Sometimes very simple design decisions have unforeseen complex consequences. For instance, it could make sense to design an on/of switch, in order to toggle certain settings on a website. Designing such a control visually can be done within a minute.
Then what’s the problem?
If I want to improve the awareness of accessibility and inclusive design, I think one of the things I need to do is trying to get an understanding of the different reasons why different designers want to make things. Why did they choose a creative job, instead of whatever else there is. Why did they decide to design stuff for others, and not, for instance, decide to become an artist?
Today I created conversation pieces that emulate a disability. At first I tried to manipulate my Mac: every few seconds the tracking speed was toggled between super fast and super slow. And the scroll direction toggled between natural and old fashioned. The people who tried to control my Mac didn’t feel disabled though. They simply thought my Mac was broken.
So what did you create?
I went to a few meetups about accessibility recently. They were about quite a few different subjects, which shows that accessibility is a complex field of design, and not a bug list for developers. There were talks about designing for people on the autistic spectrum, for Deaf people, for deaf people, for blind people and people with poor eyesight, for people who suffered a stroke, and more. I asked most of the speakers if they have an idea why so much stuff is inaccessible.
And what did they say?
On the 10th Infographic Conference in Zeist in the Netherlands I saw a talk by Lysanne de Water about a prototype of an app she made for life after a stroke. A very informative talk filled with understanding of the complex issues that people have to cope with after such a life changing event like a stroke.
For the course Critical Reading I was asked to read five articles about Critical Design critically. During class we analysed these articles further and discussed them. Together with two fellow students we discussed three articles in detail, where we each tried to defend the author’s position. Now, the next assignment is this blog post you are reading right now in which I’ll try to explain my own opinion on Critical Design. In short: I don’t think it should be the only school of design.
Yesterday I followed a course in critical reading. It’s a method for not just reading texts with a critical mindset, but it helps you placing the text in a wider context. It’s about analysing a text to find out what it says, what it does, and what it means. At the beginning of the course I thought this was something I always do. During class I found out that this is not really true.
Last week I tried to publish an overview of my research as an interactive outline. This does not work as well as it should. To be honest, it’s almost impossible to use: It’s hard to see connections, it’s hard to spot the complex areas, it’s hard to see patterns. Hanneke Briër, one of my teachers rightly asked me to make a visual version of this map.
What does it look like?
Yesterday Niko Spelbrink explained to me why people want to create award winning stuff that’s not necessarily useful. There’s even a name for this kind of
design: it’s called striping. It stands for the extra stripes on your BMW.
Do we still have stripes?
This week I gained some very interesting new insights into accessibility. I learned two things I didn’t know yet. The first one is incredible: It turns out that (some) blind people can see. They have no eyes, yet they can see well enough to ride a bike. And according to these people, the reason why blind people can’t see has a cultural reason. They can’t see because we’re over protective, and because we won’t let them use echo location. It’s the most incredible podcast I’ve heard in a long time.
What’s the other thing?
Last week I finally recorded a podcast with my friend Stephen Hay. Like all my podcasts so far, this one’s about quality as well. Unlike most of the other episodes, this one’s in English though. So if you don’t know Dutch, and if you want to listen to the smart things Stephen has to say, you’re in luck.
No need to learn Dutch
To get my research going I started working on a visual overview of my research area. A technique we use right now is creating so called trails. If I understand the concept correctly, these trails can be seen as the different relevant directions of a mind map. Here’s a link to the complete interactive outline of this mind map. This outline is a living document, it will be updated. So far I’ve found four trails that I want to further explore:
One, two, three, four!
A few months ago I invited two designers to give a guest lecture for my web design students. The first guest, Johan Huijkman, a creative technologist at Q42, gave a brilliant talk about designing accessible websites. The second talk by a former colleague of mine, wasn’t that good. He basically showed a series of images of things he had worked on in the past. During his talk a student interrupted him and asked if he had ever thought about colourblind people. He had noticed that the contrast of almost all the designs was very low. A thing Johan had pointed out before. The second speaker had to admit he hadn’t.
And that’s a terrible shame
I’m trying to define the research area for my master. As far as I understand it right now, it’s going to be about the quality of the urge to make things versus the quality of the need to use things. There are people who create stuff, for whatever reason, and the things they make are not always usable for the people who have to use them. I want to find out why.
Ok, but how?