Design Testing

Before this exercise  of testing my poster, I did not have a lot of experience with testing my designs. It seems like  sensible thing to do, since usually my audience consists of people who are not experts in the area discussed and who are not designers. These people will not necessarily understand you content as well as the students and professors in my class who have heard me talk about the subject. Non- designers will not understand why I made a whole paragraph in all caps just because it looks clean. They might not know how to articulate it but they can give you a feel for how well someone is actually able to read it.

To test my design I showed my posters to my room mate. She is my age and goes to Seattle Pacific University as well. She is well educated but doe snot know a lot about Rwanda. I think that she is typical of the audience that I want to reach which is twenty to 40 years old. When I told her that I was testing my design I explained that I wanted to test my design and not her so that I could make an effective piece. I asked her to look at it for a couple minutes and to tell me where she lost interest and why.

When she was done looking at it she said that she thought it was good. I pressed further and asked her questions like, “at what parts to you get bored or tired of reading?” She then told me that everything was pretty interesting and easy to read until she got to the large bodies of text. At first she told me that she would read them, but then when I asked if she just saw this poster hanging if she would read them and she said probably not. She suggested that I skip the large bodies of text and focus on the main points. This will be hard for me to do because I see them as pretty important. I think that I need to make the text more graphical so that there is less reading and more communicated visually.

I also asked my roommate  what the over all message that she took away from the poster is. She said that it was about the injustice that has happened to the Rwandan people. She said that she did not really know what the point of the poster was going to be until she got to the part about the Rwanda Partners and how they help to change the lives of the people and to heal their pain and bitterness. I think that I need to make more of an emphasis on the main message or to make it stand out more so that it has equal weight with the first part of the poster. Graphics will help add interest to the most important part of the message. Overall, this exercise was very insightful and helpful in my process and I look forward to using it in my other design projects.


Visual Cues

In visual communication, it is important to establish visual cues to give your reader a key to the language that you are speaking. It is important to keep these visual cues the same so that your viewer knows what to pay attention to next and what your overall message is. In my project I have set up a few rules to let people know what to do next.

To communicate hierarchy I have made the important text much larger than the other text so that if one is reading the poster from far away, they will still get the general message of the poster. I have also established hierarchy by making the poster read left to right which is the instinctive way for most of us to read. This is the way I have also established a sequence while adding a thin black line in the timeline to draw you through the poster and through the timeline. I have repeated the same thin black line in other elements such as the diagram showing Rwanda on the map.

This poster will overall have a geometric feeling that emulates the patterns found in Rwandan baskets and textiles. I am repeating lines as well as circular forms throughout the composition and story. I want the circular forms to give a feeling of unity. The broken pie graphs will show that there are things wrong with the countr right now that make it broken and disjointed. I want to show a whole circle at the end that represents where we want Rwanda to be: A united country where the people are for one another and not living in fear or in bitterness. I think that people are very familiar with pie charts and are used to judging angles that represent a percentage.

In my text I am only using black and white to provide high contrast and then using one other color to highlight important parts of the text. I also want to contrast stark, clean lines with texture to show the severity and importance of the issue and also how it has worn down the country. I want the poster to be sad and serious, but also to be eye catching and interesting to look at.

The typography in my poster is also an important element because I have used sans serif typefaces that emulate the geometric shapes found in African patterns. I am using Futura Condensed for my headlines and Neutraface for the body text. I want this poster to be as easily ready and understood as possible because it is talking about a country and issue that many people have not learned much about yet. It is not the same as AIDS, which people have heard a lot about, but it is something new, different, and devastating.

Visual Narrative

For my visual narrative I want to start by walking my audience to the Rwanda Partners building. I think this will provide a comfort for them if they are actually interested in coming in and being a volunteer or a customer. I know that for almost every new job that I have started, I first looked up the address on google maps and then looked at the street view to make sure I knew what the building looked like that I was supposed to go to and what was around it. It takes a lot of guessing and nervousness away and produces familiarity.

Next, I will take them through the door and then give them a brief history of Rwanda. I will show them where the country is located on the map and what it looks like. I will also tell them a little history about it’s people using a timeline structure. They will learn how the Hutu’s have resented the Tutsi’s for being in power and how they have been very untrusting, suspicious, and accusing of the other people. This history will culminate in the terrible event of the genocide in 1994. I want to use a graph to show how many Rwandans died in the genocide, approximately how many women were raped, how many children were orphaned, and how many Hutus fled out of fear of revenge.

