Saturday, December 13, 2008

Lost in Translation?

My interest in typography often makes me observe signboards. Especially, how the company names are translated in local languages on neon signboards.
Bangalore requires that the sign boards be displayed in kannada along with English.
While the sign boards in English are well thought and designed, when they are translated to Kannada or Hindi they forget to carry forward the visual, specifically the type treatment of the original logo. Very few signboards redesign the structure, form, proportion and font metrics of the local script to match the original.

Eg: the below logo in Kannada just italicizes a common font in that language. It also misses the green leaf which is part of the logo. Ultimately, it is unable to visually translate the brand into the local language

This logo forgets to carry the font weight of the original logo

Many times, the translated logo, either in Kannada or Hindi seem to exist only to please the law enforcing authorities. So they are predominantly smaller in size and placed in a corner.

There are few logos which translate their visual identity very well. Below is one of my favorite.

Some may argue since the main logo is in Kananda, a lot of thought might have been put to carry the type characteristics to English.

Another logo which tries to translate(the English neon signboard is also on green background) -

However, most of the companies can also invest in finding or even creating new type in local languages which match the type of the original logo. It ultimately helps carry the brand to the local consumers.

But why does translating the type treatment matter? Simply because logos are a visual depiction of the brand. And the brand carries the company's vision and all that it stands for. Hence, it is imperative to have similar type treatments across various scripts.

p.s. The above comments are only limited to typography and have nothing against the company or brand

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Spell Check Disaster: 'Anshuman' becomes 'Inhuman'...

Recently, when one of my friend mistakingly applied spell check on a widely used mail, the person to whom it was addressed to - 'Anshuman' , was changed to 'Inhuman'.

This incident shows how features in applications which are supposed to make our job easier can actually create havoc (just imagine if Anshuman were his boss...oops!) Also shows the lack of geographic and cultural adaptability of popular applications. Asians, especially Indians form a significant proportion of users of these applications globally. However, only few Indian names are recognized.

Here are few recommendations on how this can be improved-

  • Design applications which can provide geographically and culturally appropriate spell check based on the selected country

  • Have a database of certain disaster words which double checks when used. Eg: provide message which suggests 'Are you sure you want to change it to 'Inhuman'? This may be irritating, but can definitely save all those embarrassing moments.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bridging Business Strategy and Design

Intersting presentation on how to bridge differences between business strategy and design.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Tips to Interface Design

A good presentation by Garrett Dimon on designing interfaces

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Can card sorting be used to define visual design?

Card sorting has been one of the key techniques to define the informational hierarchy of an application. As Jacon Nielson mentions "Card sorting is a generative method: we don't yet have a design, and our goal is to find out how people think about certain issues. There is great variability in different people's mental models and in the vocabulary they use to describe the same concepts. We must collect data from a fair number of users before we can achieve a stable picture of the users' preferred structure and determine how to accommodate differences among users."

Can this be extended to defining the visual design? We do not have the style specifications yet and different users relate or interpret various visual elements differently. Interpretation of color, form, fonts, layout are based on the individual's past experiences, cultural, socio-economic background and various other such factors.
Card sorting can be used to define visual hierarchy and the style of the application. It can be done with end users or within the design team or involving various teams, clients or all of them.

Keep reading this blog to get to know how to conduct a card sort for visual design

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Personalize or Customize?

There are two major trends in displaying information in the interface to users.
Personalized Interface and Customized Interface. Below is the description of differences from the slides of Vinay Mohanty and Devesh Jagatram on slideshare

Customization allows users to explicitly specify what you want. It gives user control at a generic feature level , where users see/hide etc what they want Eg: My Yahoo - user chooses which information elements might be presented on a home page, choosing display colors, etc.

Personalization uses implicit interests and learns what you like from your actions (you are what you click on and what you buy ) E.g. getting the information related to one’s preferences and regular activities Personalization is at the data/ content served level is an example of personalization where the latter learns your interests and adapts to your needs. Personalization also are called 'Adaptive Interfaces'

This brings the question where do I which one?
Customize interfaces toBold
    • Prioritize content
    • User controlled content
    • Customized Look & Feel for each user
    • Promote regular usage
Customizable interfaces work for interfaces like My Yahoo! Here user can customize features like colors / layout , placement of features on screen, etc.

