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When good conventions go bad

When good conventions go bad

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When good conventions go bad

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  1. When good conventions go bad

  2. Readers responses to conventions range from those they fully understand because they have mastered the code through learning and experience, to those with contextual clues that guide their interpretations or from which they draw inferences, to those that they decipher with only partial success. Sometime they just give up. Sometimes they base their interpretations on guesswork. Sometimes they seek other resources to understand the convention more fully. Breakdowns can occur because designers misjudge knowledge and experience of intended readers or because conventions land in the hands of intended readers. When Conventions Break Down: Bridging the Interpretive Chasm

  3. What the designer can do… • Metadiscourse helps readers decipher convention – legends, labels, call-outs, notes • Job Map • Minimalist callouts • Murayama and Darwin • Accommodate readers by reducing technicality (more common in the past than now)

  4. What readers do… • Make inferences • Compare visual elements with their interpretation of the world the visual references (phone sign in airport) • Use perceptual context to clarify meaning (fine print text)

  5. Influence of conventional context on meaning Conventions are more likely to succeed if designer and reader share an understanding of the communicative context.

  6. Example: underlined text • A book title • A financial total in accounting • A warning in instructions

  7. Example: A rectangular box • Person’s position in an organization chart • Border around a picture or a chart • Physical object like a water tank or computer monitor

  8. Reading intentions: Who deployed that convention and why? • Reader must decide whether designer intended to deploy a convention AND also determine its intended meaning in a given situation. • In any given situation, mismatch can occur between designer’s intention and reader’s interpretation

  9. Example: Color and icons • Color on websites: What does that color mean? • Icons and public information symbols: Is that a garbage can? What does it mean? • Drug labels

  10. Designers can deploy conventions incompetently because they 1) don’t fully understand them, or 2) haven’t mastered the techniques to execute them properly. Bungled conventions erode clarity and ethos. Conventional Bungling: At What cost to Users?

  11. Examples: Clarity • Pie chart madness • Wrong texture to code materials in a construction drawing • Placing headings closer to text above than below • 1980s OCR typeface – Army reports in wrong font won’t transmit

  12. Examples: Ethos • See Figure 6.5 • Technical errors before production (see Fig. 6.5) • Reproduction errors on the back end (find examples page 207 top) • Clashing conventions too close together (also 207) • Bar for execution set so high, average Joe can’t get it right (207 and fig. 6.6)

  13. Designers sometimes intentionally misdirect readers – to achieve novelty and surprise, to build ethos or for other reasons. Misdirection uses three forms of convention – hidden, mock, and stealth. Sometimes these tactic work. Sometimes they fail because readers don’t recognize the misdirection OR they recognize but resist or reject the misdirection. Intentional Misdirection: Conventions designers Don’t Mean

  14. Hidden conventions • Designer hides the conventions to preserve the seeming novelty and invention of the design. • It’s a brochure and a poster • It’s a bra and a shopping bag

  15. Mock conventions • Evil junk mail

  16. Stealth conventions Designer disguises conventional form but maintains underlying structural integrity • College recruit brochure that resembles a passport • Any chart from the Onion Stat Shot or USA Today • Examples?

  17. Flouted conventions • Different kind of cookbook • Ben and Jerry’s Foundation annual report

  18. Designer intent and or incompetence doesn’t fully account for variation in reader interpretation Hermeneutical fault lines in Interpretation

  19. Gibson’s Ecological Perception • People move around • Everything people see is in a context of other things that are also seen • People are part of what they see • What’s that mean? Everyone sees things and makes meaning in slightly different idiosyncratic ways

  20. A Convention Viewed in Ecological Context

  21. Affordances & Crutches • Affordances are the visual elements that offer a viewer the opportunity for interpretation • Conventions serve as crutches for making meaning – we don’t need conventions to help us communicate but they help us prop up our interpretations so we don’t have to go through the whole interpretative process whenever we encounter new visual stimuli

  22. Example •