Archive for June, 2010
Last month, Carole invited me to come in, lecture and help her graduating MA Textile Futures students understand the value of building an online presence of their own. I ended up putting together a few presentations to explain the value of what the internet was about, how it could help them in their career, etc. I learnt a lot and observed a lot along the way. Some of it shocked me, some of it are service ideas that are just screaming to happen and I thought I’d share. Feel free to reap the benefits :)
It’s 2010. The golden age of technology right? Well, managing an online presence, understanding what it’s all for when you’re not a web designer or involved in web design or “social media”, turns out to be more obscure than in 2005. Let me explain.
In 2003, I took a Flash class in my product design course. Horrible, obscure stuff where the end result was a Flash website. Need I say more? In 2005, half way through my master’s in IDII, I learnt how to code my own website (thanks to the many hours I spent with Didier who had the patience to teach me HTML & CSS). The year after that Yaniv made it compulsory to use WordPress to communicate our progress in our thesis work. I still find PHP a horrible thing to understand, but the hours spent paid off eventually. I moved on to being Karola’s sysadmin and web designer (I get jewellery in return you see) which keeps me coding once in a while. So all in all, that’s 5 years worth of investment that unless you’re in a “media” course of some sort, you’ll never encounter. This is a problem.
1. The internet’s ultimate designer package.
Most students will access the internet to have access to particular social communities (FB, Twitter, etc), do google searches for images and check email. They have no real understanding about the value of having their own URL (nevermind that they don’t know what URL means) until you ask them to Google themselves. Then they get it. If there’s a business idea here, its a packaged “registration, hosting and wordpress/tumblr/whatever installation” package. Having that will compete and just eat up horrible sites like indexhibit.org (i don’t even want to link to them) to stop taking advantage of creative people who just want a “box” to put images and captions in. Designers want to worry about the right things, want some degree of personalisation and want to get on with the business of designing quickly.
2. Ignorance is not bliss.
Reliance on “IT support” is strong in the creative industries. This means the IT sector takes the piss and doesn’t educate designers. There is no knowledge exchange, there are only service providers who make designers totally dependant. Explaining to a designer what FTP is, getting them to write their first index.html page and upload it and see it there, means they can then understand what happens behind the curtain and can have a creative discussion about it. Again, not talking about anyone involved in the “new media” sector but everyone else, photographers, textile designers, product designers, etc. Some of the women I spoke to about this (was an all-women course) were amazed and happy to build a vocabulary that made that world of acronyms make more sense.
3. Portfolio communities are horrible.
One of the missconceptions of design graduates, is that shoving their work into online communities for other designers will help them build a voice online. Looking at my own experience, when I graduated from product design school, core77 and if you were a bit cool, Computer Love or if you were really cool K10K were the places to go. What changed soon after that, was that your best friend online became Google and the blogs that linked to the work ( think WMMNA, Cool Hunting, Swissmiss or Mocoloco). In 2010, well it’s partially about Twitter love, but still very much about Google, not about walled gardens but about rich networks of relationships.
4. Flickr’s golden opportunity.
I just spent the day with Karola rethinking her website, and in the end, we found that it was easier to ask her to update Flickr and for her website to just link to slideshows of work. She understands HTML because I bullied her into it ;) , but she’s obviously now much more active and at ease thinking about Flickr, managing an image around her work, and thinking about the power of imagery. So we redesigned her website to basically end up being a “wrapper” around Flickr sets. It’s not Flickr, so she feels its her own space. If you Google her, you’ll get her website first, which is what she wants, but all the assets end up living elsewhere, in a space she’s happy to manage and where customer support is easy to handle through commenting. If Flickr was interested in monetizing at all, this I think would be a nice way to do it.
In the end, I was happy to come and talk to the students about this, because noone had really bothered to give me such an introduction when I was a student. I’m not sure to what extent this shouldn’t become a compulsory module for design course “Online identity management” as so much of our work as professionals relies on promoting our work as much as possible, and this isn’t only through publications in magazines anymore. With the recent cuts in education, I doubt this idea will have any traction, but hey, that’s my 10 cents.
Two thoughts late in the evening as I continue to think about what makes paper different. Not better or worse, just different from pixels.
1. I bought this month’s Wired UK as I’m a sucker for a cup of earl grey and a read and right in the middle of it, there was a perfume sample ( l’Eau d’Issey pour hommes) and that made me happy. I like sticking my nose and inhaling a little portion of an experience someone is trying to sell me. It works because I can try it without buying it. It works because it gets me to stick my nose to a piece of paper. Totally strange gesture which, as women, you are invited to do all the time. To the extent that I’m sure most women know what glossy paper smells like. There’s something there.
2. I’m reading another Duras at the moment. And I like showing off that I’m reading in a foreign language. It’s a peacock behaviour of course. Will pixels help with that at all? Where can we show off now that everyone and their chav cousin has an iPhone, soon an iPad?
What does it mean to be at home while nearly nowhere for long enough?
Am in Vienna already watching the sun set with a glass of “je ne sais quoi” in my hands. I am playing the piano on my iPad to practice away from home. Watched Sex and the City 2 and laughed a lot. Must buy more shoes now.
I am, temporarily, culturally confused.
I went to a conference and a few days later my friend Michelle came up with “Twitter compliant” as a way of rating presentations. Today I walked around the beautiful new Maxxi museum of Modern Art and Architecture in Rome (another Zaha Hadid project) and thought that some 21st century compliance would really help.
The fact is that whether they like it or not, these types of museums have to compete with the Moma, Palais de Tokyo and Tate Modern, or more locally Triennale. That this is the first radically modern building in a while in Rome almost takes a back seat for the average museum buff. Modern Art museums compete internationally in terms of architecture, curation and services and this one, while succeeding fantastically on the first fails at every other level.
Just to name a few challenges that can be easily fixed:
- Lack of toilet seats (!!!!) and for such a huge space, not enough facilities
- Terribly small caffe that will very quickly be over capacity.
- No space to sit down inside, no benches unless you’re supposed to look at a movie, nothing. Makes the whole experience really exhausting as there are many long corridors in true Hadid style. You need the benches to get people to go: “wow what a great space”.
- Really bad artists info signage with clearly no real guidelines about how far away the signage is from the piece, making people look around for it.
- No signs on whether photography is allowed or not, meaning someone has to speak into a microphone occasionally to say to people not to take pictures, transforming the space into a mall or supermarket, and not a museum.
- The entrance and ticket desk becomes a nightmare when there are more than 20 people queuing. Good luck this summer.
- The book store is super tiny and not interesting. If anything is to be learnt from 21st century museums, is that its all about the book stores.
- Running your stuff on Macs means you’ll get this problem quite often and look totally stupid.
So there. Such a contrast to super-well organised events happening in the same city but clearly in a different century.