The Language of Colour

Jan 25 2017 Published by Neil Gains under book review

The Language of Colour is a short, readable and enjoyable introduction to visual communication and the semiotics of colour. Packed full of examples and exercises, Theo van Leeuwen moves from discussions of the meanings of individual colours and colour naming to a theory of how colours combine. The author argues that colour schemes and combinations are more important than the individual colours that comprise any combination.

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Flexibility-Usability Tradeoff (Principles of Design #73)

Nov 11 2016 Published by Neil Gains under design

All designers have to balance the need for flexibility with the need for usability, because as one increases the other inevitably decreases. Or in c common parlance, “Jack of all trades, master of none”. Systems that are designed to be more flexible have more functions than more specialised designs but are inevitably less functional as a consequence. Read more »

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On Thinking and Not Thinking

Sep 30 2016 Published by Neil Gains under book review

Proclaimed as “The All New” Don’t Think of an Elephant, George Lakoff’s classic book has been substantially rewritten and updated to reflect contemporary issues in political debate and recent electoral history. The original book was a must read for anyone interested in behavioural science, communication (or politics) and the important lessons from the first book remain, updated and expanded in this even better and more valuable book. Read more »

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The Rhyme and Rhythm of Branding: Using Sound to Build Sense, Symbol and Story into your Brand

Aug 08 2016 Published by Neil Gains under sensory branding

Sound is often the most neglected of the senses when it comes to branding, although it is only second to the visual senses in terms of its importance and has a very specific role that helps the brain to create stories from cause and effect.

There is more to using sound in branding than music and song, important as they are. Of course, music and song are particularly powerful in creating links to specific emotions. However, in the esSense® framework outlined in Brand esSense, other aspects of sound can also contribute to building a brand through the senses, symbols and stories.

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Design Methods #39 – Speed Dating

Jun 20 2016 Published by Neil Gains under design

The concept of speed dating is well known, and in design and research the same idea is applied to comparing multiple design concepts or ideas in rapid succession. This gives researchers the opportunity for quick feedback and also to collect more general information on usage context, societal and environmental issues. Speed dating is typically used at early stages of development to rapidly screen visual ideas and storyboards rather than more developed prototypes. Read more »

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Design Methods #36 – Cultural Probes

Mar 02 2016 Published by Neil Gains under design

Cultural probes are the name designers give to exercises, activities and provocations given to participants in a study to provide inspiration and understanding about their lives, thoughts, feelings and behaviours, and the cultural and social context that informs them. In market research, such activities might be associated with longitudinal studies and with pre-work (homework) and follow-up work done in connection with more formal interviews and participant discussions.  Read more »

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What are Uber doing?

Feb 09 2016 Published by Neil Gains under design

What are Uber doing with their recent redesign of their identity? Whatever you may think of the original logo, it was distinctive and clear (if a little cold according to some design critics), However, the new logo is about as distinctive as a white blob in a coloured square (which it is). When the logo changed, I struggled to find it on my phone. I struggled even more to work out the meaning behind the change, but Uber have nicely provided a nice corporate logo to explain. Read more »

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Principles of Design #67 – Propositional Density

Dec 23 2015 Published by Neil Gains under design

Propositional density refers to the relationship between the meaning conveyed by a design and the individual elements that comprise the design itself, with high propositional density coming from the richness and complexity of the meanings of a design relative to the simplicity of the elements that make it up. That is, high propositional density is the semioticians dream of richly layered meanings that derive from a simply designed feature, object or visual. Read more »

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Principles of Design #66 – Similarity

Nov 23 2015 Published by Neil Gains under design

It is a key principle of design that elements that are similar are perceived by users to be more closely related than elements that are dissimilar. This principle comes from Gestalt psychology, and while often seeming obvious is important to the way that users interact with objects, helping them simplify and structure the world. A simple matrix with alternative rows of dots and squares, this becomes a set of rows only with the similar elements grouped into holistic lines. In the same way, even complex displays is interpreted as having different areas and groupings depending on the colour, shape or size of different elements and to what degree they appear similar. Read more »

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The Importance of Curiosity

Oct 14 2015 Published by Neil Gains under book review

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” – Albert Einstein

“Curiosity is insubordination in its purest form.” Vladimir Nabokov

I seem to have been reading a lot of books recently on the topic of questions (perhaps inspired by a good friend), and so I was curious to read Curious by Ian Leslie, all about the importance of curiosity in human life and its place in learning, business and innovation.  Coming off the back of reading A More Beautiful Question (read more here), Ian Leslie arguably suffers from a lack of more practical argument and application to the reality of business, but still offers up some nuggets of insight into the importance of curiosity in the success of humans. After all, curiosity is linked to the most fundamental animal behaviour (called ‘seeking by Jaak Panksepp) and the need to explore the world.

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