Project 1 | CD Studio

Week 1

What did you learn from today’s class activities and how do they impact your thinking of communication design?

From today’s activities, I saw personality comes through in several ways. When you first examine the windup toys, several of them gave off a friendlier and inviting feeling more than others based off their appearance. The bright colors on the plastic toys felt safe and reminiscent of childhood toys packed in a McDonalds happy meal as opposed to the delicate metal ones. Those had a more professional and classy feeling that reminded me of toys a parent would have, to look and not touch.

When we moved onto the second exercise, it interesting to see several similar answers for a question. Even though a few answers had the same conclusion (for example, personal growth was something they were proud of), the way the answer was written would be different (i.e. using an example or just simply stating ‘learning & growing’).

Reflecting on today’s activities, it seemed like when communication is required, what you want to say/convey can differ from what is really received in reality. It helps to be well versed in various subjects to ensure that your final design doesn’t have a meaning elsewhere. Becoming a communication designer requires thoughtful and careful designing. It is important to design with a vision in mind but also be mindful of the decisions you make and how it might look to the people around you.

What examples of truth decay did you find and what roles is design playing in exacerbating or combatting problems? What design approaches are taken? (Reflecting on — The Increasing Relative Volume, and Resulting Influence, of Opinion and Personal Experience over Fact)

Washington Post, Opinion Section on Home Page
New York Times, Opinion Section on Home Page

After reading the pieces about Truth Decay, I thought of the Opinion sections on several News/Journalism websites and their recent popularity and growth over the years. They had started off small, usually as only a subgroup at the end of the topics on the homepage. However, in recent years, they come right after the breaking stories and have a complete section on their own. In fact, on the New York Times, the opinion section is before the “Your Evening Brief / The Daily” which helps summarize the day. The layout of the website lets viewers browse breaking stories first and puts emphasis on opinionated based stories next. Users may not always even scroll all the way down as they only come across the first few articles on the page and feel as though they had enough for that day.

Headline from the New Yorker (left) & Headline from NPR

On the New Yorker, there are several fonts in a post but the language used is slightly dramatic and almost ominous at times. In some ways, it adds to fuel to the fire especially if you have pre-set feelings about a certain subject. It was also interesting to see that majority of the headlines on the New Yorker followed the same format with the dramatic headline first where as though other headlines on NPR usually have a fact as the headline and an occasional slight opinionated subhead.

Ultimately, the design of “an opinion” often has a different font and style. It’s clear that it’s different. It waves a hand at you, declaring, “Hey, if you feel this way, come check this out!” The format of the website adds to this, by creating a designated space for opinion pieces and also not even scrolling all the way down.

On a personal note, I had read an earlier piece on Andrew Yang by Politico earlier this year in April. This piece was striking to me because not only did it have a mixed opinion of Andrew Yang, but also because I had shared similar sentiments to the writer. By being relatable, I found myself being swayed in the positive way of how the author ended up leaning towards, despite her having mixed feelings at first. The way she wrote her own personal feelings and cautiousness towards Yang felt raw and in turn, trustworthy (which I now see a tactic after reading Truth Decay). The article was paired with vibrant and striking images of familiar restaurants, that wouldn’t just appeal to New Yorker’s Chinatowns, but any Chinatown in the United States. I liked that I could share sentiments with the author and also understand her background and where she came from. I thought about this article a few times since then and I’m certain it’s because it was relatable. Opinionated articles make you feel like your voice is heard and your mind seen. Every once in a while, one of them is too relatable. Your voice counts and this may be a main contributor to how Opinions and Personal Opinions articles are increasing over Fact.

Over the last year, I’ve started to appreciate the importance of moodboards and today’s class had really touched upon how typography is quite similar when we want to define an aesthetic. The types of fonts shown in class today in different forms had reminded me of the feeling someone should get when they see your design. Fonts have so much weight on how to get a feeling across and are a defining visual factors in so many parts of design. I’ve struggled a lot in the past with defining moods. Curating a style and giving off an impression from an app, all of these visual decisions are careful ones that communication designers have to go through.. but I’m learning that understanding style doesn’t always come naturally. You can train your eye by learning/observing the cultural aspects more often to understand the implications of the feeling of a font. While some may be so obvious such as Garage Sale or Bakery, it’s only because of years of seeing this we believe it has that style.