Personalize when you need to
    • Promote sales of various products
    • Build a relationship that encourages the customer to return
    • Provide customized experience for online shopping to make it as real as in-person shopping
    • Target each individual customer differently by providing one-to-one marketing
    • Predict customer needs and purchase patterns
    • Identify customer characteristics by initiating 2 way communication
    • Make the interaction efficient and satisfying for both parties
A good example is Personalization features in Amazon record customer preferences by asking her to rate/tag products ( 2 way communication), displaying recommendations based on user's shopping history or wish list.

Personalization doesn't waste time as it shows users what everyone else sees and then asking you to search or display / hide things. Make the interaction efficient and satisfying for both parties.

Personalization is increasingly becoming popular as it offers a way to focus on customers / users. Tools like collaborative filtering, rating, click stream analysis, cookies help personalization.

Few examples where it can be used - e-Retailer promotion, Financial portal content recommendation, Help desk or on-line technical support content, Gift recommendations for e-Retailer, Music, movie, book , or other product rating and recommendations, Travel - trip planners

Before defining the interface, decide which one you want to choose. Define what you want the interface to accomplish and select accordingly.

Few materials online -

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The shopping list interface

I have noticed many women make a list of the items they like to purchase before they go grocery shopping. Usually they make detailed lists of items which contain the following-
  • quantity (eg: 2 cans of organic milk)
  • size (eg: 200 gms of Tide Powder)
  • brand (eg: Pantene shampoo)
Some shoppers (usually women with kids) are so organized that they prepare a list which reflect the store's floor plan. These lists are based on
  • sections/departments in the store (the items located in the front side of the store, like fruits and vegetables, are placed on the top of the list as this is what the shopper immediately sees after entering the store)
  • further drilled down to the items in that particular aisle (Under diary section, the first items in the aisle are on the top. eg: If milk is placed as the first item, the shopper will have it on the top under diary section)
This organization of the list helps user save time as they do not have to remember what's needed after going to the store and moving back and forth aisles.

What happens when these organized shoppers shop online occasionally? Most of the retail sites allow shopping lists only for returning users. But let's take this particular scenario -

Sue, 43, mother of 3 kids, who usually make the organized list while shopping, accesses the store's website. She does not have much time and quickly needs to buy few items. She know what she needs to buy, but-
  • she needs to go to that particular department, scroll through so many items and then enter quantity and add to the cart. she needs to repeat the same process for every item.
  • or, she needs to type the item in the search field which displays the results and select and again add to cart
Now what if the whole search process was made lot more simpler.
As soon as Sue entered the site, she is given an option to prepare a shopping list. Since she knows exactly what she wants, she can just start typing, exactly the way she writes the list.
The typeahead feature can suggest or help to quickly select the desired products. She can then directly checkout.

This not only saves her time (as her 3 kids keep her busy) due to the reduced number of clicks, but also help continue the offline shopping process in a much efficient manner.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Expressive Typography

Expressive Typography pays attention to physical shapes of type, and uses them as a visual element to convey emotions and not just information.

In the logo below for 'Mahabharat', an Indian epic of a war, the characters fight with each other.

Here 'M' depicts the 'Kauravs' who are trying to trample the 'Pandavs'. As the eye moves towards 'B' the Pandavas stand up for their rights and fight against them.

In the image below, the letters are positioned/ arranged in such a way to depict 'sluggishness'.

Expressive Typography can bridge the 'meaning' and the 'type' together. Eg: Jost Hochuli used a simple 'fi' ligature, to create this meaningful image of unity and integration between two countries (France and Italy).Type can also be used as a collage as shown below

Tag Clouds are examples of 'weighted list' where type depicts the most frequently visited sections of the site. Data clouds may depict varying type to suggest volume, etc.