winter sun

winter sun

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Just not sure?

It's here! The go ahead for the new website is in your hands. Where do you start? There's so much that we have to pour into our websites these days and you don't want to leave anything out—I understand.

Maybe the agency has just delivered a shiny new website design for your approval and something doesn't quite feel right. You're wondering whether the agency is pulling the wool over your eyes. You're just not sure about all of this.

These are the kinds of problems that I solve—strategy, information architecture, and usability. 

I get it. Pressure from colleagues and constituents can be immense. They want you to include everything, but usability studies show that too much information turns people off.

  • How can you be sure what to leave out and what to leave in—is it the right stuff?
  • How can you be sure that you are keeping users happy and giving them rich online, tablet, and mobile experiences—the kinds that turn stumblers into returning loyal customers? 

I know, it's confusing. I'm here to help you figure out what you want. 

But honestly I have to tell you, I am not right for everyone! My doctorate is a rare degree concentrating on interactive learning and human emotion response to design. In my consultancy I work for a few select clients every year, and for those select few, I do an extraordinary job—I only work for clients that I want to work for and for those who want to work with me. Is that you? Drop me an old fashioned email at Let's get this conversation started.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Context for Cincinnati

My suggestion that there might be a scientific explanation for common emotional responses to different typeface designs has raised the hackles of one designer in Cincy. He seemed to suggest that I hadn't considered context at all. Context is all he argued. My research had stripped context out of the equation and he was mad! Audience matters, he contended.

But let me explain. What I was really asking is: Is there something deeper to how we respond to design? ... Something more a result of being human rather than attributable to context--something that might even trump audience and context? Something basic, something innate, something that results from how the brain operates and how human beings perceive the world?

My research creates a baseline from which other research will proceed--it's called Basic research (capital "B"). Here's how the research study was designed: I created categories of typeface variables (such as weight, etc.), then I carefully chose basic typefaces (many of which seem to have no apparent emotional meaning) and sorted them so that I could compare pairs of typefaces (for example, a light weight face compared to a heavy weight typeface). Then I asked participants to look at alphabet samples of the typeface designs (one at a time) and to rank each typeface across 12 emotions using a 0-4 intensity scale. This way participants could have several emotions concurrently, or exhibit conflicting emotions, or state that they felt no emotion at all! Then I analyzed the data to determine whether the paired comparisons were significant for certain emotions. Then my grad students and I created some information graphics to demonstrate the results.

Basic research looks for underlying reasons and ignores social implications... "Things loved for one reason in a particular situation, can be hated for the same reason in another." (Hassenzahl, 2004). So, Cincy Design Guy, context will come further along down the road--and yes, of course context is going to affect results, just as color and other considerations might.

Contact me to support this research, and read the study in Visible Language Journal.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


@WV Fiber Festival

Can't say how much I loved the ASI Wool Handling workshop. Fellow shepherds, fiber artists. Add joy. Change the world.

Friday, August 10, 2012

What inspires my Typography + Emotion research?

Report follow-up to my presentation at SOTA's TypeCon in Milwaukee August 5, 2012— There are multiple goals for my research--I want to help normal people cut through the clutter of our noisy visual world. I want to help people understand the visual language of design (and type) so that they can understand what other people are trying to say through design and so that they can apply typographic controls to design their own communications. I want to help designers to produce creative works that connect better with their audiences in order to influence behavior (e.g. brands that inspire loyalty, packaging that sells better, learning designs that stay in memory longer, highway signs that help people avoid accidents, etc.). All of those goals rely upon understanding what design structures influence, motivate, persuade, and inform people's actions and behavior.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Long awaited commencements

Dr. Barbara Martinson, Dr. Beth E. Koch, Dr. Sauman Chu
University of Minnesota School of Design
Graduate Commencement, May 2012.

University of Minnesota Duluth, Graphic Design faculty
and MFA graduate students at commencement, May 2012.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Observations and conjecture

What CAN'T the computer do. I sense something big is happening. People are relegating KNOWING ABOUT things to the computer. These days bigger and more complex processes, mathematical calculations, and massive amounts of data can be handled simply by pushing a button to execute a series of commands. We don't need to know how or understand why it happens.

Here's a great example: a music professor at Stanford (where else?) is turning iPads and mobile devices into instruments. He says, you don't need to know HOW to play an instrument with his aps, you just MAKE the music by tapping and interacting with the devices. (Who would want to spend years of their life learning to master the piano classics when jamming and creating something new is so much fun?)

Well that's it. My big observation. People won't need to know a thing. People will just DO and CREATE. Computers can't do or create by themselves.

What do you imagine the implications of that are?