Buffalo Exchange Stickers I took from the store!

I also wanted to mention the above stickers since Buffalo Exchange was brought up. The sticker on the top has a more vintage feeling and the one on the bottom has a more boho feeling. However, both of the stickers fit the store’s aesthetic. This is something that I’m trying to be more aware of — how certain styles can be playfully mismatched but have an overarching aesthetic. It makes it pretty interesting and flexible.

Something else I noticed during the exercise was how and when we see similar types next to each other, they pinpointed our desired style even more. For example, when given the three serif fonts, they went from sophisticated to sophisticated restaurant, sophisticated clothing store, and sophisticated beauty. This could be a useful exercise for when designing in a future.

Truth Decay

In regards to Truth Decay, the style of certain platforms can be a factor in popularity. Occasionally, I have been using Instagram for news. As I decompress after a day, I sometimes scroll and see vivid and striking photos by NY Times on my feed. They are able to stop me to read and wonder what’s going on in the photo. In contrast to striking photos, I have been following another user, So.informed, an Instagram blog that creates text posts in a very aesthetic and digestible way. She seldomly uses photos and relies on text on muted pastel backgrounds. These are updated and current methods of getting news across to users but because of the photo and text limits, they only share so much as a synopsis of what is going on. However, this method, the striking or minimalist photos are something I am attracted to and not like the traditional news blog.

A side by side comparison of NY Times & So.Informed Instagrams

News agencies are aware that they need to keep up with different apps but it’s also interesting to see how another blog can become so popular, because it hits the societal needs even more. In comparison, NY Times is a credited news agency while So.informed is run as someone who just started the page as a pro-Bernie Sanders resource and evolved into something more, because she knew her readers wanted and requested it. So.Informed is also moving quickly towards 3 million followers as someone who only started a year ago. Both of these accounts are spreading news and hitting the mark in their own ways but one is newer and more fresh. To counteract this though, So.Informed isn’t a verified news source — though many of her posts are facts, they are clearly aimed towards left political sentiments, which could be problematic according to Truth Decay.

This is my Napkin Sketch. After our group discussion with the popularity of Opinions quickly rising over Fact, we’ve been thinking a lot about the reasons that could be true. I think a lot of it is because opinion allows your voice to be heard, whether the opinion is an agreeable one or not. However, facts are facts and they don’t leave room for discussion. Moving forward with facts with analysis allows room for discussion and can easily lead into the opinion spectrum.

Week 2

Our group had a healthy discussion today about our topic:

The Increasing Relative Volume, and Resulting Influence, of Opinion and Personal Experience over Fact

We had all agreed that opinions were more popular than facts and our napkin sketches had overlapped on the abundance of opinions. Each person had brought in their own perspective and after each explanation, we all were able to group it together in a unified way. While we discussed, there were several interesting points that I wanted to jot down here. Greg had pointed out that hashtags added fuel to the fire, a certain stance wouldn’t use the opposite stance hashtag on their photo/media because they wouldn’t attract the right viewers that way. However, doing this means that it would never even get to the other platform’s radar. Anupriya had mentioned that media used to be one-way, you would receive the news from the TV or the paper and that was it. Now social media allowed for us to interact back. Lastly, Eva had mapped up the ways of interacting with a post and how the abundance of certain emojis (like a dislike/angry) could dissuade/influence you from reading that post.

Greg’s Napkin Sketch had also reminded me of TikTok and the curated For You page. The algorithm is so accurate that I would never see something far from my beliefs and values but this could also mean I wouldn’t get perspectives from multiple angles. While this is beneficial for me, the user, to see things that I like and enjoy, I wouldn’t hear and see content from other perspectives.

