Steve J. Moore

Posts Tagged ‘identity’

Designing a Path to Identity

In collaboration, Design, identity, Writing on March 20, 2009 at 11:22 am

Steve J. Moore

“This is part of a conversational series shared between multiple writers. As each new article is written, they will be displayed on the sites of all participating authors.”

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Design begs for authenticity

Today, you hear a lot about the importance of branding, in the online world. Whether you’re selling T-shirts for your band, writing Op-Eds for a periodical, or mocking up websites for photographers, you are aware of the idea of brand control and its potential impact. Business owners need to be sure that the products they put out are consistent with their plans for objectives as a company. It is the same in education; a teacher needs to be consistent in his or her message to the class about his lessons. If the rules appear to change for no reason, then you lose credibility. You lose your audience. Such is the purpose of design, to help you communicate your brand’s message clearly. But how does good design contribute to your objective? Isn’t such a thing as ephemeral as “design” only a subjective screen covering a person’s idea? How does good design help define who you are as a professional?

These are all questions with dangerously simple answers. They are questions specific to expression, that we all think we understand. The truth is, the ideas of design and expression boil your idea, your product, or your company down to one thing: Identity.

Being the good little scholar of literary concepts that I am, I naturally connect this concept which some may see as strictly economic, like “branding,” or rooted in art, like “design,” as a question of narrative importance. Design is all about who you are; it’s all about building, maintaining, and sharing your identity. So design becomes much less murky if you know who you are (or who/what you are representing). That’s simple, right!? Dang, that’s two posts in a row an interrobang could have come in handy. Sure it’s simple. Just open your chest up and look inside. Pop the hood. Crack open the server case. Read your old book-jacket cover. Well, if only life came with instr–resisting the urge to use cliche–if only, people were so simple, so static…

If design is inherently connected to identity, then marketers had better get on the couch and start self-discovering. Building web pages, you hear a lot about optimization through the use of “meta tags” that mark your domain with keywords. Looking at the word  “meta,” (which is really more of a prefix) we find that it means  “in reference to,” “about,” or “from within.” So websites and their designers need to do a little soul searching before their designs are complete. If you don’t understand the “within” for a particular job (web designers), then you most likely won’t be able to meet the needs of your client. Business owners, on the other hand, need to understand themselves before having new design implemented.

What questions can I ask myself related to establishing identity?

What language do I speak?

This is not as simple as it sounds; language is as deep and pervasive as any aspect of our identities. Furthermore, this question goes beyond what geographical tongue you use, but makes you describe who your audience is. Who are you trying to reach? Design, by definition, should fit a pre-determined purpose. Your website should be designed to fit a group or type of person with specific objectives. Maybe you are a blogger yourself and so, in considering design, you can access your own metacognitive habits and thoughts. Considering that I have a lot of readers who are, themselves, bloggers, web designers, and writers, I do my best to casually tailor my posts to fit their lexicons. I have an education blog too; I use different language off-the-cuff there than I would here.

For example, I may very easily dip into the educational “alphabet soup,” as one of my professors called it, and confuse readers if I am not careful. I wouldn’t dare write this sentence here without explanation:

“While NCLB may be considered to drive more action-based WFSGs and PDCs, there is  only correlative data to support this claim.”

Most people in the field of education (or very active parents) would understand that I’m writing about No Child Left Behind, Whole Faculty Study Groups, and Professional Development Communities, but a web designer would be rather perplexed most likely. On the same hand, I wouldn’t want to write this sentence in an education blog post:

“While pervasive in the development world, recursive acronyms like PHP, GNU, and TIP are humorous in ways often not understood by those outside of the field.”

What is your history?

Knowing where you have been is crucial to knowing where you are and where you want to go. So understanding the origins of your ideas is very helpful in forming a dialogue with your audience. If your readers perceive that you have an appropriate level of authority, then it will be much more likely for them to subscribe to your ideas. Being able to express where you are coming from is key to building a base upon which to prop your design (whatever it may be). Consider the classic frame of the Hero’s Journey, as Joseph Campbell describes it:

Is your design heroic?

Is your design heroic?

Inception: the hero’s call to action (expressing the origins of your idea)

Trial by fire: the hero’s challenge (show your work and experience)

Return: the hero finds his/her way home, changed (explain how you are unique)

I have always understood the basic plan for design to be rooted in this information. Maybe it’s your updated business plan, your master’s thesis, or an autobiographical reflection; find useful ways to incorporate this information, and your design will be more authentic for it.

If you’d like to contribute an article to our conversation,  comment here, on RyanBurrell.com or at SilverPenPub.net. We’re also all active on Twitter:

Steve, Ryan, and Matthew.

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The Ghost in the Machine: Dialogue on the Influence of the Internet

In Nature, Philosophy, The Web on February 4, 2009 at 3:14 pm

This post is from Nathaniel Carroll’s blog “NonDeScript” and is a collaborative conversation. If you have another blog and would like to join in let us know!

“Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life.” – Oscar Wilde

This week, an e-friend of mine, Steve J. Moore, proposed an interesting question: Does the Internet reflect Humanity or vice versa? To start the discussion, we will take a look at life before Internet. Then, we will examine the life after Internet and its impact on the individual.

Information is power
Nikola Tesla began tinkering with the wireless transmission of information in 1891. The first television broadcasts were transmitted in 1928 to mechanical tv sets with horrible picture quality. In the mid thirties to the beginning of the forties, mechanical sets were commercially available for home use, but production soon stopped as manufacturing efforts became focused on World War II. After the war, the technological boom began to pick up speed again. The first full-color set came in 1954 and cost $1,000.  Today, one thousand bucks buys you a 50″ flat screen tv like this.

Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1

There seems to be an inverse correlation between the availability of information and its value (see Figure 1.1).  In other words, the easier accessing information becomes, the less we are willing to pay for it.  To learn more about this correlation, read Thomas L. Friedman’s book, The World is Flat.  The expansive virtual bank of knowledge has made the world seem much smaller.  Thanks to Mobile 2.0, we expect information to be readily available to us at all times, to the extent that even email is considered an inferior form of communication.  I drew Figure 1.1, photographed it with my phone, sent it to my email address, and uploaded it to the blog in less than one minute.  We want information now, and we want it to be free.

The Shape of (Human) Things
I am twenty three years old.  My first vivid memory involves my father busily working on a thesis under the blue glow of a Tandy 1000 computer screen, my curious finger, and a large red reset button (I’ll post the whole story sometime).  The internet, in a relatively archaic form, already existed.  But even in my youth, when I wanted information for an Earth Science research paper on volcanoes I made photocopies of encyclopedia entries in the school library.  The card catalog was not computerized until I was in high school.  Back in my day, you had to be patient – you had to wait for information to come to you.  Back in my day, you had to be dilligent – you had to spend countless hours scouring tiny print and irrelevant factoids in search of answers.  Back in my day, you had to respect the information you sought.

Today, the quality of content published on the internet spreads from precise, powerful information to pure unsolicited crap.  Because the good stuff can be accessed through the same medium as the bad, it has to be free and effortless.

With regard to the value we assign information, I say that Internet reflects Humanity.  Internet – 1, Humanity – 0.