Project 2: Ierate Itarate Iterate!

Photograph of printed type • David Valente

Iteration was the predominant theme that developed during this project. During the week, three implemented designs were completed, each building on the learnings of the last. The first design I created in code, at the end of the first day, when the precreastonator in me took over once my partner informed me he couldn’t work on that day. I coded one of the ideas I scribbled down in a quick brain dump session earlier that day.

The idea follows rule 4 from Sister Corita Kent’s Rules. It turns the whole page canvas into a hidden control mechanism to view each word in the sentence, dependent on the horizontal X position of the mouse on the page.

Screenshot of type project version 1 • David Valente

(Blue highlight added in post.)
In regards to the usability, the idea was fully premised on discoverability. No controls were visible, and the UI consisted of  a single word. I feel being in the exploratory stage of this project encouraged me to enforce this idea on the user, clouding my perspective with fun over usability. The following day showed me the reality of this design. I tested the UI with fellow design students doing the same project, even they failed to discover the hidden joy in the whitespace.

The theory I had, is so many interfaces appear complex and cluttered to users; as a result they feel overwhelmed, and therefore struggle to find what they want from a UI. I decided to approach feature discoverability from what I feel is the opposite direction — remove anything that could be considered clutter. The user will be given no choice but to attempt to discover the feature they want. For this reason, I mapped the feature to the movement of the mouse. No clicking, no dragging. Highly dense UI’s with minimal progressive disclosure can force users to make guesses in the hope to complete their flows. In this case, I attempt to flip this notion.

The lesson for me is that, no level of obsessive minimalism can substitute for basic UI signifiers. Going forward I won’t make the user work to understand the interface.

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Finally, on day three I had the opportunity to ideate with my partner for this project. We discussed the direction we wanted to take the project in respect to the inclusion of real printed type and the visual and interactive representation of each rule we could implement. An idea of an interactive poster emerged. One where the user would be presented with a layout and be allowed to break it. And… as what will become a running theme for these projects, I simplified this idea down to its fundamental principle. Allowing the user to break type. This is where we concluded the session.

Screenshot of type project version 2 • David Valente

As the one with coding experience I went away and made the project to ensure I knew how to implement all the features. But this was not the end. It’s one thing for me to code the page and impose my own black-and-white, minimal, symmetrical aesthetic for the second iteration. But it’s another, to work with a designer and get them to question their design decisions as they implement them. This develops a more holistic understanding of the impact their digital design decisions have on everyone involved. Now, should designers code? My opinion, sure… if they want to. If they want that in their toolkit. The real question is, should designers have an appreciation for the mediums they are working for.

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Sunday, the last day of the project, a day I had been planning. This time. I did not write the code. I guided my partner, showing him the steps and intervened when things got complex. The first two hours were spent doing just this. We watched the third iteration come to life one step at a time. First there was some text, then it looked a little nicer and finally it did the things we wanted it to do.

Screenshot of type project final version • David Valente

Then things got more interesting. One-by-one I stepped through each detail of the page, really pixel pushing here, and questioned the decisions made. From the inclusion of an element at all, to the proximity on the page to other respective elements, to the consistency with other elements. I continued to ask why for the next three hours.

Then things got even better, we got user feedback. I observed as an outsider with no knowledge of the project’s intent ,navigated our experience. He did not follow the Z pattern that I expected, but went clockwise through the four features. Played briefly with each of them then voice his reaction. In response to the colour changing features, played with last, he said backgrounds have nothing to do with fonts’. Then he said this page could do so much more’ with the addition of an option to change the font in the middle. On the whole he liked it. Because, he is not experienced with powerful image manipulation tools, and this provides him with effects possible with them in a much simpler form.

I often hear designers voice much of the process is proving that the bad ideas are bad. I prefer the symmetry, and monochromatic colour pallet of my design, however, testing (which is the real validation), proved time and time again that my partner’s design — and more specifically, feature implementation — better fitted the intent of the product. Is this finished. No. Is this complete for an MVP, yeah.