Final Quest

As my Visual Design and Display of Information course draws to a conclusion, I reflect on learning outcomes.

  1. Design is as much about the presentation of text as the inclusion of quality and relevant graphics to complement the text.
  2. Design is not about decoration or ornamentation. Design is about making communication easy and clear for the reader.
  3. Learning the psychology behind the principles of design informs design choices and strengthens the impact of visual materials. It also helps me to articulate why a particular design choice might be successful.
  4. Use alignment as a simple, effective, and vital design principle to create a cohesive and unified page.
  5. Blogging is an effective way to share ideas, articulate a position, gain feedback, and connect with others interested in similar topics. Sharing ideas using both words and images, including photos, videos, and slides, facilitates communication.
  6. Lots more to learn!

I present my final assignment, the design blog DesignQuest, and answer a few questions posed in my earlier post.

Who is the audience for DesignQuest? This blog appeals to anyone who is curious about the concepts and issues related to visual design and display of information.

What is the purpose of this blog? As a student of visual design, I present design development concepts and best practices. As a newbie to blogging, I explore the reasons and basics of blogging. Since a blog is a personal journal, I share my thoughts on various topics.

What tone is used? Because I am curious and still learning, the posts reflect the tone of a writer who is learning, asking questions, and wanting to find out more. I do not present as an expert (yet!), but as a conduit of the information that I am gleaning and have uncovered in the process of searching.

Will this blog have an after-life following the class? Maybe. I could turn it into a forum for design techniques and artwork. Who knows?

Regardless, this has been a fabulous learning adventure!

Moraine Lake, Alberta

Moraine Lake, Alberta (photo: Gordon Sloan)

To close the chapter on my design blog, I attempted to find a relevant image. But none surfaced.

Sometimes life is like that. What you are looking for is not ready to be found.

However, I do have a favourite photo captured by my brother-in-law as he navigated the Canadian Rockies. (I enjoy the scenery’s calming biophilia effect.)

Thank you for joining me on the course of this  journey! Or the journey of this course!

Maybe our paths will lead us to meet here again.

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Why am I doing this anyway?

I was wondering how to approach the planning of a blog.

Do the pros plan a month in advance? A quarter? A year? Or do bloggers wait for inspiration to strike? For life to happen?

Darren Rowse runs ProBlogger. A video blog by Rowse describes a full-day planning meeting held with a core team of four colleagues to discuss the upcoming schedule for 2013.

Firstly, the team reviewed the past year’s activities in 2012 and the blogs’ current position based on four critical areas:

  1. Content: reviewed publication frequencies and types of content, including feedback received via comments. Assessed survey results about content.
  2. Community: reviewed quality of comments and signups. Assessed whether people joined forums and engaged in social media channels. Gauged quality of community interaction.
  3. Stats: reviewed analytics on traffic quality and quantity, visitor types, and traffic sources. Assessed balance of new and repeat visitors and whether they arrived via search engine or social medial referrals.
  4. Monetization: reviewed their income generation and evaluated opportunities where they could capitalize on their established brand. This area is critical since the company desires to be sustainable over the long haul.

The review also examined areas for improvement as well as ways to further develop successful ventures. Unsuccessful initiatives were evaluated for improvement or elimination. Throughout, they brainstormed.

Secondly, they listed activities such as product launches and scheduled events; then slotted them into their annual calendar.

Thirdly, they reviewed their goals and sought ways to achieve those goals, scheduling them into their annual calendar. This allowed them to break down the process to milestone those goals and engage in project planning. Some initiatives were penciled in for trial. This way, they could launch a trial and assess it before committing it more permanently in their annual calendar.

Once the calendar was complete, they reviewed the entire year and scheduled new initiatives in the gaps. This creates momentum for the year, and the framework provides clear direction for the next 12 months.

For new bloggers, Rowse’s video suggests that planning an entire year ahead is critical to success.

For solo bloggers whose operations are smaller and less formal, planning is still mandatory. There may be prolific seasons followed by fallow seasons. Write while the well is deep to shore up those dry spells!

For this new social media-ist, before dashing off to brainstorm a list of bloggable topics, I need to re-examine my reasons for entering the blogosphere. Yes, I am aware this is an effective delaying tactic…

WordPressVanGoghWhat is the main purpose of my blog? Who is my key audience? What are they interested in learning? What am I interested in researching? What are my niche areas of expertise? What is the tone of my blog? How can my personality better permeate my writing? How can I attract more traffic to my blog? How can I build community?

All good questions that demand great answers.

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Entering the Blogosphere

I am a novice blogger.

Celebrities and status-seekers write blogs. Corporations with social media strategies write blogs. Unconvinced that the blogosphere offered much to significantly impact my life, I consciously steered clear. Until now.

