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Quinnipiac Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 02 – ICM 502 – Information Design Common to Biblical Texts

ICM 502 – Information Design Common to Biblical Texts

Biblical texts are fascinating, as are their designs.

What we today might consider to be problematic designs were much more typical years ago, particularly in the area of holy texts. That’s not so surprising when you consider that bibles were in far wider circulation before the printing press (scribes knew their buyer persona) and that, even after it was invented, there was still a great deal of illiteracy.

The two factors created a condition whereby a lot of prayer books and the like would be lettered or printed, and there would be a lot of illustration so as to help the illiterate faithful follow along.

Modern Design Issues

Design requirements are different now. For one thing, only maybe 14 percent of the US population is illiterate. While that figure is higher than most of us would like, it’s a lot better than it was after the Roman Empire fell, and literacy was a feature of no more than maybe 30 – 40 percent of the populace.

Because we don’t need so many pictures to help us along, Rebecca Hagen and Kim Golombisky, in White Space is Not Your Enemy, offer a list of layout sins on pages 31 – 42:

13 Amateur Layout Errors

  1. Things that blink. Incessantly.
  2. Warped photos.
  3. Naked photos (e. g. they need a border).
  4. Bulky borders and boxes (use hairlines).
  5. Cheated margins.
  6. Centering everything.
  7. Corners and clutter – don’t fill the corners! Instead, group similar visual information together.
  8. Trapped negative space – keep the negative space at the edges.
  9. Busy backgrounds.
  10. Tacky type emphasis – reversing, stroking, using all caps, and underlining.
  11. Reversing – white copy on a dark background
  12. Stroking – outline characters
  13. All caps
  14. Underlining
  15. Bad bullets – use real bullets, not just asterisks or emoticons, and align them.
  16. Widows and orphans.
  17. Justified rivers – don’t use fully justified (both sides) blocks of type. Help eliminate this by increasing column width or reducing font point size, or both. Or just don’t do it!

Biblical Text Designs

When it comes to biblical texts, violations of sins 4, 7, 8, and 9, seem to be common. I chose images outside of the readings as these designs seem to be ubiquitous for older religious texts.

In this image from a Gutenberg bible (Genesis 1: 1) currently housed at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, a lot of these sins come to the fore.

Biblical Texts
Gutenberg bible (Genesis 1: 1) currently housed at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
Biblical Texts
Koran currently housed in the David Collection at the Park Museer NE in Copenhagen, Denmark

The border, though lovely and possibly unique, is also bulky (#4) and busy (#9), and clutters the corner space (#7). Negative space is trapped within the border (#8).

Furthermore, the lack of paragraph or verse breaks makes the columns look uniform but uninviting to read. The text feels unapproachable and forbidding.

 

There’s another bulky border in this image from a Koran which is currently housed in the David Collection at the Park Museer NE in Copenhagen, Denmark. This one has a lot of white space, with no visible spacings between sentences, except for the gold circles. The border feels imperfectly drawn although not freehand. Perhaps it was traced. At least there’s no corner clutter, and the border is relatively simple and not busy, but the design still commits the sin of bulky borders (#4). The large amount of margin space also appears strange. Because this is a holy text, it probably wasn’t meant for taking notes or annotating the text. So why is so much of the space being wasted? Contrast that with what’s inside the borders, where the text is cramped and takes up nearly all of the real estate.

The Gutenberg bible seems to be saying with its design is that illiterate parishioners can follow along, as can young children. The Koran, in contrast, is instead telling its reader to focus on reading and not view any graven images.

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Quinnipiac Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 02 – ICM 590 – Compare Project Management Styles for Media

Compare Project Management Styles for Media

What are the differences between managing a media project (e. g. making a film) and managing another sort of endeavor? The defense of a legal case shows both differences and similarities.