However, moving back to the topic, we ultimately decided that opinions were needed because opinions attracted users and they were also a form of individualism. They allowed people to express their ideas through taking a stance where as facts did not. Facts were undeniable and didn’t leave much others to agree or disagree. On the flip side, opinions allowed for engagement to take place and were needed not just as an attracting feature but also because it pushed the article to a certain direction. Through napkin sketching, we decided to display our evidence on why opinions and personal experience is influential and increasing and how we got there. Below are certain photos taken from the exercise.

The left photo is us explaining our ideas & the right photo became the layout for the presentation.

On the left, each of us explained our Napkin Sketch from the weekend. After some time discussing the sketches, we categorized it in a way to explain our subject and stance. As mentioned, we landed on the current situation -> how it happened -> summary + future. Moving from the first photo to the second was highly collaborative — I found that this was the harder stage but also rewarding to see the our ideas flow from one point to another in a cohesive manner. As we agreed on our stance, our next steps are to find/design for an aid to help slow/eliminate truth decay in the increasing volume/influence of opinions and personal experiences.

Respond to the prior medium question, explain how your thinking has deepened and/or changed; Also: What did you take-away from the napkin sketching session? Add napkin sketches to medium.

After researching on our topic, we felt that the importance of recognizing the difference between fact and opinions was to help differentiate and form personal, independent stances on various subjects. With opinions and personal experiences steadily growing, we can be easily swayed by a variety of factors. However, opinions don’t always necessarily accelerate truth decay if one continues to be mindful of the differences between opinions and facts. This is important because it supports and helps facilitate individualistic thought instead of following along with with the popular opinion. Without having individualism, we could be easily swayed by inaccurate and false information and also be a factor in spreading misinformation.

The below are the final sketches we had on our topic (more refined sketches from Tuesday) and explained it from current situation, how it’s happening and the summary of the state of things. After the feedback session, it was nice to see that our method had communicated this progress clearly enough and the titles had helped. A problem we did run into was that it was slightly difficult to draw and talk at the same time, but at the moments we nailed it, it felt more effective than two people drawing and talking.

After the presentations, I found it helpful to hear another group tackled the subject in their own way. They used a full example of what was happening and a timeline which was a clever way to make this topic more relatable and prevalent to why need to understand the difference between and facts and opinions. I also like how many groups added time periods or categories such as age to explain the context/situations. That wasn’t something our group had talked about too much but could’ve been applied in our topic as well. I don’t think my thoughts had changed much since Tuesday, but I saw more ways of expressing our topic more coherently.

Overall, I found that napkin sketching is a skill that is useful and gets easier over practice. I think this skill is extremely effective during ideating as drawings can go hand in hand with verbal explanations and further drive your point. I also enjoyed seeing how other people used their markers and delivered their topics, I picked up a few presentation tips, like slowing down at a certain drawing pace. These are two abilities I would like to improve on further, hopefully at the same time.

Week 3

What did you learn from the prototyping exercise we conducted in class? What are your initial intervention ideas? Add sketches where warranted.

Today when we returned to our sketches, we went over the reason why it was important to distinguish the differences between opinions and facts and landed on the prevention of manipulation through media. Because there is a rise in opinions and personal experience, people were affected easily by peers, influencers, and more. Without formulating their own opinion and following others, they would not think of themselves and apply their own thinking. This could lead to manipulation from a stronger and larger organization, whether it be a government, religious organization, or society in general. This could be harmful when the information they spread is false and also encourages violence (such as the Capital storm earlier this year).

We tried to explain this in the addition of our newest sketch and how you could become a puppet without even realizing it.

On the left, we’re redrawing our sketches and on the right is our new summary.

Our intervention, however, is not to cut the strings, but hand the scissors over to the user for them to decide whether or not if they want to cut the scissors themselves. Though not in our C-Studio group, I had a conversation with others in our cohort about China’s censorship of media. Worldwide news such as BBC portrays this censorship negatively and as a clear violation of human rights. However, when if you asked some Chinese citizens, they are aware of this censorship and in some cases, they do not mind. It was better that false information is better left unseen. This thought occurred to me too, especailly with the recent rise of anti-Vaxxers. I would prefer not see articles about chips in vaccines influencing others and dissuading others to get ther vaccine. It was interesting to have this discussion and I think it helped us in the early stages of our intervention ideas.

