Archive for the month “January, 2012”

Questioning a Legend

I’d definitely like to start this post by clarifying something: I’m really freaking excited to meet Jon Meacham. I see it as meeting a member of an entirely different dimension. He’s a citizen of the Twilight Zone, to me. A place quite like our own, but subtly different. He has trod the path of success, tasted the liquor of prosperity, and leads a life few will ever attain. The closest experience I’ve had to this was when I went to a concert for Blink 182 a few months ago. He, before me, will be a living and breathing testament to success.

That being said, I’m having the same problem that Shoe has. Alot of the information I’m finding about Mr.Meacham is rather negative.  It’s a bit difficult to pinpoint a non-touchy subject in a sea of controversy. But I think I’ve found some.

I think, for me, the interest is in his rise to success.

Having become the Newsweek managing editor at 29, an editor at 37, and winning a Pulitzer prize, I’d love to learn a few things. To what does he attribute such an early rise to fame?  Did he find himself facing any particularly large obstacles in reaching such positions so young? And, furthermore, what does he have in store?

Collegiate Rhetoric

The two pages I analyzed were this one from AUM and this one from OCU.


Given my major, I found it most appropriate to compare the pages for each college’s Fine Arts Department, or the equivalent. What I found was rather interesting.


As far as who did a better job? Without a doubt it was OCU. And they achieved this by doing meerely one thing: understanding their audience. Fine Arts majors don’t want to read spreadsheets, charts, graphs, and deterrents like that. They want pictures. They want a clean, elegant interface. They want to read on their own time. They want to see what they’re getting into, not read it. OCU offers a massive photograph as it’s introductory portal, and only offers small tidbits of information under the headers “Inspire,”Prepare,” and “Discover.” The headers offer concise pillars upon which the arts education will stand, and does so elegantly and unobtrusively.

The AUM webpage did an absolutely dreadful job, on the other hand. The Fine Arts homepage is literally stifled with small text and hyperlinks, while providing almost no pictures. Travelling further into individual areas of Fine Arts, the reader is bombarded with statistics, course-plans, and none of which are balanced with informational illustrations or helpful pictures. The OCU page does none of these things. It stays concise and elegant, while offering more information with a link to the Art Department’s page, if you would like more information. And even there, a large picture dominates the page, and a clean UI makes the information pleasant, not daunting, to read.This illustrates that, clearly, OCU understands whom will be reading their page, while AUM does not.


With OCU being the clear victor, I’d like to take the moment to discuss the areas in which it did poorly, as well as where AUM succeeded.


The issue I had with OCU’s page was that it felt very isolated. In removing the clutter of links, they decided to only keep the ones related to the Art Department. Which, to an extend, is a good thing, but it almost gives the sense that the Department isn’t very cooperative with the rest of the school. It doesn’t mean it’s true, but we’re talking about rhetoric. We’re talking about how these design choices make a reader feel. And that’s what it does. It forces the prospective student to travel back to the homepage to continue his research.


With AUM, the page is absolutely littered with hyperlinks. That being said, they’re decently organized, and the student can browse not only the Fine Arts Department, but anywhere within the School of Liberal Arts. It gives a greater sense of connectedness, and makes the user feel more involved in a School of AUM rather than a single, small Department as OCU conveyed.


That being said, both sites had to tackle the same problem. And perhaps it is the same problem that most sites face. That problem is how to inform the user. Every site contains within it massive, stifling amounts of information, ideas, and communities. The job of each site, then, is to manage this, make it pretty, and dish it out on a hot platter to the reader.

Are Hyperlinks Relevant?

Hyperlinks can be one of the most sparkofinsightful parts of a writing. They shed light into the mind of the writer in a way that a written description cannot. They create a very forced depiction of the thoughts at hand, but forced not to their discredit. It emphasizes the personal thoughts of the writer themselves, creating a map into the thoughts and feelings, elaborating in a concise and compelling way.It allows the sharing of experience in a way ever-more intimate and personal than letters possibly could.

Hyperlinks put emotions into words. They place feeling and abstraction into the concreteness of language.

Visual Rhetoric

The idea of visual rhetoric, detailed in the TED Talk, is incredibly sparkofinsightful.

That images or pictures hold more thought, more ideas, than mere words is exactly what defines graphic design.

I can’t speak to the theories he presented, and the technologies he proposed, but I can definitely speak to the power of illustration.

I believe that we tie purely definitions to words. However, with images we tie memories, feelings, experiences, culture, and years of history specific to ourselves.

In that way, images touch us in a level words can never.

What I Am From

I am from cul-de-sacs, from fences too tall and swingsets.

I am from grilled bologna, ham ‘n cheese, apple sauce, and not leaving the table until it was all gone.

I am from dogs, cats, birds and rats. From endless fish, turtles, frogs and gerbils.

I am from Hogwarts, from Fowl Manor, and Camp Green Lake. From Vvardenfell, Arrakeen, and Hobbiton.

I am from science and art, however ridiculous the dichotomy.