Next, I want to show them the state at which Rwanda is in today. I want to use a pie chart to show how much of Rwanda is living off of less than $2 day. I also want to explain that many of the children who were orphaned have been faced with the task of supporting all of their siblings at an early age. I will explain that all of the women who were brutally tortured sexually have not received healing physically and emotionally from the trauma. There is still animosity between the Hutu’s and the Tutsi’s and if they if the do not forgive each other, these acts of hatred will continue to destroy the people.

After that I want to demonstrate  how Rwanda Partners is helping the country, and how my audience can help Rwanda Partners. I want to show them what goes on inside the building. I will take video footage of the Rwanda Basket Company Store where you can purchase baskets to help provide a living for the tortured woman. I will also shoot video footage of the interns in the building and how they are helping. I think my final call will be to show how easy it is, if they do not have any time for those things, they can just go to the web and donate money right on the website.

When trying to prove a point, I think it is easy to misrepresent data. In an innocent way I want to display the data that is only relevant to my argument because there are so many factors that contribute to circumstances and all of those would be exhausting to learn about. In order to capture someone’s attention it is easiest to display small amounts of data so that they actually pay attention to it and read it. I suppose this is where people get in trouble with misrepresenting data ignorantly. We want to make people listen so we just contrast two numbers and explain without data that there is causation instead of correlation.

For my poject, I want to give a brief history of the civil tension that has happened in Rwanda. Is it wrong of me to just show series of civil tension and outbreaks of violence and not other events? In my opinion I think it is okay to just show these  events because that is teh information that I am trying to explain. I don’t think that I am misleading by just showing the events that I want to focus on as things that need to be stopped. I could misrepresent data in other ways though.

In my first sketch, the timeline is not accurate proportionally. My graph makes it look as though all of these events are spread out evenly which would make the events of tension and hatred seem more consistent. I also show that 60% of the population is below poverty line at the end of the timeline. This makes it seems that all of the previous events led up to that. What I did not include is the percent of the Rwandan population below the poverty line before all of these events. It may have been the same even before there was conflict between the two tribes.

In my second example, there is an event on my timeline without a date. I did not put a date on it because there is actually now documentation of this event occuring but it was simply a legend and story told by the people. There is no evidence that it actually happened and yet I put it on my timeline with none of that explanation. I want to put this potential origin of tension on my timeline but I need to actually state that it has not been proven. Still, even if it hasn’t been proven it is still a bitter story and a reason for the Hutus to resent the Tutsi people.

Lastly, I want to show that all of these events were probably to some degree caused by hatred but I cannot measure hatred and people did not measure the level of hatred during the various events. Therefore, I cannot show that it is a fact and instead I need to explain that it is in my opinion that Rwanda can only get out of this cycle if their hatred for one another ceases to control their hearts.

The Art of the Infographic

I think that the best point that I took away from Nathan Yau’s article “5 Misconceptions About Visualization”, is that simple is best. The visualizations that are most easily read and understood are the ones with concise, accuarate, and simple information. It is also good to be told that too many layers of information takes away from your graphic and from the data. It makes less of an impact when there is too much to follow, or too many visual cues. It is hard to resist the urge to be witty and to compile different data into one graph but Yau explains that “simple and clear is better than clever and compact.”

What seems hard is to present information without trying to tell a specific, biased, story. Even if I present just the statistics from different cases I am still not ensured of an unbiased data set. Statistics can be presented in a biased way as well which is why it is important to research different resources and how they get their information.

Another interesting thing that I have noticed about info graphics by reading “The Fascinating World of Good Info-graphics by Robert Kosara is that an info graphic is typically only needed when comparing two or more things to one another. I never really thought about that before but in the info-graphic by Phil Gyford in this article, he makes the point that when you are just giving numbers with no comparison to each other, you can just state them in plain text. So, the only point of using an info-graphic is when you want to measure one variable against another. I think this an important thing to understand before going ahead and making an info-graphic.

