It's not what you say, but what you don't say that sometimes matters. This is true not only in life in general, but also in art and design. In this case, I'm referring to white space. White space is, well, the white space around the pictures, the graphics, and the fonts.
I know. I know. It doesn't really do anything except sit there and look white. Or in the case of Wonderland Cafe, sometimes also pink or gray or black. However, there is something to be said for this graphic design equivalent of yin to the picture's yang so to speak.
This week in EdTech 506, we had to read about white space, create a graphic, and then justify why we did what we did with our designs. Fortunately for me, I spent a lot of time thinking about the concept of Wonderland Cafe long before I ever signed up for this class.
I'm bringing this up not because I think I'm all that. Really. I don't. Instead, I bring it up because the assignment in our book "Creating Graphics for Learning and Performance: Lessons in Visual Literacy" asks us to ask ourselves questions about our project that I already asked myself. (Got that?)
In plainer terms, here are the questions:
1.Who are your users and what are the assumptions you make about them (such as age, reading level, and assumed skills.) 2.Why do you think your solution will work; include at least two ideas from the book, including page numbers and your interpretation of the passage used. 3.What you learned from a "user-test" (have someone look at the image and verbalize their thoughts while looking at the image.) 4.The changes you will make based on user comments (or create a revised image.)
The answers to these questions are below.
1. So Who's Coming Down the Rabbit Hole With Me??
My audience for this project is women and their pre-teen/ teen daughters and above. Basically, anyone who would read Young Adult books like "The Hunger Games" or "Cinder" would be good prospects.
I selected this audience for a couple of reasons, with the primary one being that I write for the Young Adult market as a fiction author. My friends who read books also read in this market. Most of them are actually not Young Adults as defined by the publishing market, which are people who are age 12 to 18.
My friend, Gev, who is in her late 20s, is the youngest of my friends who reads "younger" fiction. Most of my friends who read this genre are in their late 30s and up. I do have a few that are actually "in the market," but usually they're these women's daughters or nieces or friends kids. My oldest sister, Cindy, is a great example of this. (Thankfully!)
That's partly what gave me the idea. Mothers and daughters sharing books. The concept of Wonderland Cafe allows me to reach across a broad spectrum of people who might be interested in my books in a natural way.
It helped that I was working with an Alice-in-Wonderland theme. This theme gave me a built-in audience. And it has an aesthetic that has been recently defined by the work of Tim Burton.
This is both a good thing and a bad thing by the way. On the one hand, you have a strong design aesthetic to draw upon. On the other hand, fans of this style won't let you off the hook: They expect visually strong styles.
Case in point: One 3-star review on one of my Alice journals said it needed to be "muchier." If you're a true Alice-in-Wonderland fan, you'll know what that's in reference to.
While I don't necessarily like middle-tier reviews like that, the comment gave me insight into what people expect from something under the Alice-in-Wonderland banner. They like really strong graphics, bold colors, etc. This type of feedback has informed much of my design sense for Wonderland Cafe.
This stance may leave out a few people who like less bold designs, but considering the feedback that my classmates have given me about this project, I'd say it's right on the money for the most part.
Finally, I assume that the users of Wonderland Cafe have some computer literacy, if for no other reason than they would need Internet access to order my books from Amazon.
There are a few general trends I should speak about that may or may not be relevant, but that speak to this. According to an article on Search Engine Land,
Most searches are done on mobile now instead of via computer. Additionally, most people searching Amazon see a book's thumbnail first.
From a design standpoint, Wonderland Cafe's design needs to look good (or at least intriguing) on the small screen of a mobile phone and as a thumbnail on Amazon. Although I'm technically not developing books for this class, Wonderland Cafe has always had a book component to it. Further, I use this same guideline for the designs that I'm creating for the website for this class. These need to look good in smaller sizes, too.
Finally, some of the the rationale for this question also touches on question two, meaning that some of my design solutions were influenced by the audience and the limits of technology. These were not specifically spoken about in the book, which is something that the assignment asks us to speak about.
So onto that…
2. Why I Think my Rabbit Hole Solution Will Work
Although I could give a rationale for all of my design choices, I'll limit them here to white space since that's the focus of this week's assignment.
First, I should talk a bit about the final graphic, which is at the top of the page. I recognize that from a design standpoint, there's a lot going on in terms of the stripes, the illustration, and the fonts. As I mentioned in the previous paragraphs, some of my bolder design decisions stem from what I know that the audience will like and in some cases, demand, in order to be happy.
Because of this, how I used white space became doubly important so that information wouldn't be missed. For the purposes of this graphic, please keep in mind that white space also includes the solid pink and black areas.
Now, knowing that I have a lot going on, I needed to be able to direct where the reader's gaze goes. According to the book on page 272 (Lohr), using white space is a perfect way to do this. It chunks and separates information for you so that the brain can make sense of it. White space in this case is the perfect solution for making the information stand out against the striped background.
Those of you who have been following this from week to week know that the checkerboard/ striped background has been a pretty constant design feature. I don't feel I can really forgo this feature due to how much of the Wonderland Cafe concept rides on it.
Second, white space serves to clarify text on the page, according to Lohr on page 274. We understand what we read by what's around the text or not. This is really a continuation of the above reasoning but more specific for the text. In my mind, this holds especially true with the Curlz font due to its curly cue design. It needed to have some white space behind it to allow it to stand out and be readable.
It's already a more difficult-to-read font than the courier, the other font that I've been using in this series. However, that font serves the Alice-in-Wonderland theme. Therefore, where I use it I can, though usually it's limited. I would never use it say in the "instruction" box on this graphic that explains how to choose your password. That would just be too distracting, and in my opinion, would actually detract from the more serious nature of that instruction.
3. What I Learned in the Rabbit Hole
Although I've already spoken about the feedback that I've gotten all along for this project, the assignment asks us specifically to get feedback from someone on our white space assignment.
I talked to my roommate and asked her what stood out, what needed improving. Below, you'll see the original image that I showed her.
As you can see, the arrows on this graphic are pink. That was my original choice. She told me that she didn't understand why I had pink arrows going from the white box to the pink box. Fortunately, Photoshop allows you to make layers disappear, which I did for her. That graphic is below.
Right away, she saw how the arrows pulled the image together, but she felt that the pink arrows pulled the attention away from the pink box. I asked her if she thought it would help if I made the arrows a shade of gray or lighter pink. She agreed that it would.
4. Renovating the Rabbit Hole
Again, fortunately, her suggestion was easy enough to incorporate. I only had to change the colors of the arrows to correct the graphic. I wasn't sure if I liked it at first, but ultimately, I think it was a good solution to this issue.