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Telecommuting: employment ideas of the future March 24, 2010

Filed under: Technical Writing — marshallakraft @ 1:56 am

Tel·e·com·mute (noun) To work at home using a computer connected to the network of one’s employer. (Dictionary, 2010) This may seem like an unfamiliar word now, but it is likely to be a common association with employer/employee relations in the future.  The idea of remote employment or “telecommute employment” has been practiced since the early 1960’s, and was primarily associated with traveling salesmen or mobile professionals.  It has evolved and gained quite a following over the past forty years, to become an issue that is debated among companies large and small. Many of these companies have mixed views on the relative effectiveness of implementing a program to allow their employees a telecommuting position. In the following proposal I will present evidence that displays some of the vast benefits that are associated with a telecommute position. Some of the benefits I will be illustrating are related to the areas of financial, environmental, productivity, and personal health.

Employer Benefits:

When a company switches to the alternative to the traditional 40-hour workweek, benefits will present themselves in areas such as employer incentives, employee interactions, and environmental impacts I am a firm believer in the philosophy of, “if you do not love what you do, you should not being doing it”. In a traditional work environment most employees feel as if they have become citizens of a cubicle farm, trapped in a 6-by-6 foot cell.

When a company switches to a non-traditional workweek, the benefits may not immediately be accessible, but over time careful study of the program will display a rapid change in productivity increases.  “According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 5.5 million people worked at home in the period from 2006 to 2008. An unrelated study showed that 17.2 million Americans reported working from home or remotely at least one day a month in 2008.” (Brown, 2008). This must be evidence that remote or telecommute employment is not a disadvantage to company productivity. Although each company has a unique version of productive work, it is necessary to not base the same claim for every company. In deciding to integrate a telecommute program, the company needs to be reminded of financial benefits for both the company and their employees. “A happy worker, is a busy worker” needs to be the new motto and attitude businesses should adopt for employee management. “Telecommuting appears to facilitate an improvement in worker productivity. Eighty-seven percent (87%) of telecommuters from a 1995 survey and 82.6% from a 1996 telephone survey reported improved productivity and overall work performance over the prior year. Supervisors reported improved or sustained productivity (100%) and improved overall performance (96.7%) for telecommuters over the prior year” (Commonwealth, 2010). Most companies would prefer not to lose an employee during a relocation of the company. With the advent of telecommuting, the employee can potentially stay with the company, even if the office moves from one city or state to another. “For example, let’s say an employee’s spouse’s job is transferred to a city across the country. The employee likes working for his current employer, but for family reasons must move to the new location. A company that offers telecommuting might be able to keep this seasoned and productive employee working for them. This situation offers benefits for both the employee, who still has a job, along with the employer, who doesn’t have to train a new employee and retains possibly the best person for the position” (Brown, 2008).

Employee Benefits:

Aside from feeling more satisfied with their jobs, many telecommuting employees claim there are benefits to the position that affect both their professional and personal lives.  It has been reported that the most helpful and beneficial aspect of a telecommuting position, is the ability to create your own flexible work shifts.  “This can also be a benefit for those that have many clients in different time zones” (Brown, 2008). This in turn, allows the employee more time for family and personal lives. “Along with individual flexibility, a telecommuting position can help you better balance your job with your personal life. There is a possibility for less conflict in trying to balance the demands of a family with full-time job when telecommuting” (Brown, 2008).  In the wake of the recent outbreak of the H1N1 Swine Flue, many telecommuters could have been an essential key to stopping the spread of the virus. Telecommuters, are not required to be in an office every single day, thus reducing the spread of disease and sickness throughout the company. “With health officials fearing a heavy outbreak of the H1N1 flu, technology experts say there are plenty of ways for businesses to keep employees productive, even if they must close their offices” (O’Grady, 2009).

