Posted in Creative Enagement

What Family Means To Me (and other sentimental stuff)

The challenge instantly piqued my interest. This was for two reasons. First off, stirring music seems to be part and parcel of ads about agencies and products that have to do with family, children etc. This made me wonder how the sentimental value of family and adoption could be brought out with purely images. The second reason was, in a way, the answer to the question asked. Although attitudes around the world are changing, it is still a commonly held opinion that deafness (along with many other, manageable disabilities) is an insurmountable obstacle. However, with modern technology and advancements, it is really only something that needs some measure of accommodation from time to time. A few adjustments and an engrossing class in sign language is all parents would really need to get started. So how to show this in 30 seconds? That too, without an appropriately treacly song?

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“You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile!”

Here I thought of my own family and the experiences that stuck out from childhood. Many of them had nothing to do with hearing. In fact, the first and most vivid ones were to do with touch, smell, taste, sight. And that’s when the idea of amplifying experiences with the other senses came to me. Now, this turned out to be similar to the example in the book, but very different in its ultimate message. The intent of the ad I created was to show how easy it would be to bring a deaf child into one’s family and how wonderful life can be in a family. This required creating happy family moments that many people could relate to. Therefore, the phrase “There is nothing (more) [insert adjective/verb] than… a [noun]” was used e.g. “There is nothing prettier than… a smile.” This phrase would have accompanying images to go with the phrase itself. In the case of the “a smile,” caption, it was a picture of a mother and daughter smiling in a close-up shot. This continued for moments such as family meals, campfires, soft blankets, or simply smelling flowers. This was all figured out relatively quickly, since most of these things are so common as to be readily available when family and a certain sense is thought of in relation to them. The last phrase, “Nothing simpler than a gesture” was meant to encourage future parents to consider sign language and adopting a child who may need to use it.

After this came the decision as to what canvas/design process would be used. Here, Austin Kleon’s wisdom proved useful. The Analog side of the office was instrumental here, with the Digital only being used to find and print the right pictures for the project. After this, it was a mix of chart paper, sharpies, color pencils and glue, all the way to the finish line! Since the chart paper offered a clean and large canvas, it was uniquely suited to storyboarding such a short ad. It can be a bit disorienting to turn a page midway through imagining something, so having all 9 frames numbered and placed on one space was ideal in the case of pitching this idea. This project also called for creating a design that could be used for other media, such as billboards and print. Therefore, I decided to include that in how the frames were designed. In the ad, there will be a fade-in style, with the text at the top appearing first, then the video of the topic and then the final word that links to it. In a billboard, the text will be there with just a picture, like the ones seen on the chart. This would work for print as well. All this was made much easier given how dynamic the page made the work. Whereas my abilities where graphics are concerned are very, very limited, anytime text needed to be moved around, or something needed to be brought together, I was able to do so with ease on the paper. This was something Mr. Kleon refers to in the book as well, with paper creating more possibilities and opportunities to play around with ideas.

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Early Inspirations…

Putting the right information in the descriptions for each frame also proved difficult, since specific details were needed initially. This all fed into the idea of how much detail is needed for even the simplest design to come together. Which leads me to the final idea, which was a logo and name for the adoption agency. I chose the name ‘HeartSign’, since the logo was four hands making the universal symbol for a heart. The logo was from a picture found online, while the color scheme and heart symbol on the outsides of the hands was done by me. Though an attempt was made to draw the hands myself, it failed spectacularly, so the printed picture with a new color and design became the final logo. The reason I chose to use the heart symbol and not a sign from American Sign Language (ASL) was that it was more inclusive if it weren’t purely ASL. For anyone who couldn’t use American Sign Language, the heart would be evident as a sign of love and compassion. The second to last frame also had a written version of the ASL words being shown by the hands in the ad. Universality was also channeled into the pictures used, since they include several races, with the final photo being of a diverse family. This was to show that family is a concept we are all a part of, and maybe inspire someone who may not have considered adopting, or adopting a child of color, to do so. Having felt the effects of identifying with a person on the screen myself, it was imperative in reaching as many people as possible.

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The Final Logo and Name

This also fed into some of the considerations where language and inclusion were concerned. For instance, after doing some research, it turned out that the deaf community preferred the term ‘deaf’ to describe them and not ‘hearing impaired’. This was surprising to me, as ‘hearing impaired’ was a term I had been using for a long time, thinking that it was preferred. It was definitely a little embarrassing to think of any mistakes made in that regard, but also an illuminating look into how the deaf community views and represents itself. The use of diverse families was also important (although it was very difficult finding the results I needed for ‘mixed religion’ or LGBTQ+ families- Google isn’t always prepared, it seems!) Overall the results were good and could be expanded upon in the TV spot itself, since actors would have to be hired, allowing more control over the individuals in any given group.

