Last year last semester week 06

View from the studio

View from the studio

I started the week by reading an article from the New York Times about John E. Karlin. He was a researcher at Bell Labs who made the telephone easier to use. It was a great read but I pulled this particular section about human-factors engineering out.

“Human-factors studies are different from market research and other kinds of studies in that we observe people’s behavior and record it, systematically and without bias,” Mr. Israelski said. “The hallmark of human-factors studies is they involve the actual observation of people doing things.”

They go on to explain that human-factors engineering aims to ease the awkward, often ill-considered marriage between man and machine and I thought they put best when they said it’s the cognitive counterpart of ergonomics.

I like this human-factors engineering approach much more than the market research I do for class. Perhaps I’m just not very good at market research but I always feel I’m making generalizations and assumptions about a target audience. It’s like I never truly know them. This is something I could work on.

Later in the week I came across We’re Not Unhappy, We’re Designers by Morgan Knutson. I pulled this out of it:

“Our discontent is the basis for wanting to improve the things we observe. Next time someone says designers are unhappy people, explain that you'd be happier if the world didn't need so much improving.”

But I wasn’t quite content with this so I went searching. I found this discussion on Branch and the people there make some good counter points, particularly this one by Cemre Güngör:

“Is it an ego thing? I feel like pointing out flaws gives one the impression that they know better, and the designer ego feeds off of it.”

So I’m stuck in the middle of these two opposites. I wonder if it comes down to a deliberate attempt to make things better instead of just pointing out everything that’s wrong in the world.

Stepping back from all that stuff and back into the classroom, we’ve started a new project in illustration class called Illustrated Type and as an introductory exercise we were asked to illustrate our name with objects. (3 different variations of illustrate in that sentence!) I used a random noun generator to get the word procedure and found some objects that related. I’m happy with the result and I’m looking forward to where this project will end up. For this week we leave our names behind and go out in search of some phrases.