ATTENTION SPACE AND MEANING in GRAPHIC DESIGN
Attention Tracking Workshop with Alan Prohm, PhD
Course Syllabus May 2008
Time: 10 – 15 hrs, October 22,23,24 ; 28,29,30, TaiK Graphic Design Department
About this course:
This course is designed as a short intensive workshop for MA students in Graphic Design. It looks at design from the perspective of a viewer’s visual and mental attention, and studies how different graphical elements can be used to attract it, guide it, and assist it in the creation of desired meanings. It is both a practical exploration of the most basic of strategies in visual communication, and a philosophical investigation of how our minds and our experience are shaped by the forces that control our attention. Students will learn and use a simple empirical technique for testing the effect a visual text has on its reader’s attention, and then use insights from this study, and from supporting lectures, to produce new designs that attempt to engage the viewer’s attention more actively.
Assignments for the workshop will be kept simple and the working time outside of class will be kept to a minimum. The lecturing will be intensive but also kept to a minimum, focusing mainly on introducing useful concepts and cultural contexts for discussion. The course offers graphic design and media design students an opportunity to look at their practice from a new perspective, and in an experimental spirit.
Week One: Learning the Attention Tracking method. Conducting the test. Discussing attention and its role in life, society and the design of visual messaging.
Week Two: Creating your own designs. Strategies for directing attention. Empirical testing to refine your designs, and evaluating the results.
- Pre-assignment to have ready for the first meeting:
Students search out and bring in 2 SAMPLES of graphic design work
1 – a simple image or message
(any image, text, object or interface, i.e. anything that has been graphically designed, that PRESENTS A SIMPLE OR SINGLE THING, THOUGHT, SIGN, IMAGE, or IDEA)
2 – a densely constellated visual text
(i.e. with many interrelated elements; where several or many things, thoughts, signs, images or ideas have been placed
together in a unified visual and informational composition)
Choosing: I do not have specific expectations for what you bring in. I want you to choose what the words bring to mind, for each scale of graphic design object I’m asking for. Make it easy, pick quickly and without too much thought from things you have around you or are familiar to you or that you really like, or that you just happen to find.
- TO POINT, TO ALIGN, TO PLANE
Wednesday 22 October
- Load all samples into two separate slideshows a), b).
- Set up Attention Tracking test for each folder.
- All students take the Attention Tracking test.
- Each student undertakes to perform the test on 2-3 other subjects, not from the class.
- ATTENTION as TECHNIQUE, RESOURCE and FORCE
Thursday 23 October
- View initial results from attention tracking study.
- Discuss techniques and possibilities for analysing data.
- Lecture and discuss on a) attention tracking in the design
industry, b) attention tracking as social research and social control, and c) the bio-energetic importance of attention for human life.
- ATTENTION TRACKING as EMPIRICAL METHOD and INSIGHT PRACTICE
Friday 24 October
- Discussion and lecture about the “mechanics” of attention
tracking and attention guidance.
- Lecture on the basics of a “Visual Poetics” or a technical
science of preparing meaningful texts for attention.
- Plan and discuss specific techniques and strategies worth
experimenting with in the final assignment.
- Each student chooses one constraint or strategy (among
possibly others) to experiment with in their own design.
4. MANIPULATIVE INTENTIONS – (FINAL PROJECT)
Assignment during the gap:
For Wednesday (day 4), bring a rough draft of a design you have made that tries to take advantage of/profit from/apply some particular feature/property/or constraint we have observed in our study as impacting how attention behaves when reading a visual text. Develop and articulate a hypothesis about how you expect/hope people’s attention to move when viewing the sketch you have made.
For Friday (day 6): final work. Developing from your sketch, you will produce a final “rich text”, exploiting what you know about visual attention and meaning making to deliver a significant point effectively, i.e with enhanced spatial-temporal and semiotic impact. By “rich text “ I mean layered, and information-rich, possibly combining many different aesthetic styles, semiotic systems, graphical tools or media. The text can correspond to any of the scales we used when selecting the 3 SAMPLES.
Tuesday 28 October
- Test the hypotheses behind the draft designs using Attention Tracking; see if people looked the way you expected them to. And when they didn’t, can you see what made them look where they did?
- Students discuss the results and application potentials with the group.
- Time to work on the design and integrate insights from the test.
5. WORKING THE LANGUAGE IN THE VISUALS
Wednesday 29 October
- Time to work on designs.
- Present work in progress, discuss, critique with whole group.
- Lecture/discussion on the visual language elements each person is working with; basic terminology for talking about sign systems and kinds of visual meaning; rough overview of what would constitute a holistic or total visual semiotics.
Thursday 30 October
- Time to work on designs
- Presentation and Critiques