Environmental Benefits:

Every year more cars are driven to and from work, increasing the amount of pollution affecting our environment.  What exactly can be done to improve the health of our environment? Drive less. The less we spend in our cars, driving to work, will decrease the amount of carbon dioxide or smog in the atmosphere.  Carpooling can help offset the pollution created by four individual drivers, who ride-share in a single car. Why not just eliminate the car altogether with a telecommute position?  “According to a 2008 study conducted by Telework Exchange, a company that aims to increase telecommuting options for workers, around 9.7 billion gallons of gas and $38.2 billion can be saved each year, if only 53 percent of all white-collar workers telecommute two days a week.”  (Chen, 2010). “Research network Undressed4Success, estimates that the United Sates could save $500 billion a year, reduce Persian Gulf oil imports by 28 percent and take the equivalent of 7 million cars off the road if workers were allowed to telecommute just half of the time” (Chen, 2010). Imagine just how significantly better our atmosphere and environment would improve if we were to telecommute three-quarters or even full-time.  “Condensing a 40-hour work week into 4 day-such as the state of Utah and others have done with resounding success-means a 20 percent reduction of pollution, gas consumption and carbon footprint for all employees, not to mention cost savings for the company” (Chen, 2010). Results from a 1995 – 1996 study in Massachusetts provided the following environment benefits of telecommuting. “Of those responding to the initial survey, 124 telecommuters reported telecommuting an average of 2.26 days per week. Utilizing the 28 average fewer miles per telecommuting day, a total of 7847 miles per week were “saved.” This translates to approximately 400,000 fewer miles driven per year, an average of 3,226 per telecommuter/per year. Based on national average, it is estimated that the telecommuters participating in this study saved roughly 18,600 gallons of fuel per year. At today’s average price for regular unleaded gasoline ($1.29/gal, 1994 average), this represents an average total dollar savings of $194 per telecommuter/per year” (Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 2010).

Rebuttal:

Because most telecommuting employees are given the option to decide their individual schedules, it is hard to find any negative aspects of the position.  Most of the research prepared for this proposal, was written in support of promoting the idea of telecommuting.  Negative aspects of the position are few and hard to discover, but I was able to discover a couple minor negative aspects regarding the position. “ Even for those whose jobs can be done remotely, telecommuting is not always the best option. Working at home can be isolating and the downfall of folks who find it difficult to stay on track and meet deadlines without supervision” (CTW Features, 2008).  In government offices that have chosen to reroute employment via telecommuting a new view of the government employee has arisen in the eyes of the public. “ I don’t like it at all, because I feel we’re accountable to the taxpayer. Someone should know where we’re at during our eight hours a day,” says Bob Brinkhouse, Child Support Officer, Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department (Wertheimer, 2010).

Case Studies:

Across the nation and the globe as well many companies have decided to start out with a trial period of telecommuting employment for a select group of employees. Every business is unique in their own business practices, but most view telecommuting as strange in the beginning, but the program does have a beneficial outcome. “One of the common problems is that traditional job design rarely incorporates telecommuting options. Although many businesses, including major corporations, adopted telecommuting as a working employment model back in the 1990’s, many mainstream employment market business models have still been designed for onsite jobs” (CVTips, 2010). When your company eventually decides to incorporate a telecommute program, expect comments or frazzled feelings from your competitors and customers alike. They may be unfamiliar with this particular style of consumerism, but the uniqueness of the idea, will stick with the mind of the public in a sense generating free publicity for the company!

“The practical reality is that anything that doesn’t have to be done onsite, can be turned into a telecommuting job” (CVTips, 2010).  The current workweek of 9-to-5 Monday through Friday resulting in a 40-hour workweek, is changing rapidly. For example, countries in Europe are closely watching the French workweek.  In France a traditional workweek is still 40 hours long, but is completed in just four 10-hour workdays. It seems to be working well for their economy and consumerism, why can’t we try that here? “Today’s labor laws are perfectly suited to 1960. The 40-hour week, 9-to-5, all that was codified in an era when men went off to an assembly line, and women stayed home” (Montagne, 2010). Clearly a change is necessary in our “traditional” workweek. Most families has both men and women in the workforce, this means that productivity should increase correct? Not always the case, as evidenced by the current recession our country is dealing with.

