Short-term Memory and UI Design

Not too long ago, I attended a talk by Jeff Johnson hosted by BayCHI. He introduced his new book Designing with the Mind in Mind, which reveals the psychology behind user interface design. His lessons covered everything from Gestalt theory to blind spots, but what I found most interesting was the influence of memory.

Short-term memory is best described as the conscious mind. It is what is happening right now. Is it how many numbers you can remember, which is 3-5 unrelated items (e.g. a zip code) or more if the items are related (e.g. 3-5 random words vs. a sentence of words). The latter uses the brain’s feature detection, which draws on connections from previous experiences—more neurons fire and trigger recognition.

A scenario of this is if I am typing a collection of words into a search engine and those words are out of sight once the search results are presented, I may become frustrated as a user because the task has distracted me from recalling what words I entered into the search field. To help the user recall what words were used, some search results have the words highlighted. Providing cues like this will help the user focus on the task and aid in the recall of information.

What I walked away with was that asking a user to keep track of features in his/her short-term memory is work. Good design is invisible and UI/UX is no exception. Intuition is based on experience, so the more unified and consistent and experience is, the more likely a task will seem effortless.

Short-term memory does have its faults as seen here in this video. While entertaining in a prank sort of way, it also shows how task and distraction can blind us from what is literally right in front of us. Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYeJ1BHHDIg

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Change is good

Change is good—or so the saying goes. Our namesake Oya is the goddess of change, a force of nature that creates the turbulence needed to wipe away the old stuff to make way for new growth. Thus, in that spirit we embarked on a journey which breathed new life into our own story.

On a lazy Sunday morning while walking the dog, I decided to get curious about a small “For Lease” sign that I had been passing for the last 6 months. Each time I passed it I was curious, but not THAT curious.  Finally, we had been in our office on Los Gatos Blvd. for over 8 years and I was itching for a change of scenery.

I am a seasoned mover. I have lived in more places than I can count and I can pack boxes like the pros. Aside from the hard labor, I must confess I really like to move. It’s a great way to clean out the clutter and freshen up the environment.

So, on that lazy Sunday, we took a look at the space for lease and knew we had found our new home. It is located in the bustling downtown of Los Gatos, above a clothing boutique called Nuance and directly across the street from the Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Co. We have the best address EVER!  One University Avenue! How great is that?

The space is funky, artsy, and cozy. It is the “it” and “happenin’” place!  Everyone who is anyone is meeting across the street for coffee or being served cocktails at Val’s. We even have front row seats for Jazz on the Plazz. It all happens right outside my office window.  And, now we have BRICK!  Everybody knows that to be considered an “it” agency you simply must have brick—and now we do. We have arrived at our new home and it’s all good.

Drop by and see us. I’ll buy the coffee.

Letterpress Printing

I recently completed a series of workshops at the Center for the Book in San Francisco in order to be certified to rent their letterpress printing equipment. After spending so much time on the computer designing complex interfaces and using programs to layout pages of content, it was refreshing to get back to good old ink, paper, and type.

Each of the three workshops lasted for 8 hours, totaling 24 hours worth of press time. The instructors were experts on the Vandercook press and taught us the mechanics of the machines as well as printmaking techniques. We started each class with a task (usually laying out a page of a small chapbook), which involved choosing a typeface and handset it on a composing stick seen here.

Composing Stick, Letterpress printing

Composing Stick, Letterpress printing

California job case

California job case

This often took the most time to do since you had to find each character in the giant California job case (a drawer segmenting the individual letters from one typeface), place the letters on the composing stick spelling the words backwards, and use leading plus spaces (solid metal parts for filling space) to lock up any loose areas. Once the type was all set, it was transferred to a galley (a metal tray), then onto the bed of the press. Blocks of wood called furniture were placed around the composition then locked into place with a quoin.

From there, ink was mixed by hand and applied to the rollers of the Vandercook press. Letting the rollers run for a bit helped distribute the ink so the color and density of the ink was even across the composition. Next, the rollers were set on ‘trip’ to ink the composition and the paper was aligned to the printing area.

Test runs were then done to determine the impression or bite the type had into the paper, the density of the ink, to check if any of the characters were damaged, and to check the registration of the page. Once all adjustments and corrections were made, it was a repetitive process of inserting paper, rolling the rollers over the bed, and removing the printed piece to dry. After the print run was completed, type was removed, cleaned, and sorted back into their cases, and the rollers were cleaned in a very process driven way so none of the ink we used was left over for the next print run to pick up.

Other details like adjusting the impression in the paper, printing multiple colors, using photo polymer plates, and printing on damp paper were taught in the second and third workshops. Now, it is remembering it all and doing it on my own.

Letterpress I, a book of overheard sayings

Letterpress II, posters

Letterpress II, posters

Letterpress III, Chapbook of false truths

Letterpress III, Chapbook of false truths

Letterpress III, Chapbook close up

Letterpress III, Chapbook close up

Here’s a great short documentary on how letterpress printing is done and why it is so appealing:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iv69kB_e9KY

Here is an interesting description of what a chapbook is, its origins, and where my inspiration for my composition came from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapbook
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wise_Men_of_Gotham

Here are photos of the prints currently on exhibit at the Center for the Book. After going through all three workshops, I truly appreciate how much of a craft this is and how exceptional these prints are—a must see!
http://www.aardvarkletterpressfinearteditions.com/editions.html

Take the classes and learn the craft of letterpress printing! Students ranged from computer programmers, to graphic designers, to Telsa engineers!
http://sfcb.org/workshops