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Design Today

Today's Lecture

As per the online survey sent out last week, this week's lecture is built from your questions.

Design vs. Art

Where is the line?

Put simply, this is a contentious issue:

  • Design has a clear function?
  • Design sends a consistent message?
  • Design is clearly understood?
  • Design is rational?
  • Design has a clear audience?

To Design, or, Not to Design

That is the question

The design thinking process:

  1. Understanding and defining the problem
  2. Determine how to interpret the problem
  3. Generate potential solutions
  4. Evaluate your solutions
  5. Iterate as necessary

Understanding the Problem

As part of this, there are a couple different areas we had questions in:

  1. Objectives
  2. Audiences
  3. Research


Some of the design objectives you inquired about included:

Icon Objectives

What does this icon mean?


The Soviets made heavy use of propaganda posters to communicate messages to the masses.

Designing an Ad

What is the objective when we look at an advertisement?

Design for Everyone

"If you design for everyone, you design for no-one."

How might the following groups interpret the design on the right?

  • Children
  • Followers of Buddhism or Hinduism
  • Those who survived concentration camps

Cultural Differences

At a macro level, we can look at the differences in what the colour yellow conveys to a North American culture as opposed to Japanese culture.

At a micro level, we can consider what a car would mean to an environmentalist as opposed to a 16-year old.

Design Subjectivity Then

The Swiss School of design (circa 1950-1960's) believed that design could be made rational, objective and pure in its communication.

Design Subjectivity Now

Our modern belief is that it is impossible to be entirely rational about design. That one should embrace your own biases or interpretations as potential strengths in design.


Design research begs, borrows and steals from a variety of disciplines with the intention of better understanding the problem, or testing the solution. Image on right from "Just Enough Research" (Erika Hall, 2013)

Solving the Problem

Knowing what the design problem is, means that we can approach solving it. But what if you get stuck when generating ideas?

When to Pick Visual?

When a message could be made clearer or supported by a visual representation, consider visual communication design.

How Do I Pick a Form?

If you were communicating a no-smoking message to the following audiences, what forms might make the most sense?


Comic book sample
Comic book sample

Stop motion

Visual Communication in Films

Film title examples Art of the Title

Principles Assemble!

Remember that we can put together principles, as well as have one principle create or affect others.

How Do I Get Inspired?

But I Don't Have Ideas!

You do, you just haven't been forced to explore them before.

Brainstorming time.

Solving Problems Visually

Layout and Principles

The same principles we have learned apply to layout design; to direct and guide our attention through text and image.

White-space Importance

White-space comes into play in a big way when we are communicating elegance and dealing with complex series of information.


Colour is most often used to convey additional emotional meaning. We can talk about 'exact' meanings of colours, but it is generally better to discuss them in 'moods'.

Colour Contrast

There are different cases in which you may want to play with contrast, but remember that low contrast means harder-to-separate, where as high-contrast means easier-to-separate.

Low contrast
High contrast

Low contrast
High contrast

Rules, Rules, Rules

What are they good for?

Remember that while we talk about design 'rules', rules are often broken by designers to achieve a certain effect or statement. Rules are a sort of 'standard', working without them emphasizes something not-normal.

For example: "Never use black text on a white background for websites" - why might this rule be true, and why might it not be true?

For example: "You should only ever use three colours on a poster" - why might this rule be true, and why might it not?

Do I Have to Use Them?

Remember that the rules form a series of methods through which you can ensure your message is clear. It is up to you to decide how many, and how to apply them.

Why do some ads work better than others?

Andrew's argument: They're better designed.

Psychology and Design

Designers can often use psychological rules or concepts to their advantage when assembling a design. For example:

How to Gain Our Attention

Why Doesn't Advertising Focus on Product?

How Do We Grab Attention?

Why Might We Obscure a Message

How Do We Design for Disabilities?

How Do I Engage Someone on a Deeper Level?

Applying approaches

Two major questions came up in this category:

Why Photography?

Photography is heavily focused on because it tends to be the most accessible form of visual communication. Illustration would be great to cover as well, but as I've mentioned before; this is not a drawing course.

What Kind of Tech Should I Start With?

Why Not More Software?

The software is just a tool, that you can work with better if you understand the theory.

Technical Considerations

How do I learn what a minimum font size for my poster should be? How big should my photos be for print?

The answer is how big is the final design?

Assessing a Design

How do we know its a good design?

This is where we ask what is the function? and does it fulfill it?

Design Fails

An anti-drug pencil campaign

What is the Hardest Part of Becoming a Good Designer?

Process (and critique).

What Makes a Good Designer Good?

Process (and critique).

How Do I Make My Work Stand Out?

Knowing your competition.

Why Does it Matter?

Where am I going to use this stuff?

I'll be talking about a couple different things:

Design Influence

You experience hundreds of designs on a daily basis. Consider what using a computer would be like without the heavily design graphical user interface.

A screenshot of a graphical user interface

Application to Other Domains

Visual communication principles can be applied broadly across different domains. Some things to think about:

Building Better Slides

Many of the design principles can be applied to building better slides.

Building Better Posters

A very poorly designed conference poster

Knowing When Data Lies

Five Ways to Lie with Charts

The Design Process

Design Thinking for Educators

Facilitating Communication

Visual communication design offers you another avenue through which to convey your message, beyond purely words or oration.

Potential Careers

Can I Be a Designer Too?

Hipster-styled glasses
These a designer do not make

IAT Courses for Non-Majors

I cannot recommend any of these courses for non-majors without a strong caveat that you are interested in the course and doing the work.

Some stream options:

P02 General Feedback

P03 Warnings

If you are found reworking a prior project you will receive a zero on the project with no chance to appeal the grade.

P03 Warnings

If you are working with others' images and do not cite them (or claim them as your own) you will receive a zero on the project with no chance to appeal the grade.

P03 Reminder

P03 is due next week before lecture, apart from any physical deliverables (i.e. flipbooks) which can be handed in at the beginning of lecture.

P04 Discussion

Please pull out any materials you have for P04.

  1. Explain your idea to your idea to your neighbour in 2 sentences or less
  2. Ask eachother to identify your position or purpose
  3. How does the form you have chosen influence your idea?
  4. Is the message clear? What concerns might their be?

Post two concerns with your project and how you will improve them to this week's discussion.

Bonus Office Hours

Tomorrow (Friday) from 10-11am at Nature's Garden Cafe.

Remembering to Think Visually (Exam Recap)

How to Contact Andrew

Office Hours: