focuses particularily on how typography has answered the typographic and layout design challenges of digital media. Design, she argues, has now expanded beyond the printed page, as designers must create transmedia designs, designs that move from web pages to captions to pull quotes to logotypes to album covers. Designers, Lupton also argues, must attend to the needs of the audience, and today, the reader has become the user, whose time and attention is a valuable commodity which must be accomodated in the design of letters, text, and grids.

Quotable Quotes

Typography is…

“a tool for doing things with: shaping content, giving language a physical body, enabling the social flow of messages” (8)

“what language looks like” (1)

“an interface to the alphabet” (75)

“by and large, an art of framing, a form designed to melt away as it yields itself to content” (115)

Design…

“is as much an act of spacing as an act of marking” (67) Importance of white space

“has become a ‘transmedia’ enterprise, as authors and producers create worlds of characters, places, situations, and interactions that can appear across a variety of products” (75)

“is the art of situations” (193) Designers respond to a need, a problem.

“The history of typography is marked by the increasingly sophisticated use of space…Space has become more liquid than concrete, and typography has evolved from a stable body of objects to a flexible system of attributes” (68).

Users instead of readers: “searching and finding, scanning and mining” (76).

Notable Notes

Shift in cultural values throughout typographic history: humanist in the Renaissance and 15th century Italy (looked like handwriting), Enlightenment (fluid, fancy, sharp, clean, precise, use of the grid), Industrialization (monster fonts with big, bold faces made from wood-cut type), Arts and Crafts movement (pure, round, balanced, geometric shapes), Post WWII (mathematical, universal language, Swiss grid design), digital revolution (low resolution, bit-map pixel fonts), late 20th century (play with variation with computer capabilities.)

Type family includes regular, bold, italic, bold italic, small caps, lining numerals, non-lining numerals

databases create non-linear structures, space instead of sequence (69)

Barthes, Derrida, Ong, Raskin, Lunenfeld

Style sheets allow designers to think globally about the design of the entire structure instead of just the present page (74).

The computer has saved text – a “digital phoenix” (Lunenfeld quote – 76) because it emphasizes the printed word in a way TV and film do not.

Grids are about control, establishing systems for organizing content. Even the computer screen, which has so many curves and spontaneous elements, is based fundamentally on grids. This was emphasized with HTML tables, and Flash moves away a little bit from that, though it is based on an x and y grid. (113, 132)

for elegant design, do not have more than three visual cues for each level of hierarchy: symbols (A, B, C), indents, line breaks, font change (keep x-height the same), alignment change, bold, italic, color change, underline, small caps

January 5, 2009

Beaird, The Principles of Beautiful Web Design

Beaird, Jason. The Principles of Beautiful Web Design. Canada: SitePoint Pty. Ltd., 2007.

Based on the organizational principles that good web design forefronts the relationships between elements, is timeless, and depends on small, finishing details, Beaird’s guide explains how web designers can effectively use layout, color, texture, typography, and imagery to create sophisticated, professional sites. His extended example is the design of a website for Florida Country Tile, and at the end of each chapter, he illustrates how he might apply the princples he discussed in the chapter (i.e. color, typography.) The book is loaded with full-color examples of web sites and Beaird includes footnotes for helpful design links, for both inspiration and to get necessary elements like stock photos, fonts, or code to make rounded corners. His examples also rely heavily on Photoshop techniques. This book, though not overly theoretical (it provides a general overview of design theories, like the golden proportion and the rule of thirds), is a good how-to manual, with helpful terms, definitions, and advice.

Quotable Quotes

“Good design is about the relationship betweem the elements involved, and creating balance between them” (viii).

“Fads come and go, but good design is timeless” (viii).

Notable Notes

There are two major steps in designing: 1. Discovery, which includes meeting clients, doing research, and asking questions. 2. Implementation – creating a design (first on paper, usually) based on the research.

A good design communicates. The content is accessible, not overrun by design elements; the site has intuitive navigation; the pages obviously belong to the same site because they have a similar style, layout, and theme (6).

Golden ration 1.62 – is what the rule of thirds is based on. Create a grid by using the rule of thirds.

