Which button opens the elevator doors, and which closes them?

Elevator close doors

Elevator open doors

Many people (perhaps most) understand the triangles to be arrows, and see them pointing in to mean “close” and pointing out to mean “open”.  That makes sense in a literal sense.

But I look at the left image and feel a sense of openness, while the right one feels tight and closed up.  So the icons give me the wrong message.  Yes, I can learn that I need to reverse my conclusion, but it’s still a tedious process.  First I look at the buttons, then I when I want to open the doors seek out the one that feels most closed and tight.

What to make of this?  Many icons have problems when used in different cultural contexts.  Perhaps my unusual interpretation of these two buttons is like another cultural difference.

It is important to know that icons don’t always make things simpler, then they can give confusing and misleading messages, and that they need to be used with care.

I’ll be interested in your comments.

The most recent meeting of Maine Interaction Design Association (iDXA) was a group project — generating design ideas for a website to present the work of  artist Adriane Herman.  Here’s how the Maine College of Art (MECA) web site says describes her work:

Adriane Herman references the culture of consumption in the imagery she utilizes and the presentation concepts she has employed to deliver objects ranging from the archival to the edible and in other ways ephemeral. Her 2007 solo exhibition at Center for Maine Contemporary Art monumentalized evidence of human intention toward action as manifested in to do and grocery lists.

Herman collects “to do” lists, and re-constructs them so that these transient documents become archival art objects.  A simple shopping list for a party becomes an introduction to a social experience; the list of tasks preceding a funeral reads as a memorial of love and caring.

Herman’s presentation gave us a striking picture of her passion, her clarity, her professed sense of “disorganization”, and of the patient care that goes into constructing her work. If you ever have a chance to hear her speak — go!

After her talk, we proceeded — individually or in small groups — to map out possible web sites.  Some focused on using well known modules and templates – to promote ease of use.  Others were designed so that the artist (not a “geek”) could maintain the site herself.  I took what I thought was a different path — wanting to create a web site that would model Herman’s world, and would let the user explore that world as viewed by different stakeholders:

  1. Herman’s house or studio, containing all the objects she’s acquired — some of which are already embedded in her art, and others that are waiting for a right place.  Some may be neatly arranged in flat files, while others are just in piles or disorganized boxes.
  2. Museum curator’s view, showing her work arranged by significance, by theme, by era.
  3. Gallery owners view, showing her work as it is for sale, for different uses (e.g. note cards vs framed prints), and at different price points.
  4. Bulletin board view, showing the connections and community that Herman is seeking.
  5. Classroom view, showing the skills,  processes, and methods that Herman can and does teach.
  6. Calender view, showing events, classes, shows, etc.

In order to move through this space, I “created” three new  “tools”:

  1. An envision tool that moves forward from an object to its uses in various art creations.
  2. A remember tool (the opposite of envision), that moves backward from an art object to the objects that comprised or informed it.
  3. An archival trash can, that lets people throw anything out (including objects of their own, not yet on this web site), knowing that nothing thrown out will really disappear.

Clearly, this design is technically challenging.  It represents a web that is not at all linear.  Would this be helpful in showing the complexity of Herman’s artistic life, or is this confusing and hard to use for inquisitive users?  Clearly it’s not “standard based”.

How new is it?  I’m not aware of other such webs, but would be interested to learn that I’ve reinvented something that already exists.

Talk to me!  I’m interested in continuing this conversation.

Choosing how we spend our time

September 29, 2009

I was at a photography show, met a friend and talked about the creative work I’m doing, and about the creative work she’s not doing, and about art and spirit and about love of teaching, and about  living passionately in our lives and about creativity and activismand about creating art.

Then we drifted into talk about politics and the CIA and rendition, and — here’s the point of this  — then we looked at each other and said, “This is not what we want to talk about here”.

And yet we drift into avoiding those subject, and those hard questions, that mean the most to us.  How do we keep ourselves on track — which may be on the difficult track?

On same gender marriage

September 29, 2009

It’s not just that some of my best friends are gay or lesbian.  Some of my best role models for committed relationships are from same gender couples.  I don’t  know much (or anything) about their sex lives, but I’m deeply touched by how they handle growth and change, how they deal with conflicts (and of course there are conflicts), how they respond to opportunities that each partner receives — in short, all the ways in which they create whole, vital, and vibrant relationships.

Why is it so hard for many citizens to draw upon such experience, and why is so much effort being put into denying same gender couples the right to marry?  And why has same gender marriage become so controversial?

There really are two notions of marriage:

  1. The state recognizes a committed relationship between two people as being a kind of family unit, and afforts such a unit special rights regarding taxation, visitation rights in hospitals, inheritance, parental rights, and other such matters of legal or financial significance.  There should be no impediment to allowing a same gender couple the same treatment.
  2. Many religions recognize a committed relationship between two people as being a kind of covenant, and afford such relationships their blessing.  Religions that believe a homosexual relationship to be sinful obviously won’t allow that relationship covenant status — and that is their right.  I wish it were not so, but it is.

Read the rest of this entry »

Learning how others see one’s work can be a frightening trap when one lacks confidence or passion, but can be illuminating when it informs a passionate and committed soul.

“Whatever your problem I’ll solve it.”  That ad ran for years in the Harvard Alumni Magazine . . . but  no — I’ll not match that claim!

Here my value proposition:  Whatever your challenge, I’ll help you address it.  My questions, and occasionally my feedback, will help you find insight and clarity, energy and direction.

That’s what coaches do.  I prefer the term “clarifying” rather than “coaching”, because I’m not directing you.

I do other work where I provide interface designs, photographs, reports, rcommendations.  But my focus today is on helping you find insight and clarity.

Ask me about a half hour free consultation.

Members of the Association for Consulting Expertise introduce ourselves with a short “elevator” speech at the beginning of each monthly meeting.  This one, written for that occasion, doesn’t emphasize  my photography, my creativity coaching, or my work with organizations.

photograph by Arthur Fink

photograph by Arthur Fink

Local Sprouts catering hired me — not to photograph the wedding itself, but to document them at work preparing and serving food at this elegant wedding.  Starting with all the “prep” cooking of local organic food in their Portland kitchen, I then followed them to the wedding tent, and mostly their temporary kitchen in a nearby house.

What a joy it was to watch this energetic and talented crew.   And the wedding guests?  Well, I wasn’t photographing their smiles or contentment, or recording the praise they lavished on the entire Local Sprouts crew.

For me, this is photography as story telling — What I do at weddings, in a dance studio, or on any other assignment.

I just came upon this essay by dance scholar Deborah Cash.  What a wonderful short summary of what dance photography is becoming, and where it came from.

What makes a great question?

September 26, 2009

What makes a great question?

Of course I have my ideas about this one.  All of my consulting and “clarifying” (my term for “coaching”) involves asking questions that illuminate, that invite understanding and inquiry.  Even in doing photography, I often start with questions.

But this one is for you!  I’ll be interested to see your responses

The energy of dance

September 26, 2009

The energy of dance

photograph by Arthur Fink

I heard this story from a speaker at a recent forum on social media.  She told us of working for several hours with a company that creates voice recognition software, and needed help with search engine optimization (SEO) to make sure that their story would get picked up by Google and the like.

As she was leaving, she asked the receptionist, “When people call, do they ask about voice recgnition products?”  “Never!”, replied the receptionist, laughing at the seemingly absurd question. “They ask if we have those computers you can talk to”, she explained.

I find this again and again . . . listening carefully is the key.  And that’s why my business card says “Arthur Fink – Listening to Users”.  In this case, the keywords need to include something like “computers you can talk to”.  Otherwise people will never find this product.

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