Moving back to our intervention, we had a lot of fun with our prototyping exercise. We really liked the puppet metaphor and Eva had the idea of being placed in a box of our own world. With media coming in through TV and our phones we were surrounded by information, both facts and opinion. However, because this was our own world and we curated and personalized own media and newsfeeds to our interests, it was likely that the media would be similar and also be pooling with opinions from similarly minded people. For example, reporters and writers with Democratic ideals would most likely share the same views, creating an echo chamber. However, if you were also Democratic, it was less likely you would receive news from a Republican source and hardly be willing so. To reflect this, the media inside the box were the same color. We placed a mirror, which would be our intervention, for the user to help see the box and the string and gave the user a scissor to cut it. Our goal for us is to break the mirror and let the user see the outside world and also be willing to do so.

Actually prototyping our idea/situation had solidified it. Once we had the puppet and box metaphor, it was easy to add and include more to help describe our situation. I think this exercise helped lay out the scenario and gave us a lot of room for discussion. I personally really like how we decided our intervention would be more of guiding the user to “cut the string” because we’re raising awareness, not curing it. Something else I would like to mention is the rising volume of opinions, we’re not trying to push back to amount of opinions, we’re supporters of having your personal thoughts — it’s more of being sure this how you feel instead. Moving forward, I think the most difficult part would be convincing the user to see news from their opposing beliefs but knowing that it’s important to do so.

September 16th, 2021

How are your intervention ideas evolving? What is informing your decisions (reference readings and activities where warranted)? Add images where warranted).

On Tuesday, after our prototyping session, we were asked to push the idea of having the opposing view for our user and motivating them to do so. After reflecting over a few days, I thought a lot of examples where I’ve heard/seen the other opinion. A popular example I can give is through TikTok. I had written previously about TikTok and the For You page. This feed is so cleverly curated for each individual in a way that makes you wonder, “What is this algorithm and how is it so right?” On my feed, occasionally I’ll see videos set as a reply to another video, with the other original video showing first. When I see the original video, I’m usually taken aback at first, thinking how on Earth did this show up on my feed? Why would it think I like this video?

Reply ^ shown as an example

Then the reply video shows a person responding in their opinion usually in a manner I agree with. The original is one typically reflects a view I’m usually against and honestly, it can even be irritating to hear some of these opinions. How are people like this? This happened frequently during the election last year.

How do we show the importance of the other side without causing feelings of frustration and anger? Are these intertwined? Is it good in a way? Can we bank on these feelings to cause change? Personally, I don’t think frustration and anger should be utilized because it doesn’t contribute to a clear mind but to bring it back to class and thinking back to other team prototypes, it seems like all teams are wondering about the same thing.

Another team’s prototype

In regards to the reading, I enjoyed Lynch’s writing because it reminded me a lot of how cities reflect on the times they are built. I had studied abroad in London for a few weeks and during that time, we focused on spatial and temporal structure of the city. London preserves so much of their city and history but they’re also modernizing it at the same time. The way the city was designed was for human life thousands of years ago but they recognized that certain parts could be improved yet still preserving the old. To connect this back to design, is design similar or does it just build on the old? I think it’s a mix of both. Design doesn’t ever seems to finish and is built on top of existing layers. For example, city streets with their elements, they are adjusted, improved, renamed, and more. Our methods of communication design can do the same.

Week 4

How are your intervention ideas evolving? What is informing your decisions? Add images when warranted.

More Whiteboard Sketching

Today when we returned to our sketches, we first went over the structure of our intervention — the goal and target audience. We agreed that we would like to focus on help the user aware of the increasing volume of opinions and focus on undergraduates moving forward. We chose this topic because we all had similar experiences about being more involved in world news after undergrad because we began to feel a social responsibility to be informed. However, our plan had hit some snags today. During our meeting on Monday, we were exploring ideas of a chatbot that functioned similarly like Grammerly as an aid for users to phrase their opinions if they wanted to. We also wanted our bot to pop up automatically with some data analytics for the user to be aware of the # of comments and views on the page. However after feedback, we partially felt that our idea could be taken as instructing others on what to say instead of an aid.

