Communication Design Studio

Class Review: Week 1 Tuesday 8/27

Different objects we looked at in class

Reading: Pew Research on Made-up News

  • I was surprised to find out that many Americans agreed that the made-up news or fake news is a serious problem that we have to tackle. Republican took this matter a lot more seriously than democrats which were different from what I knew.
  • I gather the running theme of the impact of fake news is losing confidence in the system; this could be government, journalists or even in American public and communities.
  • People who were less politically aware were more likely to share fake news, both unintentionally and intentionally.
  • While younger generations were a more positive outlook for resolving these challenges, they were also less concerned as well. They were combating fake news in more tech-proactive way; they flagged stories or unfollowed certain person or channels.

Project 1: Analyzing News Media

Week 1- Initial research: New York Times, Huff Post, and Washington Post (liberal-leaning news publications)

  • All three of the publications put most emphasis on the ‘headline’ article. To my observation headline was chosen by a combination of how recent the story unfolded but also how recently this story gains attention to society. I wonder how attention could be a continuous loop and result in a snowball effect: the story is considered important and makes the headline, this triggers social attention, and this turns into more media attention and so on. This is a chicken or the egg question as well.
  • Our group discussed that the very top of the website had the top bar with different categories of news, headline jumps out after that and it was other recent stories that did not make the headline. And Opinion pieces followed either on the sidebar or as a separate section. Other categories such as art and living were arranged at the bottom.
  • The Huff Post had a faster transition from news to entertainment news.
  • The New York times prioritized the curated stories (editors picks) higher while the Washington Post had audience-centered stories (most read) higher on their page.
  • Even after a decade of internet, the New York Times and Washington Post publications resemble what the print newspaper used to layout their papers while the Huff Post took more of the form of a blog or a forum.
  • The New York Times and Washington Post set the appropriate level of hierarchy through an area the article took up serif font and San serif font, bold fonts, and divider lines. Even with the hierarchy, the article took up space pretty evenly: this gave to sense of equality among stories.
  • The Huff Post’s hierarchy was interesting that the headline was located on the very top, set in an alarming black banner, barely leaving any room for the logo. The headline had all the bling. The all-caps letters, the underlines that changed colors when hovering, the white texts on the black background. The contrast between the headline story and the rest of the website was quite jarring and gave me the impression that other stories are much less important.
  • Both the New York Times and Washington Post had traditional element listed such as title, subtitle (brief description), author, and date, addition to modern elements such as comment counts, and bullet points. The Huff Post had mostly just headlines, sometimes with description texts.
  • All the publications had minimal colors. Black and dark gray was dominant while some red was used to indicate the state of the news (Red ‘live’ tag, to show it is ongoing news)
  • NYT: Mostly serif, WP: Serif for titles with sans serif for the rest, HP: Sans serif for everything
  • The sanserif in Washington Post and New York Times appeared to be more traditional while all serif fonts on Huff Post looked more contemporary feel.
  • As mentioned above, the Huff Post had very high contrast on all their visual element which communicated ‘sensationalism’ to me.
  • The Washington Post had dynamic photos that would switch slowly giving life to the webpage paired with a dynamic grid structure that moved liberally between each update throughout the day.
  • There was a confusing interplay of card elements and non-card elements on the Washington Post.
  • The New York Times had a more packed front page with smaller text (one could see 8 stories when you open the NYT website, 3–4 stories on WP and 1 headline on HP). The New York Times packed front page was paired with appropriately curated photos and white space.
  • The photos on The New York Times and the Washington Post appeared more professional and coherent compared to the Huff Post in their quality, tone and subject matter.
  • Punctuations are used often on the Huff Post website with more social media colloquial phrases, targeting to the younger audiences.

Class Review: Week 1 Thursday 8/29

Takeaways

  • Pew: We were surprised by how conservatives are more concerned about the made-up news. However, the reasoning and solutions for the issue differed between democrats and republicans. Why is this important? Could we look beyond the political party line? Could we reframe this?
  • Project’s goal is to make people ‘a better-informed citizen’. This means that they should have digital literacy and media literacy. They should also be critical, analytical, tolerate to multiple views, have ‘trust’ in the system/community, can place individual stories in a bigger context, aware of gatekeepers/stakeholders, and empathetic.
  • We talked about different tools when we start formulating design ideas: Schemas, Stereotype, formative versus illustrative design role.
  • We looked at the style cycle and notion of a connotative part of design versus a denotative part. Look at the diagram below.

