Word Clouds (Design methods #46)

Jun 28 2017 Published by Neil Gains under design

Word clouds are one of the most basic methods for visualising textual information. While sometimes overused, they provide a sometimes useful summary of the frequency of use of certain words or phrases within a piece of research, in answer to a question, or on a website (as in the example above taken from doctordisruption.com). Word clouds derive from tag clouds, and are easy to access online via Wordle and other free applications.

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Principles of Design #72 – Readability

Sep 25 2016 Published by Neil Gains under design

Readability is the degree to which prose can be understood, determined by word length, word commonality, sentence length, number of clauses in a sentence and the number of syllables in the sentence. It is something that is often overlooked by designers and researchers, who often believe that more complex information requires complex presentation. This, of course, is bunkum. The principle of cognitive fluency teaches us that the easier something is to read the more readily it will be understood and the more likely it will be acted on. I write this as I am preparing for a client workshop on report writing where the number 1 principle is make everything as simple as possible (but no simpler as Einstein famously said). Read more »

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Design Methods #34 – Photo Studies

Dec 09 2015 Published by Neil Gains under design

In photo studies, participants are asked to document ideas, events and aspects of their lives with photos, allowing researchers and designers to collect visual insights into their behaviours, motivations and beliefs. Such studies are very personal and provide inspiration for design and co-creation based on the worlds of the users of products or services.

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The Social Psychology of Music

Oct 19 2015 Published by Neil Gains under sensory branding

As the authors of The Social Psychology of Music point out, although music has many functions in human life, they are all essentially social. We use music to communicate, even when from very different backgrounds and speaking different languages. Music has the ability to trigger very powerful emotions., forming the basis of shared experiences. Music always conveys meaning, but that meaning is always situated in a social and cultural context. Meaning can never be free of context. Read more »

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Design Methods #33 – Content Analysis

Oct 03 2015 Published by Neil Gains under design

Content analysis is a systematic listing and description of the form and content of written, spoken or visual materials, often leading to a summarisation around themes, patterns and frequency counts of specific items (words, phrases, images, concepts, etc). Content analysis is typically used in qualitative research to provide a more manageable way to analyse open-ended comments and verbatims. Content analysis can be used to give structure and system to what are often deep accounts of a topic, but with lengthy text or transcripts and ambiguous images that can be very time-consuming to interpret. Read more »

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In Touch With Reality

Sep 06 2015 Published by Neil Gains under sensory

“Seeing’s believing, but feeling’s the truth” – Thomas Fuller

“Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves” – Albert Einstein

I first wrote about the importance of the sense of touch five years ago (click here). At that time there was very little literature focusing on this important sense, but the last two years has seen the publication of at least four books about touch and related senses (see below) so it’s time to look again at touch. Touch is often neglected, especially by marketers, so let’s focus on why touch is such a powerful way to communicate with your customers. Read more »

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The Rhythm of Life: The esSense of music

Apr 28 2015 Published by Neil Gains under sensory branding

“Music is so naturally united with us that we cannot be free from it even if we so desired”  – Boethius

I have loved music all my life, and visitors often mention my music collection as one of the first things that strikes them. As well as being large, my tastes are quite diverse, and it’s always fascinated me how different music can radically change the mood, both at home and also in the cinema or in a retail outlet.

If you have ever watched a film with and without the musical score you’ll notice a huge difference in the way you react to events on the screen, and music is still often undervalued for its profound effect on how we experience the world. Read more »

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Making Sense of Smell

Mar 16 2015 Published by Neil Gains under sensory

In Jakobson’s Organ, Lyall Watson lays out the primal power of smell, showing that it not only helps us detect the difference between good food and bad food, but can also diagnose disease, detect danger, identify relatives and follow menstrual cycles. He quotes Rousseau who wrote that, “Smell is the sense of memory and desire”.

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Context, context, context

Feb 23 2015 Published by Neil Gains under context

“For me context is the key – from that comes understanding of everything” – Kenneth Noland

I was lucky enough to find time for some reading over the past week, with the Chinese New Year holiday. I picked a diverse range of books to read, or what I thought were diverse, but looking back there was a common thread across all of them (and others that I have recently read). They all show in their different ways the importance of context in shaping behaviour, a theme that has repeatedly come back to me ever since my time as a student. Read more »

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The Mind of Metaphor

Dec 19 2014 Published by Neil Gains under brain science

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances” – William Shakespeare

In I Is An Other, James Geary explores the power of metaphor and its pervasiveness in everyday life, arguing that it is not just a literary device but fundamental to human thought across domains as diverse as economics, advertising, politics, psychology and many more. Metaphor is “essential to how we communicate, learn, discover, and invent”.

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