In the face of a down economy, many companies have managed to drive down operating costs, while increasing productivity and generating more business for themselves. List Innovation Solutions in northern Virginia, has nearly 100 employees who all participate in a telecommute program. “If you can give people something that can ease their day, your retention rate’s going to go way up” says Katie Sleep LIS’ owner. “In LIS’s case it went up 95 percent. And study after study show productivity also shoots up. More than half of companies now say they offer flextime, and a third allow telecommuting at least part time” (Montagne, 2010). Flex time is a policy spreading throughout the business world similar to telecommuting, because it gives employees the option to choose their own work schedules at least part time or sometimes full time. MC2 Studios in San Antonio, Texas has switched to a non-traditional shift, by allowing employees the option to telecommute. Not surprisingly, most took the option.  “Last year, Malcolm Coon (founder, CEO) moved MC2 Studios from a 2,300-suare-foot office to a new one, that is just 800 square feet” (Thomas, 2009).  The employee switch and subsequent move has allowed MC2 Studios to save nearly two-thirds in rent payments. “Overall, I would say it has made people more productive,” he says. “They are not spending two hours a day in traffic. Also, the ability to share tools on your desktop has made it easier to keep in touch. It has removed the need to have everyone congregate in a single location every day” (Thomas, 2009).

Perhaps one of the most successfully integrated telecommute programs was achieved by an unlikely source, a government office. “It begins with a traffic problem on 35W in Minneapolis. The state doesn’t want to pay to widen the interstate, so last year, it asked some offices along the route to let employees work from home. One of those may be the last place you’d imagine as cutting-edge, 21st –century workplace. It’s the Human Services and Public Health Department of Hennepin County, Minnesota” (Wertheimer, 2010).  Productivity increased so much; the program has been named ROWE, Results Only Work Environment. “In a pure ROWE, paid time off disappears, who needs it if you make your own schedule” (Wertheimer, 2010).  This success has also raised the issue of sick and vacation time piling up. At the time of this writing this issue has not been resolved, but will need to be resolved with the next labor union contract.  Did telecommuting save employees sanity, and save money, is the office completely empty? Not at all, on average there are still employees in the office. “In a basement conference room, two dozen county workers line a U-shaped table” (Wertheimer, 2010). When asked why, employees responded, “old habits die hard.”

Big business is rapidly taking notice of the associated reduce in operating costs for employees that telecommute. Fortune magazine recently released their list of “100 best companies to work for.  “Numbers 1. SAS, 4. Google, 16. Cisco, and 51. Microsoft” (Fortune, 2010), as well as many others all see the simplicity and effectiveness of a telecommuting program in their organization. A survey of 3600 workers in 36 markets, was performed by Microsoft Corp. evaluated each market for the percentage of workers who say their jobs can be done from working outside the office. “Boston came in first in the country, followed by, Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Atlanta; and Denver. Kansas City ranked in at number five, followed by Richmond, VA; Austin, TX; New York, NY; Sacramento, CA; and Portland, OR.” (Kansas City Business Journal, 2010). “Customer service representatives might be able to take calls from home or a coffee shop just as easily as they can from an office. Lawyers can review patent contracts from home using a secure server system. Even doctors are using technology to help them diagnose patients remotely” (CVTips, 2010).

Financial Considerations:

A major factor in determining whether or not to implement a telecommuting program within the company is usually related to financial costs of the program. When the idea of telecommuting began in the early 1960’s costs may have been relatively low, since most telecommute employees were salesmen or some type of skilled tradesmen offering their services along the road.  In our current age of connectivity, the cost of implementing a telecommute program or hiring telecommuting employees, is an issue that is debated to have positive and negative argument points.  “The reason many people choose to telecommute is because the Internet and modem communication devices have made it possible for these tasks to be performed remotely” (CVTips 2010).  As technology increases the connectivity of the world, reflectively many technologies that keep us connected such as modems, cell phones, and Wi-Fi Internet service have all dropped dramatically in price. It is advisable to consult a tax account specialist to aid in purchases for a telecommuting employment position because most of these items can be classified as work-related expenses that are considered a tax write-off.   Security is an issue related to financial costs of a telecommute program’s end result. Is this connection secure, are our files remaining confidential, or is a third party hacking our servers? These are some of the questions to keep in mind when examining   telecommute program’s benefits. “A virtual private network with a separate hardware controller, for example, provides the most security, and phone systems that run over Internet protocols can be channeled anywhere” (O’Grady, 2009).