Reading: Context of Typography, Utilizing Quick sketches for information transfer

  • “Context is Everything”, Crisp describes a context as a series of orbits intersecting with one another. I believe this makes the design interesting at the same time so challenging. Knowing where the project stands between all the web of orbits and knowing how to navigate different interest/goals is difficult. Maybe we can start the next design process by drawing a literal van-diagrams.
  • I thought that viewing the context as the set of rules and limitation regarding time and space was interesting. Rules can drive from the motives and abilities of all the parties involved, limitation of the artifacts and delivery methods. I would like to look into more in-depth examples of these limitations.
  • Aspects that typography has to consider are the initiator (someone who commission the work), the reader (user), artifacts (technology), and delivery (form).
  • Typography exists in a confluence of format (what), medium (how), place (where) and span of time (when). How does span of time affect the design? Would it be something to do with trends or reach of audiences?
  • There are many different ways to convey complex information: Van-diagram, gradient, ebb and flow, systems, bar graph, sequences, etc.
  • Every sketch format is appropriate for some while others will be more effective than others.
  • I will start utilizing these concepts by using matrix and bar graph for project 1. I believe it can show what headline is conveying and how this can start to set the overall tone of the newspaper.

Project 1: Continuing the dive into the news media-Watch out! Headlines!

  • My group met together to share the findings. Amrita looked into the history of each publisher and content, Stef researched revenue and ads, Amanda analyzed the visual elements(typeface, the density of text, structure) while I looked at contents (closely following the headlines over the course of 4 days).
  • I was surprised to find out that these, seemingly unrelated research areas, were starting to fit into each other. The history was closely related to their mottos and revenue structure (subscribers vs. ad) and that informed the target audience, visual looks, and the language(tone).
  • Some of the interesting statements/quotes from our group discussion: ‘While New York Times and the Washington Post are organized like a library, Huff Post is functioning as a town square’, ‘when the articles go out to the social media websites and aggregator websites, the visual structure goes out the door. The fonts choices and grid structures are stripped down, giving more significance to the headlines and photos of the article.
  • This made me take a closer look at the chart where I have been documenting the headlines and photos every morning and night. I believe the correlation between what is covered and the tone of voice could inform us of how each publisher forms the characteristics and bring in certain type of people as a reader.
  • Huff Post(HP) has a dense focus on politics while the Washington Post(WP) has a more wide variety of coverage. Variety of coverage could keep the news interesting and upbeat. However, a reader might find some of the categories irrelevant(the article on five ways to upgrade your sandwich). This is a conflict of values between well-rounded citizen and politically aware citizen.
  • The WP was the most neutral news in terms of the tone of voice. The New York Times(NYT) maintain a tone much friendlier than Huff Post. This indicates that people can rely on WP for neutral/factual news while NYT has more of a strong following(the fan/subscribers) than HP. This finding might offer an explanation about why the time a reader spends on the website on average differs. WP: 3 min 13 sec/ NYT: 2 min 45 sec/ HP: 45 sec
  • Questions remaining: was it most insightful for me to represent my information this way? How else could I have done it and how else could I have arranged the tone of voice? (high emotion-low emotion, most public-personable). Is it right for me to think that the categories and tone of voice are resulting in attracting audiences’ (formative) or is it the audiences pushing the publisher to a direction (illustrative)?

Class Review: Week 2 Tuesday 8/29

  • We begin to look into where the point of intervention could be, according to our findings.
  • What are our findings? The New York Times(NYT) and the Washington Post(WP) boasts a long history and respect while the Huff Post was only 14 years old. The target audience, the tone of voice and content informed this history.
  • They were all building trust, credibility, and reliability with their readers well. Why is the reader still not getting the news better? Where is the room of improvement?
  • While looking at social media and news aggregator pattern, we started to noticed that maybe it wasn’t the trusting reader had problem with. Maybe it was people being tired of the news, and it might be news fatigue.
  • After talking to Stacie and Brett, we had a more clear idea of what we want to communicate to the class and how we can go from here. They pushed us to think about how the form and structure were influenced by the company’s history and demographics. How are these aspects of the news helping/distracting the readers?
Our group, aka ‘Carne Asada’ is ready to share what we found!

