Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The CRAP Principles and You

Question: Why do you think the CRAP Principles are important in design?

Answer: I've studied the CRAP principles in several classes now and I think that the reason that they are important in design is because, very simply, they present a method of design that is easy for the the average user to access. Provided that the user is not color blind, or is simply unable to see the content of your page, the CRAP principles seem to resonate with the naturally occurring brain patterns in people.

People can see your material best when there is some sort of contrast between the various elements on the page. Without contrast, you end up with text or images that blend into their surroundings, requiring the viewer to strain their eyes to try to obtain the meaning from them.

When you repeat elements, it helps provide continuity for the viewer. For example, if you repeat the same font and size of text when you create a new section head, the viewer will quickly recognize the section heads for what they are. Similarly, regular text is easily spotted when compared with the rest of the page and indented text might be quotations. As long as the same format is used for every occurrence of a specific element, the viewer will not become confused.

Alignment is good because it keeps your material from looking scattered. Unless you want a scattered presentation for some reason, using alignment only makes sense is another tool that helps you organize the various elements you are using.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Q: After reading the two McCloud pieces, how do you think McCloud views comics as visually rhetorical?

A: I think McCloud presents a good case for why comics can be just as rhetorical (or perhaps moreso) than ordinary text. In the first piece, he talks about how adding a level of visual abstraction allows the author to more purposefully convey a rhetorical message. He also talks about how the reader can impose himself into the cartoon or comic through abstraction. Showing how a person goes from a realistic photo to a smiley face that we still recognize as a human face demonstrates how we tend to impose our own identity on everything. This allows us to subconsciously identify with the drawn image.

The second piece talks about how the nature of images and text have changed over time, grown away from one another, and then grown back together in the form of comics. In this piece, it is clear that the author is biased towards the comic medium, and is making an argument to back up the claim that comics are a valid form of rhetorical communication. My feeling is that he is correct that images and words can be combined to effectively communicate a rhetorical message, but I also feel that there's the obvious question of how seriously we should take this medium in today's society. In common usage, the comic is used primarily for comic books as well as political cartoons. Comics books, while popular, (in my opinion) tend to be vacuous jaunts into unrealistic superhuman escapist fantasies, and have very little value outside of pure mindless entertainment (though I will admit to some exceptions that intentionally try to make the reader think, or at least challenge conventions. Works such as Persepolis, The Watchmen, or Maus fit my definition of quality despite the medium). Political comics, on the other hand, are typically intended to be funny, amusing, and make people think about the author's message. I find them to be somewhat more relevant, though they still shy away from seriously addressing issues and instead poke fun at the political events of the day.

So to say that I'm not a huge fan of the comic medium would be an accurate assessment, though I do feel that it can be quite effective on the rare instances when it is intentionally used for maximum relevancy and impact.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Q: Can visuals make arguments? How do visuals make arguments? Give an example.

A: Visuals can make arguments, but as is argued in the two articles for today, they do so in much the same way that written or verbal arguments do. In other words, in order for a visual argument to be successful, it must convey a question, and then it must attempt to answer this question in a way that attempts to convince the viewer of the author's point of view. To accomplish this, the visual must reference things that are accepted and understood within a societal and cultural context. This context often changes over time, which is why many visual arguments from decades ago that would have been effective then would not be effective in today's society. One example is how smoking was once a symbol for intellect, cultural refinement enjoying the finer things in life, relaxation, and (believe it or not) health. Today, an argument that attempted to use cigarettes in this manner would either be laughed at or simply not understood.

Likewise, visuals can make effective arguments if they are able to successfully tap into society's collective consciousness. We see this a great deal in two areas: advertisements and political cartoons. As someone who eschews advertisements, I'll bring up a relatively benign cartoon that surfaced on 9/30/2009

In this comic, we see Obama skipping from one troubled area within America to the next with an almost acrobatic ease. Of course most people would agree that the majority of these problems would not be problems if not for the incompetence of the previous administration. Despite this, Obama is the man who currently has the job to fix this mess and this comic makes the argument that he is taking it all on. I think that the argument that it makes is that applying his time and resources to convincing the Olympics Committee to pick Chicago might be a waste, given everything else that he must contend with. Regardless, the Olympics committee is impressed by his abilities, even if Chicago isn't going to win. So, to break this down to its two main arguments: 1. Obama is wasting his time with the Olympics since their importance is not equal to the other issues he must contend with, and 2. Obama is practically running a decathalon by trying to solve all of these problems facing the nation.