I tried to sit down and think about video games and how modules affect them. Immediately I came up with the pixel, which makes up everything we see in video games, from the text to the characters. Each pixel is a module. This was more apparent in the earlier days of video games. While we could go as far back as Pong, I like to think of the original Mario Bros. game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The image of Mario as composed by these pixels has actually become relatively well-known. In fact, most video gamers would recognize the pixellated Mario on the same level as they would the Mario in the newest Mario games. Really, these pixels end up representing not only Mario, but nostalgia, a classic, and history in video games.
Another well-known game that revolves around modules is Sim City for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The game revolves around city planning, specifying zones as residential, commercial, and industrial, and helping them flourish. Each zone makes up a module, but is composed of nine modules (not counting the pixels making up the picture). The modules, when grown can fuse together to make a greater module with larger population and economic capacities. It is essential to understand how each module affects one another to make a successful city. For example, a residential module right next to an industrial zone will not be able to fuse together and maximize the limited space for building, and will also cause citizens to complain about pollution.
Eight modules placed together in a ring are referred to as a donut. Donuts are seen as individual modules as well since the even number allows for maximum growth potential if similar zones are placed. And the empty module in the middle can be occupied with a fire or police department, to protect the modules circling it from crime and fire.
It is a game made up of modules and about modules!
I was watching the weather channel the other day (because I apparently have that kind of time) and noticed how the image presented incorporated a lot of the design elements that we have discusses lately. Watching the storm tracker, the entire screen is framed by my TV set. Within that frame is another frame which contains a box to show the area of the world we are viewing. The image shown uses color to represent the type to geographic landscape. For example, green is used for forested or relatively flat terrain, while brown us used for mountainous terrain. Layers have a strong presence here. The bottom most layer would be a map of the United States and the ocean. Super imposed over that is a layer showing topography and lines dividing up the individual states. Imposed over this layer is the images of storms and their movements. My showing all of these layers, we can see how the terrain is affecting the movement of the storms as they accumulate, disperse, and traverse the country.
Even when the map zooms out and shows the globe, a grid divides the map and the storm systems by latitude and longitude. Withing each section of the grid is essentially a module, so we can measure the speed and size of a storm system. It is easier to measure by module or at least to comprehend rather than do it by sight in a close up view. Over the ocean this would be particularly difficult to do since it is all blue and does not have any specific topographic identifiers except for lighter shades of blue near the land. Working together, this mixture or layers, colors, grids, and modules is able to help us understand the weather. I guess this is a good example of data layers and how much they can show without the audience having to heavily think about it.
For this reading, I will focus on framing and will also jump back a little bit to hierarchy as it relates to framing. If we think of Web interfaces as a type of frame, than we have another dynamic to consider when designing for the Web. The Web has changed the way we must think of framing. Where print publications have their most rudimentary frame in the page itself (granted the page is framed on more than one way) the Web complicates the way that information is framed. Designers cannot guarantee that all of their audience will be working with a certain sized monitor, which frames the page. Even if the page was viewed on the same sized monitor, the audience have the option to scroll, essentially reframing the information shown. The reframing has hierarchy to it. Viewers expect that the designer put the most important information within the frame that will be viewed first.
The way that the audience views the page will be different as well. While the traditional z pattern reading will still be employed, audiences on the Web typically scan the page in general, looking for a link or a headline that seems interesting or important. It is less likely that the readers will read everything on a page than it would be on a print document. Headlines and good labels to establish hierarchy and modules of information will be of utmost importance to increase the readability of a Web site. But headlines and labels also a form of framing too. In Graphic Design several methods of combining image and text are shown, each ending with a different framing of the image. But what about bodies of text? Can words not also frame text? True, the GD says that an image on its own is open to interpretation, but can words also be open to interpretation? Wouldn’t a picture also serve as framing for another picture? If I displayed two images of Hiroshima, the day before the bomb was dropped and the day after, wouldn’t I be framing the context of each picture? Something to consider.
I think that this reading illustrated how many elements of design can be broken down into these exact elements. I know that I could not think of one single publication produced at University Marketing and Communications that did not have several, if not all of these elements as building blocks that resulted in a final product. For example, most projects are completed in InDesign with work in Photoshop as well. Each of these programs utilizes grids for layout and making changes. Often, the grids are turned off, but even in InDesign, the element of the grid is still there in the form of guides at the top and bottom of the page. The document is laid out in modules, specified within the grid. Boxes are created for text and images, so that items can be moved as one unit if the structure of the document needs to be reevaluated or new material is provided. Transparency and patterns can be used as imagery to contribute to the identity of the piece. For example, on the viewbook, the University seal is prominent on the front but is transparent in contrast to the text that is placed above it. Hierarchy takes many forms in each of the publications. In the transparency example placed above, the transparency of the seal may suggest that the text which is over it is the first thing viewed, and it might be, but the size of the seal, though transparent, identifies the publication as an Illinois State publication. Kind of a changing hierarchy at play. The size of the text is an obvious way to establish hierarchy. Major headlines might be large, and sub categories within that headline might be smaller than the main headline but larger than the body text. Bolding an item might suggest that it is of more importance in a document. I suppose in conclusion my point is that each of the principles/elements are present in document design, whether is something we create in Word, InDesign, or write with a pen.
Now that I said pen, let me give a coupe of examples of the above elements. If it is a letter on loose leaf paper, the lines are a grid of sorts, but also serve as individual modules. Also, indenting for a paragraph can mark modules. The page has a specific hierarchy too. Users know that in the Western world that they are using a Z scan on the page, and will begin and end where the Dear XXXXX, and Sincerely XXXXX are respectively.
Understanding that these principles permeate all design allow us to consider the audience more and make responsible design decisions.
- Crossing the Digital Divide
- Mouse pad rhetoric
- Sarah Palin rhetoric
- Chapter 9 Postmodernism, Indie Media, and Popular Culture
- Convergence Culture
- Digitizing Race and the Matrix
- Modules in video games
- Weather channel
- Figure/ground, framing, and grids
- Grids, layers, hierarchy, transparency, modularity, patterns
- Readings on disability
- Rhetoric of Walls