“There is a place for art, and there is a place for visualization. Mixing the two is difficult and dangerous, and often leads to things that are neither.” This statement made by Robert Kosara in his article, “The Visualization Cargo Cult” seems very bold to me. He was referring to when people try to make data visualization into an art piece to be showcased. I’m not sure I agree with this because I might have a different definition of art that Kosara. I believe that art is something that was made by someone who had the intention of provoking thought and emotion. Or, it I think it can be something that was not intended to provoke thought and emotion in people, but it did. In my opinion, info-graphics and data visualization can be labeled as “art” either by the maker or the inspired person viewing it.

So many possibilities, so little resources!

Since I want to focus on the poverty and hunger in Rwanda, especially of the abused and orphaned women from the age of the genocide I think it would be awesome to travel to Rwanda and interview some of these women. I would ask them about their past and what they have been through up until today and what their hopes and dreams for the future are. Out of these video interviews I would create a sort of documentary on these women and invite people to help restore their lives and support Rwanda Partners who is supplying them with jobs. I would also ask people to purchase their baskets that the women hand weave because they are beautiful and provide a means for them to support themselves and their families.

If I had all the time in the world, I could also make an installation piece that represented these women maybe a large image made out of the baskets that they weave, or another material. I could have a reception and hopefully the piece, along with maybe a printed pamphlet with statistics could move people to donate money right there to Rwanda Partners. Also, I could have a Rwanda Partners representative selling the baskets at the reception as well.

Additionally, I could create a poster made out of a photograph of the installation piece above. It could be promoting the reception and a call to come, or it could be an invitation to donate to Rwanda Partners directly via the website.

As I do not have all the time, resources, skills, and resources to do all of these things this quarter I think I might need to scale it down. I won’t be able to travel to Africa to record more stories, but Rwanda Partners has already done that, so I could use the written stories and images that they already have to create a video that would be able to go on their website. Or I could help them re-design their website to provoke more people to invest in Rwanda Partners and the people that they help. I do not think that I have the time or resources to create a large installation piece and have a separate reception but maybe along with my end piece displayed in the Senior Show, I could also have baskets to buy from Rwanda partners or a device to collect money for the non-profit. I could still do a poster that invites people to visit Rwanda Partners website instead of an art show and to donate to these impoverished people. I think I might ask Rwanda Partners what might be the most useful tool for them as well.

knowledge + emotion = movement

In reading the article, “How Risky is it Really?” by David Ropeik I understand the importance of telling a story when communicating visually. It is sad that humanity will give more for one person than we will for a whole crowd but it makes sense at least to me. When we are giving, we are usually giving up something that is ours. Usually when I give up something, I want to know exactly where my gift is going and how it will help or not help. When I am given the specific circumstance of an individual needing help I can picture how my money will help them. When I am given statistics about what a group of people needs I cannot visualize how my gift will make all of their lives better or even one of them, if I am not given details.

In large part I do not think it is necessarily right for me to think this way, but what if it is. Like I said, humans are largely visual creatures and I tend to trust someone more when I can see them with my own eyes. I believe that they are real, and that my gift will be going to them to help them in their circumstance. If I see a handful of people and am asked to donate money to help them, I will not know where exactly my money will be going unless given specific details. I think, when you know an organization well, you can trust that your money will be used wisely, and will go where they say it will go. When you do not know they organization to which you are giving money too very well, I think it would be more difficult to give money to them without seeing the exact person to which they have your money in mind for.

Also, as Ropeik says, humans are drawn in to stories. Again, I think it has to do with being visual. We can visualize a person in their situation when we are given descriptive words or personal words from that person. It connects us with them because maybe we have felt a small amount of their pain before and cannot imagine how hard it would be to carry the full load of their pain. Or maybe our greatest fears have happened to someone and we want to rescue them because we know how afraid and hurt they must be. One thing is certain: visuals grasp us emotionally and spiritually, and our emotions and spirits cause us to act. In my opinion from my observations, knowledge hardly ever causes humans to act, but it is hopefully knowledge + emotion that causes movement.

The Facts

Admittedly, the first things that I do when looking for information is to go to Google. When I find information that sounds good to me, I honestly do not pay a whole lot of attention to where the information came from originally. If someone says that they got they information from an official source I just trust in that and usually use that information.