In a effort to help offset costs in a hectic economy, some employees are willing to negotiate salary options. “You can even offer to take a pay reduction, if appropriate, over the trial period. Many telecommuters do so because working onsite is too expensive” (CVTips, 2010). “New tools and employer tech support have made it convenient for employees to stay in touch with their managers and colleagues through calls, instant messaging, or video conferencing software” (CVTips, 2010).

Conclusion:

In conclusion it is ultimately the company’s decision on whether or not to create and integrate a telecommuting program. Will the program boost productivity among its employees? Should a trial period be utilized to study company and employee affects to the workload?  What environmental changes will we affect? Is this program cost-effective?  These are questions to ponder during a decision period while reviewing the proposal for switching to a telecommute employment program. In return I challenge the following question. “Are your employees content with their current work schedule, or could revisions be necessary to the antiquated 1960’s employment model to improve attitudes”? Finally, “the practical reality is that anything that doesn’t have to be done onsite, can be turned into a telecommuting job” (CVTips, 2010). Be prepared to show your company how you are more productive and effective to the company, while completing your work with fewer distractions from your home or mobile based office.

References

Brown, J. (2008, December 8). 10 reasons to telecommute. Retrieved March 10, 2010, from http://home.howstuffworks.com/‌10-reasons-to-telecommute.htm#

Chen, K. J. (2010, March 12). Telecommuting two days a week could save billions [Web log post]. Retrieved from Telecommuting Two Days a Week Could Save Billions-Earth911.com

Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2010). Telecommuting. In Telecommuting (energy and environmental affairs) [environmental study of telecommuting in Massachusetts]. Retrieved March 16, 2010, from Department of energy and resources website: http://www.mass.gov/‌?pageID=eoeeaterminal&L=3&L0=Home&L1=Energy,+Utilities+%26+Clean+Technologies&L2=Alternative+Fuels&sid=Eoeea&b=terminalcontent&f=doer_alternative_fuels_telecommuting&csid=Eoeea

CTW Features. (2008, September 2). High price of gas fuels debate over telecommuting. NYDailyNews.com. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/‌jobs/‌2008/‌09/‌02/‌2008-09-02_high_price_of_gas_fuels_debate_over_tele.html

CVTips.com. (2010). How to write a telecommuting proposal [briefing of topics to cover in a telecommuting proposal]. Retrieved February 23, 2010, from CVTIps.com website: http://www.cvtips.com/‌career-success/‌how-to-write-a-telecommuting-proposal.html

CVTips.com. (2010). Tips for negotiating telecommuting with your employer [briefing of topics to relate in a telecommuting proposal]. Retrieved February 23, 2010, from http://www.cvtips.com/‌career-success/‌how-to-write-a-telecommuting-proposal.html

How to Persuade Your Employer to Let You Telecommute. (2010). How to Persuade Your Employer to Let You Telecommute (on the job behavior) [Telecommuting persuasion]. Retrieved February 23, 2010, from cv tips website: http://www.cvtips.com/‌career-success/‌how-to-persuade-your-employer-to-let-you-telecommute.html

Kansas City Business Journal. (2010, March 11). Kansas City ranks fifth for telecommuting. Kansas City Business Journal. Retrieved from http://www.bizjournals.com/‌kansascity/‌stories/‌2010/‌03/‌08/‌daily48.html

Ludden, J. (Speaker). (2010, March 15). When employers make room for work-life balance [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/‌templates/‌story/‌story.php?storyId=124611210