I am from books never written, games never made, and thoughts never spoken.

I am from the hundreds of pennies I’ve had in my shoes.

I am from a scattered mind.

My Thoughts on the WWSG

In its entirety, the Web Writing Style Guide has been quite sparkofinsightful. At its most condensed form, it’s taught me that, like businesses, blogs have to draw in attention and make the experience as pleasant as possible. Unfortunately, people won’t always read the articles that are the best written or most comprehensive. Instead, they read what looks the most enticing, and what’s gripped their attention from the get-go.

Originally, I always thought of my graphic design philosophies as seperate from my rhetorical and syntactical strategies but, now, I see that there are more similarities than differences. At least when it comes to maintaining a blog. Just as I would consider with a design, blog posts should be easy to interpret, concise, and aesthetically pleasing.

The WWSG has been alot more sparkofinsightful than I expected, surely. I’m glad I read it.

Map of My Room

As my map, I decided to draw my room. Hopefully I didn’t understate it’s messiness.

I chose it particularly for it’s importance to me. And maybe that sounds dumb, but it’s true. I spend more time in my room than almost anywhere else, so why not commit it to a map? And, that’s particularly why it’s so messy–because I spend so much friggin’ time in it. I find orderly, clean rooms to be pretentious.

Tyler Durden tells us, in Fight Club “I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let… lets evolve, let the chips fall where they may. ”

I may take that a little bit more literally than some people (I sure as heck let the chips fall where they may. And the papers. And bags. And crumbs), but his message here is mine, too. My room not only speaks to me, it also speaks of me. I’m chaotic, disorganized, and lazy. Why shouldn’t my room be, too?

There are certainly design elements at play here, too. These are things that, perhaps, the keen eye would pick up on, shedding light on the importance of the map.

By enshrouding the outside of the room in grey, the map gives a greater sense of singularity, confinement, and security. Each of these evoke the same feeling I have towards my personal space. Spending so much of my time here, apart from the outside, there is a certain familiar sense of detachment. So too does the struggle, here, between straight lines and curved lines, portray my constant struggle between order and chaos, cleanliness and messiness.

Hopefully these feelings, so familiar to me, can be found in my map. Because, in the end, you can learn so terribly much from a persons bedroom.

Beyond Black & White

As a Graphic Design major, I literally couldn’t stop nodding as I read the article.

I really haven’t much to discuss about the theory, really. It’s all cohesive. People like pretty letters. They like to think they aren’t reading alot of words–even when they are.

A good designer utilizes equal parts illustration and description. Leaning either way can, in the wrong hands, easily convey the wrong message.

The concepts outlined in the article are the same concepts we discuss in my studio classes, and are the same concepts that I try to convey in all of my designs. They aren’t as foreign to me as they will be to some of my other classmates.

As I said, I try to convey them in all things that I do, and that doesn’t change when it comes to in-class assignments. I understand the power of aesthetics.



Map That Strikes My Fancy

As the map the struck my fancy, I chose a map from my favorite novel of all time: Dune.

The map is of Arrakis, the setting for the majority of the book. It is a planet covered almost entirely in desert, ravaged by duststorms and massive sandworms.

It struck me as appropriate here because it shows a fine example of how maps can shed light into the society that creates them. Here, we see that the map’s central axis isn’t the equator or meridian, as it would be on Earth, but is, instead, the polar north. Living in the desert, the native Fremen peoples value one thing above all else: water. Having a map of their homeworld focused upon that place that gives most readily their water exemplifies this value.


Not to mention it’s just really crazy to look at.



First Chapter of ‘How to Lie with Maps’

This reading was particularly sparkofinsightful, mainly because I really wasn’t aware of how controversial mapmaking was.
I guess that’s kind of the reason the book was made, actually. The author certainly made a very serious case for why we should be more cartographically literate.

However, I’m still having a bit of difficulty applying his level of passion and vigor towards the subject. At the present, I cannot meet him halfway. He presents the subject as an almost conspiracy theory. Even the cover to the book is comically blown out of proportion, and I can’t help but assume that in 1996, when the book was published, the world was a largely different place. I mean, he couldn’t have possibly foreseen the impact of the Internet and the free exchange of information that would rise from it.

I completely agree that in the limited and confined world of the past, bold lies embedded in maps had a grand impact on how people viewed the world. But that level of conspiracy is practically impossible now. The advent of the worldwide web grants us far-seeing eyes, peering ever-watchful onto every horizon.

On top of their availability, the maps themselves have changed. In America, the consumer no longer seeks the borders and terrain, or bountiful rivers.  He studies the spiderweb of streets and the web of roads. These man-made constructs are more tangible, less prone to dispute, and far more difficult to present incorrectly.

These thoughts are based purely on the first chapter alone, though. I know not what exactly I will learn as I read further. Furthermore, I applied his points to modern-day America,  and thus created a very different picture than had I done so to, say, Sahara Africa, or the forests of New Guinea. I’ll undoubtedly have to widen my scope as I continue to read.

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