The blog post “Source Code: 5 Rules of Researching Infographics has been very useful in helping me understand how I should look for information and how I should slim down my sources to the few legitimate ones. Another good thing to understand is that we should try to find the most recent data and as the post says “if a data set is older than 2009, then chances are there is more recent data available” (Source Code: 5 Rules of Researching Infographics). Another very helpful tip that this blog post gives is that you can track the original source of information that gets put into Wikipedia and other user- generated content websites. Wikipedia does a really good job of hitting pretty much any topic you could want so it is good to know that it can still be useful if we trace the data back to the original source and find that it is “valid”.

Media Matters

I have learned somethings very important from my past experiences in communication and from reading articles such as “Narrative Visualization: Telling Stories with Data” by Edward Segel and Jeffrey Heer. What I have found is that the method by which you communicate to a group of people is extremely important. There are different cultures throughout the world and even in our own towns that communicate in different ways.

The words that we choose to use or not to use as well as the method that we use to communicate, all send their own kinds of messages. An example from my own life: My mom would always use words from her own generation’s vocabulary to speak to my teenage self in high school, and it was embarrassing to me. After coming home from meeting with a friend she would ask “Did you hook-up okay?” It bothered me that she used the term “hook-up” for getting together because in my peer group, “hook-up” meant to have sex with someone. True, I was an immature teenager, but when we want to communicate effectively with a group of people, we need to study that group. We need to know what they say, what they do, what they like and what they dislike. Where do they spend their time? After asking these questions of ourselves and others and doing some research, we need to figure out how our messages will be heard and believed by our target market.

Since I have decided to focus on communicating visually with Seattleites ages 18-30, I have decided to research this group of people. What I have noticed is that people in this age group hardly ever read a printed article anymore. They either read it on a news webpage or an internet magazine. The convenient thing about reading online is that it is quick, usually free, and easy to share with others quickly. It is easy to share with others quickly because almost everyone is on the internet every single day. You can easily post things found on the internet to someone’s Facebook wall, your Facebook wall, Twitter, Blogs, and you can email it easily. In our society, we want things fast and the internet usually gets us that.

On the the other hand with quality mobile camera phones, things found outside of the internet these days can quickly be transported there via someone’s iphone. So, in order to communicate with this group of people you do not necessarily have to post something on the internet because someone could do that for you. This group of people enjoys cool posters that grab your attention as well. In my case, I have personally seen how many videos get passed around the internet and it seems to be the quickest and most effective way to get the word out to this group about something if it is captivating and worth sharing with your friends on the internet. I think for my project I would like to make a short informational video on poverty and hunger in Sub Saharan Africa.

you CAN help.

Poverty & hunger seem like such big tasks to conquer. There are so many people worldwide that do not have the luxuries that I have. Being able to have a car and to pay for the gas is something that I take for granted every day. To have transportation other than my feet is a huge privilege by itself. With these snow days rolling in it is easier for me to see how crucial transportation is for me. It allows me to have much more opportunities. Without transportation I would be limited to the resources that I have within walking distance including, jobs, school, food, and water. With that being said, I would still be more fortunate than the people living in areas without indoor plumbing, clean water, grocery stores, and free public schooling. When I forget all of these things I tend to be judgmental and think that poor people just need to try harder. I need to remember that if I grew up in a different country with different parents I could be hungry and living in poverty as well.

Through my project, I would like to help people my age understand what it is like to not have “the basic necessities” that we have in the Seattle area. I would like to give examples of how long we would need to walk in Seattle to find clean water if we lived in a third world country. I think I would like to focus on what it would be like if we lived in Sub-Saharan Africa. I want to focus on this region because the it has a very high poverty level, vert large deficit in decent work, and very high hunger (United Nations, Millenium Development Goals: 20122 Progress Chart). I want to help people in the Seattle area understand how fortunate we are and how, because of our wealth (yes even the poorest among us is wealthy in relation to most of the world) we really can make a difference.

I also want to help myself and others understand that we don’t have to start our own organization to fight world hunger and poverty or become missionaries in a third world country in order to do anything about the issue. There are many people who have already started organizations that want to help and need volunteers to get the job done. One of the organizations that I have seen many people partner with is Compassion International. They have online profiles for thousands of children living in poverty and hunger that anyone can sponsor simply by donated $38  month to a child. One can choose their child and see what their situation is, their community, an their country’s state. For people like me, who want to know what exactly their money is going to, Compassions website is very helpful. You can even hear about your sponsor child’s progress and life by writing letters to them. I think that getting Seattlites to partner with easily accessible organizations will be the best way to start the thread of compassion in our city.

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