O’Grady, P. (2009, October 9). Telecommuting could be key for businesses facing flu outbreak. Phoenix Business Journal. Retrieved from http://www.bizjournals.com/‌phoenix/‌stories/‌2009/‌10/‌12/‌story9.html?q=telecommuting

100 best companies to work for. (2010, February 8). 100 best companies to work for [detailed listing of top telecommute companies]. Retrieved March 18, 2010, from Fortune magazine website: http://money.cnn.com/‌magazines/‌fortune/‌bestcompanies/‌2010/‌full_list/

Telecommute. (2009). In Houghton Mifflin Company (Trans.), The American heritage® dictionary of the English language (4th ed.). Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/‌browse/‌telecommute

Telecommuting Jobs: 15 Ideas. (2010). Telecommuting Jobs: 15 Ideas (job types) [Career Advice]. Retrieved February 23, 2010, from cv tips website: http://www.cvtips.com/‌career-choice/‌telecommuting-jobs-number-ideas.html

Thomas, M. W. (2009, June 19). MC2 Studios cuts costs, bolsters productivity with telecommuting. San Antonio Business Journal. Retrieved from http://www.bizjournals.com/‌sanantonio/‌stories/‌2009/‌06/‌22/‌story8.html?q=telecommuting

Wertheimer, L. (2010, March 16). The end of 9-to-5: When work time is anytime [Audio file]. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/‌templates/‌transcript/‌transcript.php?storyId=124705801

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Aesthetic Style, from this point on… March 20, 2010

Filed under: Design Theory — marshallakraft @ 5:45 pm

From this point on… is a turning point style statement ideal to me, since I decided roughly three years ago to pursue passion not profit. I believe I have to ability to creatively design, while effectively reducing waste consumption and improving health. Physical and emotional health is essential to improving my quality of life. I design using a worldview that I hope to expand with more travel and exposure to the different cultures of the world. Connectivity is achievable only through honest understanding and empathetic connections between the peoples of the world.

From my own sources of inspiration and interpretation, I  identify with heavy use of contrast, chiaroscuro, and emotional transition. I like to travel, but sadly have done very little of it. This does not mean that I have not experienced the world at all. Everyone has a past, but how many can claim to cite the bullet in their head as a major source of inspiration and motivation? I don’t take life for granted, I believe in bold statement, and “swimming against the stream”. Individualism is essential to create effectively. I also believe it is the connections in our personal life, that effectively prepare us for our professional lives. Over the past few years I have seen this evidenced in my life, as I connected with my niece and nephews. I never felt a connection to younger generations prior to this, now I keep the spectrum of age differences in mind while creating.  With the birth of my first child later this year, I believe I have the ability to affect the next generation in a positive manner.

 

Gestalt explained briefly March 17, 2010

Filed under: Design Theory — marshallakraft @ 11:31 pm

extra credit?

How to define gestalt?  In the simplest terms, I think of it as a Lego building. To achieve gestalt t principles, you must be able to view the sum of all parts related to a design. Lego building blocks work much like this concept. A single Lego block is interesting, but ultimate it is destined for a greater purpose in building an intricate or basic building, ship, racecar or some other structure that is made from a collection of individual blocks now combined to one design.

Below are three variations regarding the definition of gestalt:

ge·stalt

/gəˈʃtɑlt, -ˈʃtɔlt, -ˈstɑlt, -ˈstɔlt/ 1.

A configuration, pattern, or organized field having specific properties that cannot be derived from the summation of its component parts; a unified whole.

2.

An instance or example of such a unified whole.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/gestalt

Gestalt psychology (also Gestalt theory of the Berlin School) is a theory of mind and brain that proposes that the operational principle of the brain is holistic, parallel, and analog, with self-organizing tendencies; or, that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

http://www.statemaster.com/encyclopedia/Gestalt-psychology

Gestalt principles are the Phi Phenomenon, which is the illusion of movement from presenting stimuli in rapid succession. When you see a cartoon or running Christmas lights, you see movement (although none actually exists) because of this principle.

http://www.alleydog.com/101notes/s&p.html

Figure Ground displayed.