Keywords
Chapter 1: Layout – balance, symmetry, unity, proximity, repetition, emphasis, continuance, focal point, isolation, contrast, proporation, digital morgue file, fixed and liquid widths

Chapter 2: Color – value, tint, shade, pure, saturation, additive (RGB), subtractive (CMYB), RYB, achromatic, monochromatic, analogous, complementary, split-complementary, triadic, tetradic

Chapter 3: Texture – pixels, points, lines, rounded corners, thickness, artistic, light and shadow, perspective, proportion, repetition, pattern, Web 2.0 style

Chapter 4: Typography – (a lot of this terminology I know already) kerning, tracking, justification (problem with rivers of whitespace, serif, old-style, transitional, modern, slab, dingbats, em unit, serif headlines and sans-serif content

Chapter 5: Imagery – revelant, interesting, appealing, stock photos, royalty-free photos, presentation, borders, hotlinking

Helfand, Six (+2) Essays on Design and New Media

Helfand, Jessica. Six (+2) Essays on Design and New Media. New York: William Drenttel, 1997.

Helfand’s essays, which all first appeared in Print and Eye Magazines, ask how our ideas are being shaped by new digital media and vice versa, how new digital media is shaping our ideas. She writes as a designer, calling in each of her essays (some more overtly than others) for her fellow designers, whose formal training probably did not address programming code or hypertext or moving visuals, to take up the challenges presented by the internet and digital new media and find appropriate, responsible design solutions instead of leaving the digital landscape open to chaotic, untrained interpretation. Her argument (which she admits is a bit elitist) takes her from an analysis of electronic typography to the relationship between information and form and from questions of access to a discussion of the physical, hardware and software constraints of digital design. Her first essay, “Design and the Play Instinct,” claims that responsible and thoughtful play is an essential component of the design process, and the computer has made play easier and more efficient because of the possibilities of erasing and reverting to previously-saved, “uncorrupted” drafts. She warns against designers relying on old design paradigms, such as those developed for the printed page, calling for designers to find ways to accurately present the overload of information and non-linear narratives found on the internet in ways that allow for clear communication without making complex concepts and relationships overly simplistic. The technology might limit the design, but the concepts a designer can communicate are not limited. The text is a little dated to the new media debates of the mid-1990s (lots of discussion of CD-ROMs.)

Quotable Quotes

Interaction design: “It demands, instead, more comprehensive thinking that involves cognitive, spatial, and ergonomic considerations” (59) Interface designers can’t just rely on traditional design training; they have to branch out and collaboarte with software engineers, psychologists, and other experts who can help them with the unique design challenges of new media.

Designers need new ways of “visualizing stories in multiple layers, for designing with mulitple points of entry” (60).

The problem with websites that “dutifully mimic the form and structure of a paper publication, which is its own restrictive model” (49). Instead, we need “more ambitious thinking, more inventive models, and, undoubtably, more inspired design than presently exists” (49).

“The internet is a dialectic hybrid: a utopian archetype at once pragmatic and mythical, borderless and structured, it is a potentially infinite space with no geographical, political, or otherwise material boundaries” (47).

“Texture is complexity made physically manifest” (22).

“As information overload tips the scales, the demand for editorial and design direction will become more and more critical” (45).

“Thoughtless computer-aided (or driven) design maximizes shortcuts. It delights in gimmickry and exploits for effect. Here, in the land of the gratuitous filter, it is a celebration of bells and whistles, uninspired form and negligble content…This is the play instinct gone awry – devoid of imagination, brain-free, giving way to the loathsome gravitational pull of mediocrity” (10).

Notable Notes

Essay Titles:
1: “Design and the Play Instinct” – play is essential to the design process. Computer and technology facilitate it (and allow it to happen.)
2: “Electronic Typography” – typography is now asked to represent spoken, time-sensitive word, can disapper and appear in the 4th dimension, need for visual literacy to develop, emails are constrained but serve all purposes.
3. “The Pleasure of the Text(ure)” – digital new media is often pushed into linear forms when that doesn’t make particular sense because it gets rid of the texture. CD-ROMs discussion.
4. “The Culture of Reciprocity” – access to new media is limited around the world, how educational institutions are teaching and using new media, new media is formed by and for those who participate in it.
5. “A New Webbed Utopia” – the internet is controlled by its constraints: html code, upload times, ambiguous target audience
6. “The Lost Legacy of Film” – new media designers should look to film designers to help unlock the power and potential of narrative and drama. New media has more choice and participation; the audience become the authors.
+1. “I Design, Therefore I Am” – avatars as identity, one that can be manipulated and edited constantly.
+2. “The Myth of Real Time” – our world has equated real with efficient, and the potential of leisure time as productive time is ignored. Also, digital media seems by its very nature ephemeral, not as a comglomerate of building layers over history.

blue underlined hyperlink developed by U of Illinois for their Mosaic project – now ubiquitous in website design (49)

information highway should be reconceived as an information landscape – by MIT research team

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