Class Review: Week 2 Thursday 9/6

It went well! Good job, team!
  • Seeing other groups’ finding and presentation style made me think about our group’s finding. While simple and strong conclusion we had, we agreed that we had to do more research on social media and other news websites to make our findings stronger
  • Personally, I need to remember to say ‘We’ instead of ‘I’. I wonder if I was subconsciously not letting go of my own work. This could hinder finding more insightful research as a group. Looking at the video, I also have to work on looking at the audience more and turning my body towards the back of the class to become a better, confident presenter.
  • Having the time constraint is valuable in prioritizing information. This would be valuable for outside the classroom. This could be used as a method to narrow down your options.
  • Traditional timeline vs. User journey timeline: They each tell people different, valuable story.
  • Stacie talked about how we can focus on hitting the key point at the end! This is an important presentation strategy.
  • Could we use the whiteboard more, use as a point of emphasis? Think of a conversation between visualizations(sketches) and your speech.
  • While a group was presenting, everyone wrote down their feedback on the live google doc. This was interesting to do, to see how people were reacting/thinking so instantly. This class taught us about giving constructive feedback.
  • For the weekend, we were to reflect on what we found- Formalizing into written and visual form.

Class Review: Week 3 Tuesday 9/10

  • Our group had great ideas ranging from magic 8 ball news, interface facelift, interactive exhibit and news pop up.
  • After we shared our initial ideas, we unanimously came to the idea of carnival that can show different aspects of the problems we noticed.
  • Initial concept after the charrette: The carnival will be called SLOW LAND. the user stores their phone at the beginning of the carnival making the carnival phone-free zone. The so-called ‘reader’ will go through a series of activities/zones to understand and learn about becoming better-informed citizens.
  • First: Journey of Journalism. The ‘reader’ learns about the cycle of the stories. How much effort the journalist has to go through, and how news can evolve through news site-aggregators-social media-before it reaches you.
  • Second: Bubbles. This is an anti-gravity chamber. The ‘reader’ can realize there is not much he/she can do to grow when one is in his/her bubble all the time.
  • Third: Letterlandia. It teaches the ‘reader’ about news literacy, how to distinguish fake news from reliable news sources through game and puzzles.
  • Food court- irresponsible consumption of news! How do we defeat that? think it over a chocolate bar from Newsland vending machine. Want to know about the news? Here, have a fortune cookie with a snippet of headline news.
  • Fourth: Mindful land. At the end of the day, know that you can always turn it off and walk away from it. Take care of your mind first. So you can come back refreshed.
  • Exit: Call to action. Learn different ways how you can be engaged, proactive about the news you care about.
  • I thought this was an interesting start. I think there was a lot of goals and messages we wanted to convey at this initial brainstorming session. it is time for us to focus. When we come back on Thursday class, I want to talk to the group about the overall goal and feasibility of it all. I also want us to dive in deep on each section and make sure it is essential, effective and clear for the ‘reader’.

Class Review: Week 3 Tuesday 9/10

Reading Discussion: Image of the City by Kevin Lynch

  • Path: Movement between space, (margins, gutters, whitespace, bad example: rivers)
  • Edge: It can be obvious and not obvious, soft edges vs. hard edges (rule, grid, medium, size of objects, content, whitespace, color)
  • District: Sections that you can enter, neighborhood, it can be segregated by function such as business district (index, chapter, categories of content)
  • Nodes: meeting point, junction, critical vantage points, hub (folio, table of contents, footnotes, breadcrumbs, page#)
  • Landmarks: Highly visible, can’t enter into, doesn’t carry much meaning, but it is personal (Logos, graphic element, fonts in design system)

Class exercise: Investigating Typefaces

Class Review: Week 4 Tuesday 9/17

  • What is intervention? Its main purpose should be to interrupt, improve a situation, raise awareness, start a conversation so people can think about the issue critically.
  • For our project, we should pay attention to the fact that we are addressing the general public, and the issue of news(consumption, creation, state of)
  • We should think about transparency, tolerance-bias, relevance, reaction, timeliness
  • For Zine: talk about what, who, why important, how it is, next step(follow up), where(context)
  • Napkin sketches: ways of organizing, tell stories, build mental models, synthesis/ pattern recognition

Small note about working as a team: Week 4 Thursday 9/19

Closing: Week 5 Tuesday 9/24

The stickers on the fruits invite the users to explore a different way of consuming news. It includes the app name, Fruitful, mysterious quotes with the URL to our app.
The app Fruitful gently nudges users to consume news from reliable news sources and with more variety. The app has a simple muted color tone with simple UI to combat cognitive overload and news fatigue.

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Microsoft Product Designer, MDes Carnegie Mellon, Co-Design Advocate

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Diana Minji Chun

Diana Minji Chun

Microsoft Product Designer, MDes Carnegie Mellon, Co-Design Advocate

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