Archive for November, 2006

Information Architects Japan » Blog Archive » Read different: Apple ads in Japan

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

The ‘I’m a Mac’ Apple ads have started playing in Japan with different actors and, it turns out, different scripts.

Information Architects Japan have provided a translation and something of a commentary, and it’s quite revealing. On the face of it that ads sound awful, but there’s method in the madness:

“In Japan you’re considered particularly dumb and obnoxious if you’re caught bragging about your strengths, and smart and nice if you play them down. The western Mac ads would backfire in Japan (the Mac would appear to lack class). The Japanese ads wouldn’t work in the west (no real message).”

The rest of the page is worth reading too for some interesting insights into why translating an ad from one culture to another doesn’t always work as simply as you’d think, even in the supposed global village.

Why is academia seen as not the real world?

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

I’ve just sat through a very interesting presentation (by my boss, so I would say that, but it was) about his research and he showed an image of Delft University and how they have a recruitment shop on campus where students can meet employers, learn about job opportunities, develop certain skills etc. He said it showed how the university was integrating academia with ‘the real world’.

Now that’s a phrase I hear a lot, and use myself. But the thing about me is, I’m a contrarian. If I hear someone use some sort of cliche I like to challenge it, usually privately and at length. (I’m a very boring person to know, it has to be said).
I found myself wondering why it is that people, us academics as well, contrast academia with ‘the real world’ as though the two are separate.

I usually use it tongue-in-cheek (I call it TRW) but actually it has a major role to play in a paper I’m writing at the moment on the gulf that exists between the UK design industry (as represented by Creative and Cultural Skills and design courses who, according to industry, are not doing their job properly. I’m finding that there’s no evidence to support the view and quite a lot to suggest that the way the industry views itself is based on dangerous misconceptions about the way it operates.

More on that in January after the conference I’m speaking at.

But this mention of TRW was fortuitous today because it jolted me. It’s another myth, and one we gladly play along with – that academia has nothing to do with the real world.

But it’s not true. At the same presentation a colleague explained how she’d been researching the factors that make hospitals comfortable places to work in. Now I’ve not done it any justice in that brief description; suffice to say it’s very complex stuff with some fascinating results and potential applications. In what way is that not related to ‘the real world’?

Given the major contribution the academic sector makes to the economy as a whole, and the impact it has (often invisible but there) on society (in the building outside my window they discovered the cancer gene, apparently) I think it’s about time people started acknowledging that academia is the real world.


Saturday, November 18th, 2006

My first book Visual Communication: From Theory to Practice took the award for Best Book in the Tertiary Education category of the British Book Awards on Wednesday night, beating off what I thought was a tough rival.

Congratulations to the team at AVA, my co-author Lucienne Roberts, and to designer Bob Wilkinson. Also to the designers who took the time to be interviewed for it, including (among others) Neville Brody, Michael Beirut, Erik Spiekermann and the young and up-coming Emmi Salonen.

Buy it at or

I spotted someone buying it in Borders in Brighton the other week and plucked up the courage to ask them why. Then realised it made me look like I haunt book shops desperately trying to see if anyone will buy it. I don’t, honest!

Halo 3: A lack of perspective

Saturday, November 18th, 2006

I’ve been looking at some screenshots from the upcoming Halo 3 (which, sadly, looks like more of the same as the other two games – maybe I’m wrong) and something has been worrying me. The same niggle occurs looking at a lot of images from games for the new generation of consoles.

Take a look at this shot, for example and see if you can spot it. (More shots here)

It’s far too detailed. It seems to be a case of ‘just because you can’ design. So the new processors mean we can have lots more detail, so why don’t we?

Take a look at the mountain in the background. Well, is it in the background? Or is it actually just a few metres away from the emplacement we’re supposed to be looking at.

Admittedly this is a shot from the pre-beta of the game, so maybe the problem will be sorted soon, but essentially what this boils down to is a lack of perspective, specifically ‘atmospheric perspective’. Even on a bright, dry, sunny day, the atmospheric conditions should cause objects in the distance to become blurred and more blue in hue. Even the ground to the bottom left of the image, close by, should not be as detailed as the ground nearest the camera.

There’s just too much detail in these shots and not enough realism. Which is ironic given that the boast of these new consoles is the increased realism.

Stick to the brief

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

I got the complete box set of “A Bit Of Fry & Laurie” on DVD the other day, and this sketch, ‘Architect’, stands out for me as a rather good analysis of how some designers just can’t seem to follow a brief…

Stephen is sitting behind, yes, a desk. On the desk there is what appears to be an architect's model of a fairly pleasing housing estate. Nicely done, trees, a stream, model people walking dogs and so on. Hugh is explaining it.

Hugh And basically I think ... or what I hope I'vemanaged to achieve with this design is a new direction. The emphasis is very much on the quality of people's day to day lives. I know it doesn't correspond exactly to the initial brief, but I hope you'll agree it has qualities that really set it apart from any other contemporary design. Hah.
That's it really. I'm very excited about it.

Stephen Yes.

Hugh So what do you think?

Stephen Ahem. Mr Braganza ...

Hugh Please be honest.

Stephen I will. I will. But first of all can I ask you why you chose to depart from the ... er ... shall we say traditional ... ?

Hugh You mean the old shoe box approach.

Stephen That's it.

Hugh The strict, rectangular lines ...

Stephen That's right. Shoe box.

Hugh Well to be honest, Mr Catchpole, that style is out, it's dead. Brutalism, modernism, post-modernism, all those isms are finished with. We've got to look at people's lives.

Stephen Yes, quite. The thing is, when we asked for a shoe box, we did actually mean a box for putting shoes in. We are a shoe manufacturer, you see. And we really do need to put our shoes in a box.

Hugh Oh I know that. I know that. But by carrying on with the same old rectangular prisons, you're only stifling the human spirit. I'm trying to free the human spirit.

Stephen Well that's ... that's fine. But you see, I'm left with the problem of where to put our shoes. I need a box to put our shoes in, you see? I need a shoe box.

Hugh Need? Who are we to say what's needed, in the sense of some fancy design idea that's going to blight the lives of generations to come?

Stephen I don't think our shoe boxes have blighted any generations.

Hugh Well I wouuldn't be too sure about that.

Stephen Nick. Let me put it this way. To me, a shoe box is just a machine for keeping shoes in.

Hugh Oh yes? And to hell with human spirit, that's what you're saying.

Stephen Not really.

Hugh I know what it is. It's the cost, isn't it? You're frightened of how much it's going to cost.

Stephen No, I'm frightened of where I'm going to put our shoes.

Hugh Well forget money. Because there are some things that can't be calculated to the last penny. I'm talking about human lives.

Stephen Yes, you see, I'm talking about shoes.

Hugh Oh shoes, shoes. Is that all you think about?

Stephen When I'm at work, yes.

Hugh Well then I feel sorry for you. In fact, I pity you.

Stephen Well ...

Hugh But I'll do you a shoebox, if that's what you want. I don't know how I'll live with myself, but if that's what you want, I'll do you a nice, safe, ordinary, rectangular shoebox.

Stephen Thank you.

Hugh picks up the model.

Hugh I'll take this away, then.

Stephen No no. Leave it here. I think we can find a use for it.

Hugh What?

Stephen Some of our workers might want to live in it.