Going back to the drawing board, we went back to our target audience and popular interests and activities. We starting to think back to one of our original ideas, a website or chrome home page filled with data analytics and asked ourselves, what about a quiz instead? Playing with this idea more, we thought about how people really liked to think about themselves and how they stood in a group. If we could use some kind of personality test that showed the relation of themselves to a group, people would be more interested in taking that test. For the example, we were thinking of Buzzfeed quizzes shared on Facebook or the Myers-Briggs test. People liked to share and compare the results. We liked this idea more because we thought people would become more interested in this topic, especially if we gave them a persona/title like “social butterfly” or “frequent spreader” with an explanation on why, they would also compare what kind of people they are.

During the final stretch, Greg had an idea for gamifying the process by acting as a journalist and answering questions in this kind of format. The result would still end up with a persona/title. With our intervention ideas still forming, we keep trying to go back to the mindset of our target audience and how we could subtly make them think.

Earlier I liked the idea of a chatbot because I think it served as an aid for whenever I needed to double check a fact or wanted to rephrase some sentences. However, after thinking about it, this feature would probably be very cool once or twice and wouldn’t be very common to use afterwards. Additionally, suggesting words or phrases is helpful but can lead to loss of individualism which is something we want to avoid. The personal quiz/personality test has more room to explore and also encourages users to take it more than once. Additionally, because your result can change as you personally develop and grow, you can take it again in the future. Additionally, using comparison features in relative to others or bringing in popular celebrities or fictional characters, we can help the user be more interested in the result. It seems like while some ideas can be good ones, it only works in the ideal situation and we have to think about the realistic situations sometimes.

Week 5

What are your key takeaways from the first project? How might you apply what you learned in the future?

I had a few key takeaways:

  • “Timeboxing”
  • Working backwards
  • Design incorporating customs and cultural means
  • Communication design not always being visual but also thought-provoking
Our second to last meeting — crunch time

Because this project was so quick compared to others, it felt like we were in a way, timeboxing ourselves for every stop. Our final intervention had really started to take place only a week ago and we were able to get pretty far with what we had. With these time constraints, I felt like it really helped us to shape our ideas quickly. In my understanding, it feels like sometimes projects are like that. You have to wrap up or else you’ll be working on a project forever.

Throughout this process, we spent a lot of time doing research and reflecting but when it was time to design our intervention, what really helped was working backwards. We set our goal and once we had an idea, we started with the personalities of our personality test and worked questioned how we could get there. As we mapped the process out, the ideas for questions came out a lot faster than if we tried to do this part first. Going forward, I think whenever I get stuck, I’ll move backwards from our goal, even when it’s in the larger sense.

I think we’re always thinking about designing mindfully and for all cultures. Especially for this project, we thought a lot about who the people were that digested news, what customs they were used to and how we could interject in their lives. Remembering what they were used to relieving had played a huge role in crafting our idea, especially with the language used. I think this made it more relatable to the user.

We forgot to take a group photo but I thought our headshots were very cute here for our final outcome.

Lastly, the goal of our intervention was to push/poke the user into thinking more mindfully about the news and “break the cage.” This was incredibly difficult to do without giving the user everything. I thought that this project was interesting because a lot of communication design is about visuals but in this way, it was all about the context and how you chose your words. When writing our personalities, I found this part to be so tricky, writing phrases and sentences that wouldn’t assume too much or offend a user while still pushing them towards an idea. It felt like I was always trying to get around something but I think this skill can be really useful in the future. I want to be able to be a designer that can reflect on my blind spots and learn to cover them with tools/skills I’ve picked up on my way. So although this project was challenging, by moving slower and reflecting more, I think it’s forcing me to become a more mindful, human centered designer which is the end goal anyway.

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Interaction Designer | MPS 22' at CMU School of Design

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Christina Ip

Christina Ip

Interaction Designer | MPS 22' at CMU School of Design

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