Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Four Basic Principles of Design

Today, the head of our MS discussed “the Joshua tree” effect from Robin Williams’ “The Non-Designer’s Design Book.” I love this book and often use it with my students.

The author got a tree identification book as a Christmas present and decided to go outside and identify the Joshua tree. Williams was convinced that she has never seen this tree before, but to her amazement she found the Joshua tree in her own front yard, and at least 80 percent of her neighbors had Joshua trees planted in their front yards. Why has she never noticed this tree before?
Once I was conscious of the tree – once I could name it – I saw it everywhere. Which is exactly my point: Once you can name something, you’re conscious of it. You have power over it. You are in control.
Our students should be conscious of good design principles in order to identify bad design examples. If students and teachers master four simple design principles, they will write better papers, design attractive presentations, and even teach and learn better because “a better-looking paper often means a better grade,” “an attractive presentation garners greater respect,” and “students respond more positively to information that is well laid out.”

Here is the first assignment. Look at three business cards and choose a better-organized card.

I will continue tomorrow...

The image of the Joshua tree: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lesleyworld/306758678/


Christy said...

OK, I'll bite. I think the last option is the best. All the contact information is together. Your name is closer to your title, so the two are associated.

Of course, I haven't read the book and I don't actually know what I'm doing. I tend to just do things by intuition or common sense. Design is certainly a field where common sense and the easy answer isn't right though. If I'm wrong, at least I'll learn something.

By the way, if there is any possible way for you to allow commenters to use accounts other than Google/Blogger, I'd greatly appreciate it. I use Wordpress, and lots of people use other sites. My only options for commenting on your site are to 1. use my personal email account which I don't generally share outside of family and friends or 2. to log out of my account (since I read you through Google Reader) and switch accounts to my publicly shared account. Neither of those is an option I like. You have good content and I'd like to participate in conversations on your blog, but the commenting setup is enough of a hassle to deter me from doing so in the future. Sorry. If you can do anything to fix it, I'd appreciate it!

Maya Bentz said...

I've changed the comments settings. Now you don't need to have an account with the Blogger. However, I hate unleashing the anonymous option.

J. Waite said...

I agree that good design is important, especially since it is so lacking on our Poly campus! However, the naming of things in order to understand things is a problem since in general, from a creative point of view, language anesthetizes experience. The reason most kids cannot see and will always draw symbols to stand in for what they see is that the dominant left hemisphere of the brain (the major center of language formation) wants to control perception. Original thinking starts in ignorance of what has already been decided, especially when it is already named. I try down here in drawing studio to make the eyes the "boss", before the kids give in to that overwhelming impulse to categorize, simplify, and substitute names for actual knowledge.