Thursday, January 28, 2010

What is Good Design?

This subject has come up repeatedly over the past few months as I have been informally helping a friend navigate their way thought the complex and confusing morass of getting a website designed & made.

Having lived through (an ongoing process btw) a ton of trial and error scenarios, massive amounts of research and even taking a basic (pretty darn hardcore, to me!) html class, since my site first went up. A dear friend, asked me what to look for in a designer & what was important in a site, and what to look out for.

I hoped to help him avoid some of the pitfalls.

He went through the seeking a designer process - nightmarish in itself, especially when you are a creative person talking a different language to an often purely technical person who thinks they are a "designer". This was very difficult as my friend is a highly creative person, but seriously clueless when it comes to anything, and I mean anything technical. Basic explanation of SEO, html, code, analytics, etc - he sorta gets it but....

However, one thing that he got, and got immediately was the fact that the site had to be searchable and indexed on Google. It is his business after all.

He falls in love with an incredibly visual designers work. It's Flash of course, I tell him no flash, or only a little. The designer explains it's fairly a new "searchable" Flash. And sends along tons of documentation and very detailed explanations of how it works. I look into it, my friend looks into it and lo! sure enough it is a searchable form of flash. We check out other sites using this and they do come up in search. Tons of questions to designer (and more research on our end) mostly regarding HOW searchable. Repeatedly the answer is it's searchable AND deep linkable. WOW!

He goes with this designer, it's an information heavy site, He's writing his text with key words, search text etc, etc. Everytime he's on the phone with the designer search and accessibility comes up at least 3 times, every e-mail it's re-iterated. OVER AND OVER & OVER AGAIN.

After 3-4 months, of a ton of work on the "designers" end (obviously,the guy worked hard) for my friend (hair pulling and something akin giving birth), as well some loss of respect on my part, because I do not like repeating myself, ad nauseam, because of a serious intransigence on the part of my friend against organization, writing things down, looking them up or even making the effort to try and think out and extrapolate from what he has already learned. So I feel a bit abused for my efforts on this count, but it's over now. Thank God.

So anyhow, Site goes up, site is gorgeous. Two months later, 2 hits on actual site. Friend wants to punch a wall (In lieu of designer) and so do I. Site is DEAD IN WATER and UNSEARCHABLE. Other Gaia Framework sites we see on web are infinitesimally searchable and indexed on google, JUST EXACTLY AS DESIGNER INSISTED THIS ONE WOULD BE. WHERE IN ALL THIS DID DESIGNER NOT HEAR, READ AND UNDERSTAND THE CLIENTS UTMOST NEED?

THIS IS NOT GOOD DESIGN it is a ART PROJECT. The "designer", from a highly regarded IT school (specializing in web "design") was not was taught even the basic premise of GOOD DESIGN! Neither of us feel it was a scam, or intentional on the "so called" designer's part, but a complete F*%k up on "designer's" part. But now my friend has to wait several months for it to be corrected????

Design, must also function. It is not divorced from whatever practicalities and needs brought it into existence. Design is also commerce. A house no one can live in is not a house.

Years ago I knew another fashion "designer", who was asked by a store to design them some special mannequins for display. She was super creative and the perfect flighty airy "designer" type that people get so enthralled with at times. She kept her project under complete wraps, designed and had custom-made several 10' tall, to-scale, articulated mannequins. Surprise! She actually got them to the shop and set up in the window, before it dawned on her...

Design is different from Art. ART is approached consciously as such and is not beholden to function. ART usually becomes becomes commerce after the fact. Art needs no function beyond it's existence. DESIGN serves a FUNCTION and is usually created in Pursuit of that function, whatever it may be. Design embraces and makes use of technology and craftsmanship with an understanding of both aesthetics and use. Design makes the ordinary extraordinary, it can makes the mundane a joy. Design brings ART into the everyday world and is accessible to everyone.

DESIGN bears a burden. Whether that be to make someone look fabulous & feel great through fashion. Or to create a beautiful AND FUNCTIONAL web page, that people will SEE.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Nice Work if you can get it.

My friend Karin sent me this  photo of this very cute Giles Deacon bag:

( I will refrain from comment on the pants....)

& I do think the bag is even cuter in solid white.

...but it sure looks suspiciously like this plush toy by Wild Republic that's "Licensed by the Natural History Museum and approved by NHM Paleontologists." as noted on the smaller version available on Amazon.  I wonder if  NHM or WR will see any licensing fees should this bag go into production? 

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Disappeared on Yelp?

I have had my curiosity piqued. Yesterday I got a call from someone at Yelp! for business, and was pitched this very comprehensive sounding (& quite pricey) advertising plan on Yelp!  Initially I understood it to be a plan with a 2 month minimum term.  

Turns out that's not the case, it's actually a 2 month cancellation fee, "like a cell phone plan", said the salesperson.  (make that Very Pricey) So sitting down to do a little research,  you immediately find all these Yelp! conspiracy theory kind of links... But,  ideally you'd like to find a real, live, local business that actually has one of these "enhanced" listings,  but so far in my casual perusal of Yelp!  I have not found one of these.  I did ask for referrals but got none. Perhaps I did not press enough.

Anyhow,  then I go in to take a look at my regular (as in free) listing, which currently gets an absurdly, measly one view a week.  (I know this from a weekly e-mail update I get from Yelp! business, but how do I know, really?  It is rather pitiful, for all the build-up Yelp! gets.) 

And LO, the reviews my business had are GONE! POOF! & DISAPPEARED, as if it was Argentina in the 1970's. Weird,Weird.

I am just really curious now, I would love to hear from any actual (especially NYC, local) businesses who have tried "enhanced" advertising on Yelp!  Seeing that my existing reviews have disappeared, does not bode well,  but BOY, do I wish I had a salesperson like the one from Yelp!

Update 1/14/10: Just got off the phone with Yelp!, and I was HUNG UP on when I pressed to find out why my reviews had disappeared and wanted a better explanation than "filters" to prevent spamming.  I am sorry,  a few reviews does not constitute spamming  (how come they weren't filtered immediately if this was the case? Why disappear months down the line?)  The excuse that the reviewers may not be "very active" reviewers does not hold water either,  since I ran across one review - indexed on Google - long, long  before I ever signed up for Yelp! business in March 2009.  Then too, if Yelp! is partial only to those users who post tons of reviews,  isn't that a bit skewed in and of itself?  It kinda becomes more of a popularity contest for the reviewers than a useful tool,  especially for smaller businesses.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Real Connoisseurs

I came across this last night, on a West Coast artist's blog, I am not exactly sure how I got there, it is one of those serendipitous things I suppose. This guy does a bit of everything! comic book anime graffiti flare and then some. Thanks to Peabe for bringing these women and their work to my attention.

We Continue in the Old Style from John Rory Fraser on Vimeo.

(Update March 29, 2010  The missing video is a beautifully done and fascinating clip on Paul's Hatworks out of San Francisco.  My bad mistake not listing the details originally.  Really it's sad the video has been made private,  it's wonderful and more people should know about them.  Their blog is here.)

Hatmaking like this, in this country, is just about a lost art.  There are costume shops and individual artisans keeping it alive in fragments.  But to get a hold of an intact business like this, with all the blocks and machinery, with the intent of keeping it intact and continuing the tradition, and the techniques… well, these girl are simply HEROS to me.  BEAUTIFUL.

Everything they say regarding price, quality, longevity and their clientele is 100% on it.  I have always found men to be the real, true clientele for custom work,  the special and unique and one-of-a-kind pieces. 

Counter to what most people would expect,  Men are the true connoisseurs here.


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