Monthly Archives: October 2014

Processing #1

Processing is an open sourced programming language based on Java, with the main purpose of teaching programming fundamentals in a visual context – making it the tool of choice for a lot of new media art, electronic arts, and other visual design projects.

I installed it on my home machine, running Fedora Linux, as processing is cross-platform, however I did need to run the script from its home directory in order to run, as a native .rpm file is not supplied.

I quickly learned the basic syntax of programming after a while of playing with the software and looking at tutorials etc, as I initially had no experience. I saw in practice how results were achieved through use of functions with parameters, defining and using variables to control outcomes of the code as well as looking at responsive coding in this scenario, since processing is a visual language I ensured that code written would work regardless of the window size, for example.

To start, I drew a rectangle using the default function “rect” with parameters to define its size. I could see how variables became relevant when doing this by defining some and passing them in the “rect” function to change the parameters of the rectangle. Additionally I looked at “void setup();” and “void draw();” – what seemed to be the fundamental element of beginning to animate in processing. Code in “void setup();” was essentially the setup for the sketch, as per the name, and would include basics such as the framerate, background colour, canvas size, options for anti-aliasing etc, and would not re-render every frame as the animation played. Code in “void draw();” would re-render for each frame, the speed of which was defined in setup by the “frameRate();” function. I set this at 30 initially when experimenting, as is commonly used for animation and TV in Europe, however I later changed this to 60fps when drawing objects from the mouse position as they were not keeping up if I moved the mouse quickly. This is the rate commonly used in video games, particularly PC.

Processing can take data from a variety of sources and parse it in various ways, such as camera feeds, heat sensors, GPS, accelerometers etc. My plans for continuing to develop my knowledge in processing are to create some visualizer-type sketches, perhaps for accompaniment to music, and eventually projects based on camera feeds and similar.

Audience analysis and planning for Visual Communication #2

Paying attention to our initial requirements gathering sessions of watching crowds flow through the Media School reception equipped us with the knowledge necessary to begin analysing our findings in more depth, and ultimately to come up with a set of prototype designs. As per the iterative process informing our plans, we could then reflect on the prototype, analyse results gained from it, make changes and re-evaluate until a suitable outcome is reached.

Looking at the results from our observations suggested that optimal places were plentiful due to the omnidirectional nature of the environment, with a type of “funnel” in the middle. We theorised that, as people tended to look at what was unusual about their environment, we should incorporate that sense into our design. Things that weren’t part of the every-hour happenings in the area included camera crews, large group meetings, interviews, and people moving around with audio equipment. These were the incidents that garnered the most attention and so we set about thinking of ways we could translate this into a design language – something that would stand out against other posters against which we were technically competing with for attention of the passing audience.

We toyed with ideas of;

  • Surreal imagery
  • Human, personable imagery
  • Calls to action, direct address

Surreal imagery could, due to its particularly unusual nature, attract attention in a similar way to how the infrequent appearances of camera crews and similar attracted more attention than the normal occurrences of the area, such as people using their phones. This is opposed to text-based posters and similar; our thinking behind this was that text is everywhere you look, and people may naturally filter it out in some cases if it were a primary design feature, however this idea would be something we test in the implementation stage of the process in order to gauge peoples interest in the poster compared to text-based.

We considered more human, personable imagery as we found when observing people that eye contact was often made as they felt attention in their direction, and perhaps as a natural response to the sensation of being watched. We considered using eyes, hands, and other features to attract attention, as well as evocative imagery that could potentially have a personal effect on people.

Calls to action we decided would most likely make up the text sections of our design prototypes, as it could be argued people might be more likely to respond to a direct address at them, a call to action for them to do something, as well as the implication of time running out. However this would rely on people looking at the poster and reading it initially, which we hoped would be backed up by striking imagery.

Next in the process we are going to design a selection of prototypes, and then display them in the area and make judgments on their performance, with the intention of informing our evaluation and likely changes to the designs.

Audience Behaviour in Visual Communication #1

A crucial element amongst many, of successful visual communication, is knowing your audience. Specifically, how they behave in spaces and how they respond to various media types in their environment, that is, in addition to producing compelling and relevant work. Articulate enough to communicate vital information, yet evocative enough to create a positive response. Ultimately, to create the will of wanting to digest that information.

Currently I am partaking in a mock-poster group project to campaign for an independent Dorset. In addition to producing the poster itself we have been tasked with carrying out research based around audience habits, in order to help decide where the poster would be most optimally be placed, as well as considering which design elements and visual language will be most successful in catching the eye of passing students in the Media School reception area. After brainstorming and producing some initial sketches, we carried out a short study of student activity in the reception area in order to try and make deductions from the behaviour of our target audience. The benefits of doing this include:

  • Information on optimal visual styles to be used, based on viewing distance and angle, environment colours, environment lighting etc.
  • Seeing which current artifacts garner the most attention from the audience – we can try and look at why and how they do so.
  • Thinking about where a poster might optimally be placed for maximum exposure to passing students.
  • Informing discourse on how much information should be included on the poster, and how a visual hierarchy might be established based on viewing times and proximity.

We took note of how busy the area was, what particular activities were occurring at the time, as well as the time of day and week – as environment variables that could affect how people engaged with the environment. Studying the area for a short 10 minute session yielded some useful results in itself. We found that at 3PM on a Thursday, action between the TV3 studio and coffee shop in particular, mostly included a busy scene overall with a few groups having meetings, conducting interviews and using camera equipment. It could be argued that in this particular scenario, true results may have been skewed as the largest notable action carried out by passing students seemed to be glancing at the TV and audio crews, and after that, looking at the large crowds with no particular intention other than a glance as they passed from one end to the other. I feel it may be wise to repeat the study another day for equality – however it could be argued that this situation would just be representative of a normal period of time in the Media School reception due to its nature.

Other occurrences that we noticed were people making eye contact as we observed them, which is to be expected in a sense, however it could be contested that this suggests a personal or searching type of visual style could be useful in grabbing attention. People glanced at the coffee queue as they walked in, the 6 screen array as they walked out, and had a tendency to pay particular attention to the police box from across the room as they left. This could suggest that people find more interest in the more surreal or unusual features of the space – which is an observation that could be factored into creating an eye-catching poster. People tended to take the quickest path through the space, however not everyone was necessarily in a rush as we also observed people stopping and watching the large televisions. To conclude, possible ideas from this early stage of investigation might include putting posters on walls behind seating areas, where people may catch them as they look at other people, or perhaps on the pillars where there are also seating areas. Additionally, posters near televisions or monitors may also be successful.