Beauty and Brains

Once you start reading on art and graphic design, you get (other people’s) perceptions of what is beautiful and what isn’t visually attractive. Is a design successful when it’s so mind-challenging to a point that makes us feel stupid for not getting it at a first glance or the exact opposite, when it fits so perfectly with everything else it goes so easily into our minds?

I take it as a little bit of both. While the simpler the design the longer it will live, it’s refreshing to see a clever design becomes popular, and usually those have one kind or another of an ‘aha!’ factor. Gestalt principles of perceptions are a great intro to how these factors can be defined.

The human mind can see more than the sum of parts to make a shape. Sometimes it adds parts on its own to complete a figure that doesn’t really have a meaning otherwise. For example, you can understand that the below logo is a panda, even though it really isn’t, your mind completed the missing parts in order to see it that way.

panda

Same goes for grouping things together based on shapes, line weights, colors or other features. Things are perceived in a way that makes the most sense using this amazing default brain power.

Other examples of Gestalt:

g4

g2 g1 g3

Thirty Conversations On Design

30 designers; two questions:

1- What design inspires you the most?

2- What problems do you think design can solve?

Designers take on answering the questions in short videos which you can see them all here, some agree on transportation as a problem design should start revolutionizing by now. Be it the mapping aspect of it or many of its tedious processes, like long security check lines at the airport.

Personally, I don’t think it needs to be this totally impressive new feature to design a solution, the simplest forms of design are the ones that outlive everything else to the point that challenges people to remember the original problem years later.

John Militello who happens to be the Creative Innovation Team Manager at Google (as well as sitting too close to the camera to the point where we only see half of his nose, talk about the design mind!) also mentions the different transportation system as a problem to solve. However, he says that we don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel. Inspiration can be in everything; nature, a pen, a spoon….anything!

Kit Hinrichs on the other hand is inspired the most by typography. Agustin Garza by a centuries-old piece from Central America because it combines the elements of meaning and aesthetic design. Juke box coins, a rubber band ball, an eraser, the Internet are few of the answers the designers provided.

These types of answers is what makes it interesting to get designers’ perspective on design. Since design is the most successful when it’s not noticed, it’s hard to answer such questions as a viewer. If you remember a design, it’s either because you really loved it or you really hated it, the in-betweens are what we see everyday, and what could be inspiring us everyday without us ever noticing, and that’s the beauty of it.

Examples of Capturing Visual Data

Data analysts are those magical people who can read numbers in a way other people can’t. Or at least that’s how I see them as someone who used to work in a place where we heavily depended on data. As an editor, the data analyst would direct me to where I should focus more, and where the website is supposed to be headed and why.

But ask a data analyst how they do it and you probably won’t get a bunch of unrelated numbers, you would get a chart. If they’re creative enough, you can get some visual that explains what’s happening and what needs to happen without them ever saying a word.

Data visualization allows everyone to make sense of something, and to put several levels of data in a form that makes it interpretable. It’s as important as knowing the numbers, if I list every metric you need yo know and left, you would know the numbers, you’d have the data, but you wouldn’t know what to do with it. Visualizing it is more practical and more fun.

Below are some of my favorite data visualizing techniques I’ve seen so far:

1- The Life of a Typical American: By Tim Urban

If a person lives up to 90 years old, this is what their life will most likely look like in weeks, based on the average timing of major life events in the life of an ordinary American.

Seeing this info organized like that makes it more understandable, it establishes a main ground for other structures to be built.

life

2- The Middle East (good luck getting that one!)

David McCandless and UniversLab

And yet there are graphs that puts it into perspective how complicated something is, this one represents some kind of results obviously, but it is striving for a bigger point rather than inviting you to grab a pencil and follow the lines. (You can if you really want to)

mideast

3- Music Visualized

This is what music looks like. The lines moving from the center away represents the musical channel as it moves with time, different angles of the lines represent different frequencies. “The purpose was to create even more an aesthetically responding visualization with the music as an artist.” as the creator puts it.

bet

queen

This one shows us how great minds don’t actually think alike: 

greatminds

Imagine if I used this post to list all the data you learned about here in bullet point. wouldn’t be as attention-grabbing, would it?

“It’s air; it’s just there”

Prada, Lufthansa, the New York subway system, American Airlines, push (yes on doors), and Jeep all have something in common; they all use the Helvetica font.

The list goes on, I was amazed to find out how many words we see everyday from brands to ads, webpages to signs on the streets that use Helvetica.

The documentary Helvetica approaches what we know, or don’t know, and think of typeface and fonts. Personally, I never thought that deeply of the process of creating a font. Sure, as a writer I’m interested in how words look and what they reflect, and wonder every time I see Comic Sans why it exists as much as the next person. But to break down one single character to grid and invert how it is perceived from black bent lines to the white space around those lines was eye opening for me.

Dear old Helvetica has been developed almost 60 years ago, and it became so popular because of computers. Yes you read that right, computers made an old thing popular. So popular that we don’t even think about it anymore, it’s so basic it’s almost considered lazy to use. And that’s not an offense, in a way Helvetica has come to be so familiar that brands all over the world are using to send out a message or establish a brand, based on this familiarity that makes the font itself unnoticeable so the message would be.

But going back to the basics of type meanings and how a single letter is designed really shows that creating something, anything, that would be considered “default” in years is a higher goal to aspire to. I mean the film interviewed experts in graphic and type design and they used words like “blood” and “air” and “humane” and how its letters live “in a powerful matrix of surrounding space,” to describe a typeface!