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Visual Design


This web design lesson explores visual design and the methods used to develop Web site storyboards and screen creation. This process is a critical step in the Web portfolio design process because it enables visual persuasion and allows for a cohesive composition throughout the product. Many Web portfolio sites are poorly designed visually.


The reasons surrounding this are too many to be discussed fully in this text. However, we will take a proactive approach and explain the qualities that are important in good visual design of Web pages. In addition, we will look at some bad Web portfolio design attributes to get a sense of what is not quite effective when it comes to visual persuasion. The notion of bad design is subjective, but also, design has objective, measurable attributes that lead to visual quality. Many bad designs come from non-art and non-visual disciplines. Technology experts may be poor designers because they focus too much on technology bells and whistles and less on the user.


However, design is emergent and eventually everyone can get better with practice and exposure to design. I hope this web design lesson will act as a catalyst for people who already have a Web portfolio to assess the quality of their design. I would like the new readers to begin to build good habits in their actions as visual and communication designers. Regardless of discipline, when you create a Web portfolio you become a designer. You are developing an information product that serves to solve a communication problem. Therefore, you are playing the role of information designer, communication designer, and graphic designer.


These are roles which you must take seriously because they affect persuasion and appearance. Making your Web portfolio site look good is as important as feeling good about it, because if it looks good and you feel good about it, you’ll tell people about it. Remember, the goal of the Web portfolio is to promote you and your accomplishments, so looks count. The idea that the visual rhetoric of the Web portfolio is vital to its success is supported by Kimball (2003): Just like words, appearance can play and important role in how a piece of work is assessed. This is particularly true in a Web portfolio, because the Web is such a visually intensive medium.


The Web gives authors tremendous flexibility to design have the documents look, any appearance of the documents can make a big impact on how readers perceive the content and the author. Kimball’s point cannot be clearer. Visual design effects user perceptions. He also suggests that the established Web design principles of “subtlety, consis- tency, easy navigation, legibility, and a clear page design” guide you through your Web portfolio page designs. We reinforce these suggested principles extensively throughout the text. As your experience with Web portfolio design increases, so will your fluency with visual design.


Remember that the Web portfolio provides an appearance for you as a professional and a specialist in your field. Ineffective communication caused by poor visual design will result in a lack of credibility. Now, we need to turn our content outline pages and flowchart into site storyboards and develop a style of our own. This process ties in our brain- storming activities with visual design. We are beginning to establish a look to our Web portfolio.


The visual decisions you make about the look, feel, and experience established within your Web portfolio all contribute to style. Ultimately, the content and framework that supports the assets and text will define the style. Style and its connection to the Web portfolio are important because it contributes to identity.


The identity of the Web portfolio is critical to establishing the appearance of the author. We brought the topic of identity up several times in this text but now we are going to expand upon it. Identity defines the Web portfolio. Different identities are needed for different purposes. For example, a designer needs an identity that projects an image that clicks with to her target audience. If the designer specializes in pharmaceutical marketing design, he or she must project a Web portfolio that has clean typographic stature, vivid photographic elements, and an aura of professional- ism that is felt the moment you enter the site.


If the designer focuses on the fashion or entertainment industries, he or she must adapt to a style that fits eloquently into popular culture. This may mean designing towards a certain target audience to gain acceptance as a worthy partner in design. The style needed for educator is quite different from that of the cutting-edge designer. Depending on discipline, educators need to think seriously about their own style and how it will be blended into the Web portfolio. The style issues that challenge educators seem to be to achieve the goals of the institutional audience while feeding their own personal stylistic desires.


I have found that Web portfolios designed by artists seem to be good at meeting individual and institutional style parameters. In my research and unobtrusive observation of many other educator Web portfolios in the technology disci- plines, I found that the sites seem to lack p ersonal identity and were boring or unattractive. I have noticed that a higher level of style linked to identity is seen in the Web portfolios of teachers, those specifically in the discipline of education.


My observations also revealed many poor designs by teachers in Style sample — John Fekner (A simple interface gateways the user to wealth of audio, video, and still image content. Professor Fekner integrated video into the Web portfolio successfully in the late 1990s. He deeply explored QuickTime movie compression schemes needed for quality output at multiple bandwidths.)


In artist John Fekner’s artist and educator Web portfolio, titled INDUSTRIA + TECHNOLOGIA + EPHEMERA, the goal was to produce a site that was heavy in multimedia and artistic content. Professor Fekner explained to me that he wanted his Web portfolio to have a style that was parallel to his artistic style. His artistic style is one of mixing media and technology to produce work that revealed his passion and sorrow for things within society that he cannot control.


This is evidenced in his body of work in the areas of graffiti art, original music, and public display. Observation of John Fekner’s Web portfolio reveals a media rich experience that evokes emotion and wonderment about how the artist came to create his work. Professor Fekner revealed that generating thought-provoking feelings and providing an emotional experience through media were part of the design plan.


The main navigation is original in its vocabulary, which are postmodern terms that have crept into the life of the artist. Examination of the words Industria, Technologica, and Ephemera in the context of Professor Fekner’s Web portfolio reveals that each one leads to a separate section of media. Industria, refers to images representing John Fekner’s graffiti and public display art.


Content includes outdoor stencils that were spray-painted in the New York City area from 1976 through 1985. Still images are set in a simple left side frame set. When clicked, the individual images load in the main section of the Web page. In the Technologica section, videos and music are promi- nently displayed in simple, easy to navigate text-based menus.


The Technologica section provides a robust multimedia experience filled with QuickTime movies of Fekner’s new media video art. Also featured are QuickTime sound clips that provide snippets of original music written, performed, and produced by John Fekner. In the Ephemera section, Professor Fekner has sub navigation linking to a resume, poems, and a personal abstract. The body of work presented in this Web portfolio is a great example of how an academic and artist can use technology for the purpose of art and identity.


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