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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Don’t Let Short Term Thinking Kill Creativity

Oct 30 2016 Published by Neil Gains under creativity

In their most recent report on advertising creativity and effectiveness, the IPA and author Peter Field reach the startling conclusion that both creativity and effectiveness are under threat. And who are the culprits? They believe that short-term thinking and especially a focus on driving rapid sales effects, combined with the post-global financial crisis recession, are killing the creativity of advertising. 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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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 #41 – Exploratory Research

Sep 16 2016 Published by Neil Gains under design

Exploratory research covers a wide variety of approaches used in the first stages of a research program where territory is unfamiliar. Exploratory research is often used to plan, scope and define later research stages, by understanding the key issues, dynamics, beliefs and behaviours relating to a particular topic as well as the context of the topic and business challenge. It is usually immersive for the researcher or designer, helping them build understanding and empathy with the user and the context of the design challenge.

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Design Methods #40 – Case Studies

Aug 01 2016 Published by Neil Gains under design

Case studies have always been an important part of teaching and also have been used regularly in the social sciences and design. They are useful in exploratory research for comparison with existing knowledge about a topic, problem, phenomenon or design, as well as to provide inspiration and to inform better practice. Read more »

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Principles of Design #71 – Accessibility

Jul 11 2016 Published by Neil Gains under design

It is common sense that objects and environments would be designed to be usable by as many people as possible without any modification. Except that common sense is never as common as it should be. For example, Kim Walker and Dick Stroud point out in Marketing to the Ageing Consumer, that far too few businesses really consider the needs and constraints of those users beyond 20-30 year olds with perfect sensory, physical and mental abilities. Read more »

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Design Methods #38 – Crowdsourcing

May 28 2016 Published by Neil Gains under design

Crowdsourcing happens when a “crowd” or group of volunteers help to solve or complete a task or project. Crowdsourcing is an approach that can be used to collect large quantities of data or solutions from a range of people outside your organisation in a short amount of time. Read more »

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Principles of Design #70 – Iteration

Apr 26 2016 Published by Neil Gains under design

The principle of iteration is central to design thinking. Just as evolution allows complex structures to develop over time in nature, iteration is at the core of good design, building on simple foundations to develop more complex designs. This is achieved by progressively exploring, testing and refining a design over time, often with very fast cycles of iteration. Iteration is often broken into two phases: design iteration and development iteration. Read more »

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