Media

At Vjeko.com, writer Vjekoslav Babic outlined the secrets of Hollywood project success in the context of a review of James Persse’s book on that subject. Babic was comparing media production to IT development, and found there were:

“8 important similarities between movies and IT:

  1. Both deal in intangible product development.
  2. Both are shaped to directly address a deadline-oriented business need.
  3. Both require significant investments.
  4. Both are built against a specification open to change.
  5. Both rely on specialized production protocols and technologies.
  6. Both require the integration and collaboration of specialized teams.
  7. Both require careful analysis, design, execution, and integration.
  8. Both must be thoughtfully delivered to their target audiences.”

Babic further noted, “…it distills down to a simple framework of five phases: development, preproduction, production, post-production and distribution.”

“…development roughly corresponds to project initiation, with pre-production mostly having to do with project planning. Other three phases could be mapped to project execution and monitoring.”

“In first three phases, most revolves around the script, the Hollywood’s equivalent of requirements document, and although Persse found out that the script also changes, it tends to be more of a holy scripture than requirements are in IT. For Hollywood, it is much easier to set Big Requirements Up Front….”

At Creative Skill Set, the definition of a Production Manager includes, “Production Managers are in charge of the ‘below-the-line’ budget. This covers costs relating to the crew and the practicalities of running a production.”

Legal

Compare Project Management Styles
The first “automobile accident”? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Things differ in the legal field. Let’s look at a moderately-sized insurance case, an automobile accident. It’s a left-turn case, where the client (defense) made a left turn in front of the plaintiff’s vehicle, causing a collision. Both parties are at fault although the percentages differ. For sake of argument, this will be a jurisdiction where comparative negligence is the law, e. g. there can still be some questions and plaintiff fault isn’t a sure-fire loser like in a contributory negligence jurisdiction.

The project manager is the attorney handling the claim. The purpose of the project needs little clarification: it is to either win the case outright or limit the amount paid by the insurance carrier (and the client, too, if damages exceed the amount of the policy). Similarly, the purpose of a film project is to make a movie. It’s not to make an artistic statement or even to make a profit, although those are favorable collateral consequences. Similarly, the purpose of defending a lawsuit is generally not to make law although that can also be a result.

For filmmaking, the goals and objectives are more on the profit side. Movies are made in order to meet financial projections, often to satisfy shareholders. In the law, the goals and objectives are to save insurance company money but also to garner experience for more junior attorneys and to build favorable reputations for lawyers with any level of expertise.

Scope for films is to make the one picture, or the three pictures in a trilogy or whatever the contract says. For legal cases, it’s just the one case, and it often does not include appeals if the matter gets that far, mainly because appeal work tends to be more specialized. Scope usually does include impleader (adding more defendants) for cross-claims or third-party claims which may be other sources of settlement or verdict funds. In the automobile accident fact pattern, if the traffic lights were mistimed or were not working at all, defense might wish to implead the town or its maintenance company. This might be seen as scope creep; the prudent law firm will allow the impleader if it is likely to provide a substantial benefit (note the ABA Model Rules of Professional Responsibility require a zealous defense; hence what in other projects would be seen as scope creep may very well be necessary under ethical considerations. The Model Rules have been adopted by many American jurisdictions).

Budgeting is strict for filmmakers. For attorneys, a balance must be achieved between keeping costs low and mounting an effective and zealous defense. Costs can be lowered with having paralegals perform research and more junior lawyers attend preliminary hearings and motions. Budgeting can be a dimension of time for lawyers, too, as a carrier might want an older case settled during the next quarter or might push for settlement if billed hours exceed a certain amount. Unlike in many other disciplines, budgeting in the law may be desired but not possible under ethical considerations.

The expected benefits for both disciplines center on reputation. For a film production company, a completed project could signal future development partners (actors, screenwriters, etc.) that the company can make an award-winning piece of art, or churn out a cheap film quickly to take advantage of a hot news story. For a law firm, a favorably concluded case can demonstrate a thorough understanding of the law or an ability to settle for less.

