Designing print forms is a completely new territory for me, and many of the conventions and recommendations diverge from Web design. For example, one of the major takeaways from the Ohio Forms Management guide [PDF] was their strong recommendation to use ULC or box-style forms. Web forms, while they do use boxes, don’t flow that way by default. To an extent, the left-side caption has become the convention online, but print forms rely on different visual cues.
Form and Ground are two concepts in design that I had never encountered before this class. Of course, we all have a natural inclination to identify the subject and the background of an image, but these concepts distill the idea even further. In fact, the background of a photograph may end up becoming the form of the image. The article from GD Basics demonstrates this well. Neither form nor ground is dominant or “active” in forming the image; they both play an important role. The form, the figures in the image, balance with the ground, all the surroundings, to form the complete image. Some of the images that demonstrate Gestalt principles are great for seeing this. Incomplete circles create the illusory image of a triangle between them, but which is form and which is ground?
These ideas are most commonly understood in discussing whitespace. For example, on this blog layout, the “ground” white page is essential to forming text blocks and paragraphs. It is the basis for the “form” of the text, regardless of how minimal. This balance is critical to establishing a layout that is easy to read and evokes the right response from the audience.
Last week, Netflix rolled out a new layout for their website that did away many elements, including movie titles, rating stars, and manual scrolling. If the comments on the announcement are any indication, there has been an incredible backlash from the users. I have a few complaints myself. But this article isn’t about the user interface changes, and it’s not a gripe session. This is what we call a “teachable moment.”
I love to see Universities making an effort to develop technology projects centered around students at large and not just closed-off research projects. This week, I’m happy to say that UW-Milwaukee is one of those Universities. I had the privilege of serving on this year’s Educational Technology Fee committee, and want to use this opportunity to talk about some of the cool new things coming to campus next year.
I’ve worked for the UW-Milwaukee Student Association for two years now as their Media Director, which basically means I take care of the website and other technical needs. After that amount of time around a group of politically intense people, it rubs off on you. Eventually I could no longer be a fly on the wall. That’s why this year, I’m running for Senator for the Lubar School of Business.
I’ve heard a lot about ultra-minimalist text editors lately, and how effective they are at keeping you on task when writing. Initially I was pretty skeptical. Can you really become more productive by stripping away all of your features? I’m used to writing with Word and Vim, which have about 10,000 features each and I use many of them. But as someone constantly bombarded by Twitter updates, new e-mail, instant messages, and the 20-40 Firefox tabs I always have open, it’s extremely easy to distract me. So when I started this blog up again, I decided to write my entries using Hog Bay Software’s WriteRoom (v2.3.7, $25 at time of writing) and see if it helped.
I love me some angry ranting. And I also love giving props for a job well-done. There was plenty of both this semester, and now that I’ve established myself at UW-Milwaukee I feel better about making my comments public. Hopefully these brief reviews will be of use to anyone thinking about these courses in the future, and on the astronomical chance that a professor reads it, I’ve tried to bash them constructively. I might be biased, so I told you my grades. If you’ve taken the same course or had the same professor, leave a comment and tell me what you think!
Finally, the fall semester is a soon-to-be-distant memory, with 2010 not far behind. Since I finally have some evenings without homework looming over me (and all my favorite TV shows are on holiday break), blogging is finally back on my radar.