My example of figure ground.

Figure ground is a highly used and well-known gestalt principle that is mostly (but not always) displayed in two color illustrations. Most famously is the “vase/faces” example.

Rubin's Vase

A goal in utilizing the figure ground principle is the create a play upon vision by varying the object that is the figure “front” and the ground “back” image. I have seen that a lot of optical illusions are based upon the figure ground relationship, so that your eye becomes confused with the logic of what it is seeing.

Visual Funhouse painted pepsi truck

 

Takaways from John Berger’s “Ways of Seeing” March 13, 2010

Filed under: Design Theory — marshallakraft @ 7:40 pm

Ways of Seeing by John Berger was written in the early 1970’s as a companion to the BBC television series (available on YouTube) of the same name. This book was a fantastic way to introduce deeply common and yet important factors that relate to how a designer “thinks” about his/her design. The thinking in question can be subconscious or blatantly apparent in their individual approach to the use of design properties such as contrast (tonal or sizes), perspective, sex appeal, and sometimes-fanciful escapism.   The first four chapters are nicely balanced to illustrate the key points around the topics (perspective, tone, and mysticism were all covered in the early chapters).

Mysticism was an early takeaway lesson I garnered from the book. If memory serves me correctly, I already had a vague grasp of the concept Berger explored involving mysticism and its involvement in the “deterioration” of the original work after it has been copied repeatedly. “Original paintings are silent and still in a sense that information never is” wrote Berger. In the book he used DaVinci’s Mona Lisa as an example of a painting that has lost the intended mystery, due to over reproduction.  This may have been true at the 1972 publication, but is it true today? Dan Brown in a sense re-mystified the painting and artist with his DaVinci Code book. This act caused the world to look again at DaVinci as well as many other renaissance artists for clues to secrecy. Did this act detract or add to the mystery of the original painting? I have never seen the Mona Lisa in person, but friends have seen it and been confounded by its presence. They have reportedly felt ambivalent to the original, because of the actual size or hype and mystery surrounding it. I think actually the Mona Lisa could serve as an exception to the loss of mysticism rule. Over time the painting has continued to baffle experts and commoners alike.

Near the end of his book, Berger really began to speak to me clearly and concisely in a way that has spoken true even after thirty years of publication.  As a last though Berger begins to explain the corollary between past classics and modern advertising. Berger purports and I agree that most modern advertising is either reminiscent or directly representative of old oil paintings have created a new type of art called publicity. Publicity is act of creating the mundane into expressive and at times extravagant portrayals of the “real world”.

The biggest aha moments taken Berger involved his examination and explanation of publicity as an art form. Some of the common themes he sees in advertising that also appear in oil paintings are “The man as knight (horseman) becomes motorist”, “the equation of drinking and success”, The sea offering a new life”, “sex-object (Venus, nymph, surprised) etc”, as well as many more but I see these four models more than any other.  You can view these four models in one specific type of advertising, sometimes all four are include in one commercial.  Automobile commercials are some of the most expensive, analyzed, and scripted advertising campaigns. “You are what you have “ (Berger p139), “the purpose of publicity is to make the spectator marginally dissatisfied with his present way of life” (p142), “the gap between what publicity actually offers and he future it promises, corresponds with the gap between what the spectator-buyer feels himself to be and what he would like to be”(p148), “Publicity is the life of this culture-in so far as without publicity capitalism could not survive-and at the same time publicity is its dream” (p.154)

All those quotes serve to illustrate my example of the car commercial. When I watch television, and a car commercial appears it drives me nuts. Almost all cars portrayed on television are silver, black, or off-white/silver hues much like the knights of oil paintings.  Mazda, Oldsmobile, Acura, Cadillac are considered luxury item cars, and nearly all are driven on wide open roads in a forest, mountains, desert, or an inexplicably empty sea coast road. This imagery serves the “new life” in a new car purpose, portraying that in this new car you are untouchable by society and are essentially free to be your own man/woman.  Cadillac had an excellent mix of the “knight”, “sex-object”, and “success” themes in commercial involving Kate Walsh and their CTS-Coupe. The car was silver, Walsh drove in high heels while speaking a monologue about leaving the bar/diner from a “power meeting” and “surprising the boys with her car’s power”. Finally nearly all car companies have tried to replicate the “you are what you have” theme in their advertising both in print and digital formats. Each company purports that their car is the best, and the most envious of your neighbors and friends.