Success for both disciplines looks a lot like completion. A finished film, under budget, is the desired end result for a production manager. For lawyers, success is a closed case, and not necessarily a win. And then, for both, it’s time to move onto another project.

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Quinnipiac Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 01 – ICM 502 – What is Information? What is the Role of Design in how we Receive Information?

What is Information
System information (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is Information?

BusinessDictionary.com says information is:

“Data that is (1) accurate and timely, (2) specific and organized for a purpose, (3) presented within a context that gives it meaning and relevance, and (4) can lead to an increase in understanding and decrease in uncertainty.”

But is that all there is?

The first part of the definition – accuracy and timeliness – seems to be more of a definition of facts, which are almost the quanta of information. Facts are bits of information, like the capital of Uruguay (Montevideo) or the proverbial price of tea in China (varies).

The second piece – specificity and organization – takes information away from the realm of random trivia and gives it a reason for being. Uruguay’s capital makes sense as a piece of information if you’re flying there or doing business in the country. It could be a fact which is specific and organized for something like winning Jeopardy! It’s not organized for the purpose of passing an Anatomy examination, however.

The third aspect – meaningful and relevant context – further removes it from random factoids and pop culture references. If the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow will get you over a necessary bridge, then it is utterly meaningful and relevant data. If it doesn’t, then you’re left with just so much cerebral flotsam and jetsam. As Frode Heglund says, “Information cannot exist without context.”

The fourth bit – understanding increases while uncertainty decreases – further emphasizes the idea of meaningfulness.

Information tells you something you don’t already know, and is, to crib from Facebook, relevant to your interests. It’s accurate and timely, too. It is useful for you.

What is the role of design in how we receive information?

On page 6 of White Space is Not Your Enemy, Rebecca Golombisky and Rebecca Hagen say, “Good graphic design does four things. It captures attention, controls the eye’s movement across the page or screen, conveys information and evokes emotion.”

Essentially, what Golombisky and Hagen are saying is that design is one of the aspects of information conveyance as much as body language is a part of verbal and visual communications.

Rune Madsen adds, when talking about William Addison Dwiggins, “…seeing is as important as reading, and … typography and illustration can be used for symbolism.”

A great example is in the Twilight series book covers. Love or hate the stories (in the interests of full disclosure, I worked for the publisher, Hachette Book Group, when Breaking Dawn was first released) the covers are a festival of symbolism.

What is Information?
Twilight Series Covers (image is reproduced for educational purposes only)

Twilight, the first in the series, sports a cover which easily symbolizes Biblical temptation, just as the title refers to an in-between time of the day – analogous to the in-between stage of life the main character, Bella, is in. Furthermore, since the hands don’t quite match, they might be intended to reference the couple at the center of the story. The second, New Moon, with its bicolor flower and dropped petal (which looks like a fresh drop of blood) shows a conflict just as the title refers to a time with no reflected sunlight, when the stars are at their brightest. For the third book, Eclipse, the sun (or perhaps the moon) is utterly blotted out in the title, and the cover image references a fragile and nearly completely broken bond. It is the darkest of the covers. And in the end, with Breaking Dawn (a book added to the series which may not have been originally planned), the cover shows a white queen leaving a red pawn in its wake in chess, a classic strategic game. The title is a hopeful one, symbolizing a new beginning. Yet the queen is not quite triumphant, and in chess, the piece is safe from capture but is also not shown in a position where it can take the pawn.

The covers also move from human contact or at least a human at center stage to another living (possibly dying) thing and then two images of nonliving possessions. Even if a curious book buyer was unaware of the plots in the series, they can readily see from the covers that the story progresses from temptation to conflict and possibly even violence, and the upshot is a possible potential triumph which does not seem to be realized yet. The title font is mysterious and the ‘l’ in Twilight looks almost like a stake in a vampire’s heart.

Through good design, six title words convey a wealth of meaning. Design can do this.