winter sun

winter sun

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.