 

Colors, Signs, & Cultures March 8, 2010

Filed under: Design Theory — marshallakraft @ 5:43 am

Our world is ever expanding and shrinking at the same time. The closer our varying cultures mix together, we also risk offending another culture with simple use of colors, symbols, icons, or index. These may have a single meaning in our eyes, but could have a vastly different interpretation to another viewer. It seems that no longer can we design for our single culture; with the advent of the Internet we must be aware of designing for the broader spectrum of our planet’s cultures.

I found these British street signs to be confusing. I think this is supposed to be an index type sign that is meant to either mean, “merging traffic ahead” or “left turns ahead”.

I think it is the latter, but I think our American “hidden driveways” signs serve as a more informative index sign.

Across the globe, colors can have varying meanings both culturally and spiritually. In Thailand the color purple is a symbol of mourning for widows, while in western cultures (and some European historical cultures), it is the color of royalty.

I recently came across an interesting logo/advertisement from the US . This is a fantastic example of different cultures viewing the same image in two very different tones. According to the book I found it in, the image was produced in, Australia while being displayed in San Francisco. It didn’t take too long for controversy among Americans over the blatant display of the middle finger, and not the number 6, of which it was intended to be representin

However another symbol that has raised a lot of controversy over the past 60-70 years, is the swastika. Forever doomed to be an iconic incarnation of evil, because of its association with the Nazi Party. Closer examination can reveal that the symbol is much older than history has led us to believe.  It has ties to Sanskrit, Buddhism, and early Indian cultures, and has been debated whether it is a symbol for good or evil, reports suggest it may be dependent upon the right or left facing position of the icon.

While researching a global aspect regarding ignorance in the area of different cultures viewing the same colors, symbols, or icons I found a brewing controversy involving the color of a bakery in Faribault, Minnesota. MARIANO PEREZ, is the owner of Los 3 Reyes Bakery in downtown Faribault. The downtown area of this Minnesota suburb is old, and thus has traditional old brick buildings. Mr. Perez who is of Latin descent wanted to give his storefront a more eye catching appearance so that he would standout from the rest of the monotone brick buildings. He painted the storefront a shade of pale to bright green. Local business owners near to him, found the color to be distracting labeling it an “eyesore” and petitioned city hall to have Perez change the color. When Perez informed the locals that he could not afford to repaint the entire building front, the business owners offered to pay for it.
Why is this a controversy, because it seems to be an issue of ignorance over who has the right to choose a buildings appearance. Perez, is not angry that the paint must be changed, just confused as to why such a happy color has received such negativity in the community. For my part, I am still confused why he has to change the color, because as you can view below there are other local business that have painted over the monotone bricks in more bold colors.

To read more about this color clash in Faribault, Minnesota please click here.

 

Moose symbols, icons, & indexes explained March 7, 2010

Filed under: Design Theory — marshallakraft @ 7:19 pm

An icon is a pictorial representation (that can come from historical culture. An icon is also a word or graphic symbol that has direct meaning or a visual representation to the object it is representing. Bullwinkle the Moose, has become an icon of sorts. Children of the 1960’s and on from western cultures would likely easily recognize him as being of moose origins, as indicated by his antlers and instant connect to his name Bullwinkle the Moose.

An index is a device that serves to indicate value or quantity. The index is a visual sign that directly illustrates the message displayed. In this case the index sign serves as a cautionary warning for drivers to be wary of moose (and possible elk) in the area, as they can cause serious damage to the driver’s automobile.