Overall, this project proved much more difficult and intricate than I had imagined. However, it taught me a lot about how to use an Analog canvas and create a cohesive narrative from what was just a small idea. Hopefully, this blog post taught the readers a few things about how to create an interesting storyboard using Analog design concepts and tools (I’ll always swear by color pencils and glue!) and the detail that goes into even a 30-second TV spot without any sound. Most of all, I hope it got across my message of how love and family are universal, and can be created with all types of people, making us richer for having known them.

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The Final Storyboard

 

Posted in Discussion Questions

Usability and You

The readings were mainly based on the 5Es of Usability. These are, Effective, Efficient, Engaging, Easy to Learn and Error Tolerant. The article by Whitney Quesenberry outlined the basics of these Es and how they all interact with usability of a software. Though the first four were intuitive, the last one was an interesting new concept. Error Tolerance is how the system responds to errors and how easy it makes navigating out of errors for the user. Just recently, I was using an application that was not very tolerant of errors and was therefore frustrating to use. However, when a page is error tolerant, I find myself using it much more frequently and expansively. Quesenberry also talked about the balance of these 5Es and how it varies depending on the page or website in question. This was a very helpful guide in how to use the concepts efficiently. Evaluating the usability of the product by having users engage with it was discussed and a cycle was shown to do this effectively. The last major point made by the Quesenberry article was how usability needs to be integrated constantly rather than right at the end, as that is the only seamless way to do it.

The next article was about some of the technical aspects of the 5Es and some specific considerations about usability in the Indian market. It also elaborated on ways of testing usability and how to calculate the costs of and benefits of it. Arun Ambie wrote about all the ways that usability can be carried out and the importance of carrying them out properly. The article also challenges the idea that this work needs to be done in a lab. The testing can be done anywhere, according to Ambie, as long as the responses and observations are recorded properly. The article also talks about the balance of the ways to ensure usability and adds in useful questions to gauge how we need to approach usability. This article offers more of a look into the various aspects of usability and how it can be carried out and evaluated. There was also a final note on the market for usability professionals in India, which gave us a look into how markets around the world view usability and how it should be more of a priority in this case.

Questions

  1. Do you feel the 5Es of usability are the main aspects we should consider? Are there any you would add or remove?
  2. If you were to design your ideal website, what would your balance of the 5Es be?
  3. The articles talked about evaluating usability and how users are needed for this step. How would you recruit and observe users to draw accurate conclusions about your product’s usability?
  4. How would you integrate usability during the production of your software or other product? If the usability turned out to be low after evaluation of the product, how would you approach changes required?
  5. Are there any ethical implications to the aspect of usability? For instance, how engaging does a website have to be before it becomes overly time-consuming?
Posted in Uncategorized

The Basics of Usability

 

Having lived through the transition from dialup to wi-fi, this reading was especially interesting for me. It helped me see how the websites from my childhood, with basic text boxes and confusing prompts, to the smooth user experience we enjoy today were the result of meticulous work by professional writers and designers.

The readings start off with User Experience Basics, which introduces the idea of User Experience (UX) as a means of tailoring a product to its users. The core requirements, as explained by Peter Morville’s ‘User Experience Honeycomb’ are that information should be useful, usable, credible, findable, desirable and accessible. There are also many aspects of UX that are still being built on, such as User Research and Visual Design.

The User Centered Design Basics go into the process of creating UX and provides a starting point for how to incorporate it in our own work. It goes through four steps, which are to be iterated over many models. These steps are: understanding the users need, considering what may be required from the standpoint of business expectations, finding the solutions and building a design using them and lastly, evaluation of these solutions by both the designer, and especially the user/users of the product. This process does not need to be done in any rigid or specific way. It can be changed and improved upon to fit the needs of the user and the product itself.

The next page had to do with Visual Design Basics. This is a part of design that is often underestimated, since most people know what looks good and therefore assume they can produce it as well. The article spoke about how various things, from the font (typography) to the lines in a visual design can lend themselves to it. It also touched upon the broader elements, such as balance and Gestalt, which is the overall design of a page that is created by its elements. Proper execution of these basics can create a highly successful and effective visual design experience for a user. If it is not done properly, however, a site can end up looking confusing or unpleasant, affecting the user experience.

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A poorly designed web page

The last assigned reading was on accessibility, which is much easier to achieve with all the tools found in our computers today. The disabled have a right to access to every resource that is available online and elsewhere, and therefore design aspects need to address this. Anything from having transcripts and subtitles, to making sure that color and text are not the sole ways to navigate the site. This also requires integration of all these aspects into all the pages on the site, rather than just one specific page.

Reading about User Interface Basics helped me understand that the best interface is one that the user doesn’t notice. As I have seen in my own experience, with products like the iPhone or Facebook, the interface is designed in a way that is intuitive and easy to navigate. This is done so well in these and some other cases that it is easily taken for granted, unless it is contrasted with a poor user interface, which makes the distinction clear. This can include buttons, icons, list boxes and is present in everything from the font to the layout of a page.

The Information Architecture Basics article went a step further to explain how information interacts with other information in a page. This needs to be seen through the lens of the user as well, so that it can follow a linear pattern and be easy for the user to access. If done improperly, it can lead to confusion overall. To carry this out, the designer needs an understanding of how the information is structured and how it is likely to be accessed. If done successfully, it makes the information easy to retrieve and interact with, so that the user does not have any problems accessing what they need.