When my writer friend Elaine moved to Hong Kong, she started to blog about her travels as a way to record her impressions and to inform her friends back home that she was safe and having the adventure of a lifetime. A cracker jack journalist with an engaging writing style, her prolific blog chronicles her excellent adventure.

I followed her online. I trailed her to this temple, that market, and that historic site, learning about the people and politics of Asia along the journey. Her travel blog is a journal that kept us connected.

As I ponder my project for a Visual Design course, the creation of a design blog, I got to thinking about the actual definition of a blog. In order to create a blog, I need to define it!

 My search for an answer led me to two promising resources:

  1. the archives of the ProBlogger website where blogger Darren Rowse answers the question, and
  2. a YouTube video by Brian Brown at Pajama Market.com, the Business Blog Authority.

Definition

So what is a blog?

BlogShort for web log, a blog is a type of website that takes the form of an online journal written about a particular topic. A blog allows authors with little or no technical knowledge to update and maintain a blog, thus making this type of communication accessible to a broad audience. So now, people with something to say can do it online without tripping over the technology to accomplish it.

Yes, that’s for me!

Blogs contain current content, so the author (blogger) updates the blog regularly to capture and hold audience attention – and to maintain currency. Blogs can feature content from multiple authors or guest authors.

Well, this is a required class assignment, so I’d better be the sole author!

RosieBloggerAn entry on a blog is known as a “blog post” or “post”; blog posts appear in reverse chronological order with the most recent content appearing first.

A blog comprises text, hyperlinks, images, and links (to other web pages and to video, audio, or other files).

Aha! So a blog is the perfect medium to explore visual design and display of information. 

Features

Comment feature

Blogs are written in a casual style and document the author’s research or opinions on a focal topic. Some blogs are monologues – the author presents information for site visitors to read. However, many blogs are conversational and invite reader response through a comment function.

The comment option takes site visitors to a form where they can leave their name, email, and link their own blog. Visitors can also leave feedback, comments, critique, or questions about the blog topic.

I am not sure if all feedback is posted or whether there is a filtering or monitoring process that weeds out offensive or unrelated submissions. I’d better check that out!

Archive feature

Besides the comment functionality, blogs feature an archive. Successful blogs have lots of content that needs to be organized for easy retrieval. Archives can be searched by category or by date.

Subscribe feature

A subscribe feature allows readers to sign up so that every time a new blog post is available, the reader receives an email. This makes it easy for readers to follow a blog.

Hmmm…well, I am not expecting many followers, but now that I understand the basics, it’s time to choose a blog topic.

Wish I were writing about travels in Asia.

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Hello visual design class! (Anyone out there?)

I am extroverted.

I enjoy relating to people face to face, and I am energized through human interaction and external stimuli. So I never pictured myself sitting at home alone taking an online class about communication. I much prefer to sit in an actual classroom with real people – talking in real time. You know, communicating about communication. However, here I am, registered in my second e-learning course.

Extroversion aside, I admit that learning online has its advantages. During the course, I can tune in and out on my own schedule. Because students connect virtually, I am studying with learners from abroad with global perspectives.  And no one is judging me when I show up on a bad hair day wearing pajamas.

This semester, I am studying Visual Design and Display of Information. Instructor Julian Hunt writes, “This course will allow students to think about online delivery with an emphasis on visual and non-visual communications.”

I am excited to unearth more about the strategy of visual communications, so I ventured online to investigate.

Hewlett-Packard offers a four-page PDF titled The Power of Visual Communication.

Formal research studies indicate that communication comprising a visual component is far more effective than oral or non-visual communication. However, visual combined with non-visual communication (oral and action) is even more effective.

“Psychologist Jerome Bruner of New York University has described studies that show that people only remember 10% of what they hear and 20% of what they read, but about 80% of what they see and do.

Interestingly, while purely visual communication is more effective than solely verbal communication, the most compelling communication combines both visual and non-visual content. “

Presentation designer Chiara Ojeda explores visual thinking. She presents a thought-provoking slideshow and YouTube video that inspires presenters to rethink the approach of their next visual presentation.

So why am I telling you all this?

The final assignment for the Visual Design class is a design blog that captures my learning activity over the eight-week course. I have always wanted to blog. Here’s the perfect opportunity. In fact, you are reading my very first blog post!

During the course, through active research and learning activities, reading, and “listening”, I am hoping to retain much of that estimated 80% to which Bruner refers.

I invite you to audit Visual Design and Display of Information through the headset of my mindset. Listen in over the next several weeks. I’ll be blogging. Communicating. Maybe you will communicate back.

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