A symbol is something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship. It is also a visible sign that represents something that is invisible. Rudolph the red nosed reindeer is a symbol.  He is not only for Christmas, which as a date is only visible upon a calendar, but is also a symbol of the traditional Christian, related holiday season.  By association he has also become a related symbol to the person known as Santa Claus. Santa Claus has various forms across the world while Rudolph has only one,  he is the red nosed reindeer.

Dave Dion examples:

symbols Icons and signs

Libby Hanaford examples:

Signs Project(2)

 

Designing for Accessibility February 15, 2010

Filed under: Design Theory — marshallakraft @ 2:42 am

My primary background deals with a mixture of print and web design. These two areas of design have individual approaches regarding accessibility. In print, accessibility means to incorporate either a tactile or braille element, in addition to providing visual examples without requiring common language knowledge.
Examples of this can be found on electrical equipment found in the home or in commercial settings. I use my lawnmower as an example of designing a printed material that is accessible for all users. Within the manual and guidebook are several cautionary warnings and advisements for prevention of injury or death. The warnings are printed in several languages, and also include bold yellow images that visually present the dangerous elements of improper use of the lawnmower. I have also found that manipulating text can increase the effectiveness of the warning. “Type should be large, preferably at least 16 to 18 points” (Arditi, 2010). Other elements that will boost a printed materials accessibility can be; contrast, point size, leading, font family, font style, font color, letter spacing, margins, and clear images. It is also to include accompanying text with any images, in order to describe the image in case a reader cannot see the image clearly. By following some simple rules when designing for accessibility, you can increase the safety of the product being used or utilized. One interesting example I came across in my life recently happened when I was purchasing band-aids for an injury. I discovered Johnson & Johnson who create the Band-Aid brand, have begun putting brail on their packages. I checked all the other companies in the first aid aisle, and found that they were the sole provider of accessibility for the visually impaired.
In web design, accessibility has a different mode of application. Although Braille computers exist, they can be expensive to buy.” you can pick up a decent PC for a thousand bucks — the displays sell for $9,500 to $17,000.” (Haldane, 2003) Web design accessibility means that the designer needs to be able to create a site for the common users, as well as users that may be visually, phonetically, or audibly impaired users.
Programs that are utilized for accessibility include screen readers, which help visually impaired users, and clear concise text for audibly impaired users. Physiologically impaired users must rely on consistent navigation and low sensitivity settings on created links. In Adobe Dreamweaver, the design can choose within a set amount of pixels to create the active link.
It is important to keep accessibility in mind when designing, not only for the morality and ethical reasons of “doing no harm” but also because by law websites have to be accessible to all users. I could not find any actual law that states, “All printed material must be accessible to everyone”. However common sense implies that in consumerism, you want to reach the highest user audience possible without harming or excluding anyone. As far as any ways to increase accessibility, I would like to schedule an interview with Johnson & Johnson regarding future plans for their products’ accessibility. I like the Braille aspect in print, but another option may be to provide a “sample” product much like an auto parts store does in their muffler and oil filter sections. In web accessibility, I think the screen reader software needs to not be read so robotic. This was briefly touched upon in the KUOW podcast, which talked at length about how websites may be functional to our eyes and ears, in reality is not very helpful and often times is distracting or plain indiscernible when translated through an E-reader screen software for the visually impaired. Do these programs need to read the specific code “end line” because I found it to be immensely distracting and couldn’t begin to imagine how a blind person would interpret this information? Is it possible to borrow the GPS personality technology in order to provide different voices for different ethnic groups or nationalities?

References
Arditi, A., Ph.D. (n.d.). Designing for people with partial sight [designing for accessibility in print]. Retrieved February 14, 2010, from http://www.lighthouse.org/accessibility/design/accessible-print-design/making-text-legible
Haldane, M. (2003, March 6). Braille for computers [Newsgroup message]. Retrieved from McGill Reporter: http://www.mcgill.ca/reporter/35/11/hayward/
Peck, N. (2002, December 2). An introduction to accessible web design [web design accessibility]. Retrieved from http://articles.sitepoint.com/article/accessible-web-design