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Facebook’s mobile app, a well designed and easy user experience

Questions:

  1. This post mentions specific experiences. Are there any specific experiences that came to mind while reading the main articles? How did they inform your understanding of the articles?
  2. How does the accessibility page expand on our previous readings? Could anything be added to it?
  3. The article on Visual Design Basics mentions typography (fonts, size, alignment, color, spacing), how does this relate to your experience in professional writing so far?
  4. What additions would you suggest to the User-Centered Design Process, drawing from processes you may have used or still use?
  5. The User Experience Honeycomb lays out the main aspects of information that make it valuable. Would you add to it? Were there aspects you didn’t fully agree with? If so, why?

 

 

 

Posted in Rhetorcial Ecologies

Fair & Lovely: A Look at Beauty Culture in South Asia

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Fair & Lovely, a popular fairness cream in parts of South Asia

In many South Asian countries, such as India and Pakistan, the parents are often asked for permission before a marriage can take place. In some cases, the decision is solely in their hands. Due to the construction of gender roles in that region, oftentimes a woman’s looks are considered strongly in the process of picking a bride for one’s son. If a picture of the possible bride were provided, one wouldn’t be shocked to hear a variation of this comment, “Kitni gori hai!” This roughly translates to, “wow, look how fair she is!” The shade of skin, as many from this region know, is an indicator of both beauty and grace in a woman.

Why is this such a priority? This can be traced back to colonial British rule and other historic aristocracies, but its longevity is due to a very different reason. Enter, ‘Fair & Lovely’, a popular beauty product which uses melanin suppressors to make skin fairer. This cream was first produced by Hindustan Unilever Limited in 1975, and is now used in over 40 countries. It guarantees results in days or weeks and often has advertisements with storylines similar to this: a dark-skinned woman goes unnoticed by the crowd and is very insecure. Her friend walks into the scene looking fairer than ever and the woman is prompted to ask, “what’s your secret?” At this point, a tube of Fair & Lovely is produced and a few days later, our protagonist returns. This time she has a glowing smile, adoring attention from passersby and above all, fair skin! Her life has turned around entirely and she has everything she dreamed of, be it a great job or the perfect man. The marketing nowadays is slightly more subtle, but nonetheless clear in its intentions: fair skin is something to aspire to, at par with health and education. It is now even targeting men, as this demographic becomes more beauty conscious around the world.

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A men’s fairness cream ad featuring a famous Bollywood actor, Siddharth Malhotra

This marketing is reinforced in both high society and the massive entertainment industries in South Asia. In Bollywood, many actors and actresses seem to become several shades lighter as soon as they step in front of the camera. Pakistan’s burgeoning TV Drama industry also has a clear preference for fair skin, extending even to men. A snide comment often heard in regard to celebrities is, “they’re so much darker in real life.” This further extends the myth that beautiful people must be fair. In fact, it is altogether possible that the continued celebration of people with fair skin in the media is a response to what the audience demands, given now ingrained ideas about what beauty should look like.

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Opening credits for ‘Humsafar’, a Pakistani TV Drama with two of Pakistan’s most celebrated actors, Mahira Khan (extreme left) and Fawad Khan (middle)

This, of course, informs the decisions made by marketers and rhetoricians. Often, you will find people with fairer skin having louder voices in the public arena, be it celebrities, talk show hosts or even politicians. A message delivered by a fair-skinned person is given more weight, while the message of a dark-skinned person isn’t always as potent. There can be exceptions to this, but even in the upper echelons of society, most of the time you will find people with lighter skin, whether naturally or due to cosmetic enhancements. Protagonists in most stories are fair-skinned and there are almost no stories in which the beautiful maiden is described as anything but fair. For most people, their ideal partner is therefore also on the lighter end of the spectrum. This can allow marketers and rhetoricians to easily tap into what their audience will respond to, especially where aspirations related to beauty, confidence and status are concerned.

This is a very unique ecology, as it is reinforced in so many ways, all of which feed off each other. With advertisements, descriptions in media or entertainment, social status, celebrity and even political life. All of this is easily encompassed by the incredibly effective phrase ‘fair and lovely’. Without making any further arguments, it creates a definition of beauty for all to aspire to, while subtly implying that the other option (a phrase used by those in the counter-movement to this) is ‘dark and ugly’.

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A popular Bollywood actress, Sonam Kapoor, poses for a clothing advertisement in Pakistan

Though some in these societies are trying to push back against this thinking, it is still very much endorsed by the majority and the elites. Over time, of course, the counter-movements and narratives, as well as perhaps some powerful rhetoric (such as parodies like ‘dark and ugly’) might reclaim the narrative to make beauty culture in South Asia more inclusive of all shades of skin. However for now, this Pakistani can assure you that if you want to start a cosmetics line in their part of the world, you’d be wise to pick a fair-skinned mascot.