The difference between here and there:
what graphic design brings to e-space.

SIGGRAPH97 Panel organizer.

"The difference between here and there: what graphic design brings to e-space." Panel.ACM SIGGRAPH 97 Conference Proceedings. ACM Special Interest Group GRAPHics. Los Angeles, 1997. Panel Organizer.


In the fluid medium of e-space, the primary difference between Web sites, broadcasts and other forms of communication is visual structure. What do the history and practice of graphic and information design have to offer to a medium created within the technical-scientific community? In this panel, designers talk about the process involved in creating interfaces, and the need for a shared vocabulary and set of conventions for electronic spaces.



The difference between here and there: what graphic design brings to e-space.


What does the practice of graphic design have to offer a medium originally created within the technical-scientific community? In the fluid medium of e-space, a primary difference between hypermedia, broadcast media, and print is the visual structure of information and the levels of interactivity. The designers in this panel discuss the interdisciplinary processes involved in designing interfaces, graphical precedents for visualizing information, and the structuring of electronic spaces.


Everything changes. Everything stays the same. Electronic spaces offer designers almost unprecedented opportunities for design. A closer look at this new medium reveals that we are still grappling with the same problems and processes of how we structure, arrange, and perceive information. Designing for e-space is similar to solving an equation with an increasingly large and diverse set of variables. Each solution contains different visual, structural and technical considerations. In e-space there is no intrinsic difference between here and there. Difference is realized through the visual form given to information regardless of its location or source. In the absence of specific environmental cues, the user's relationship to information is determined by its visual structure.

What does the practice of graphic design offer to the electronic medium? How can visual and information designers and engineers best collaborate to create workable interfaces within an increasingly more complex environment? What is the future of writing and the book in e-space? How do we communicate the concepts and processes of e-space in design curriculm?

Lisa Koonts, panel organizer

Lisa Koonts is a print and digital graphic designer. She has a BS in computer science, master's degree in graphic design, and a background in technical theatre. She has been working as a web designer and with a virtual reality stage company.

Andrew Blauvelt & Edwin Utermohlen

Andrew Blauvelt is Chair of the Department of Graphic Design at NC State University. He has written and lectured about information design and digital technology in numerous venues.

Edwin Utermohlen is a Visiting Professor in Graphic Design at NC State University. He designs interactive media and web sites and creates digital prints through his company; RED.

Graphic design evolved out of the division of labor associated with bringing messages to the public. The activity of designing such messages traditionally fell to those who controlled the means of producing them: namely typesetters and printers. Not until the twentieth century did the means of producing messages become segmented so that the creation of designs became distinct from their reproduction and distribution. As such, graphic designers acted as "gatekeepers" to mass communications, mediating between clients and those capable of reproducing and distributing messages. Graphic designers exist as mediating agents between specific content "here" and specific audiences "there." With the personal computer the distinct activities of design, production, and distribution are re-integrated. Therefore, it might seem as if graphic designers are no longer a necessary component in the communications equation. But this notion would be problematic because it confuses technology with design; the means of doing things with a way of thinking and making things.

Part of what graphic designers can bring to e-space is their practical experience in print. Part of this legacy includes information design, namely the graphical representation of information through typography and imagery.

Until recently, information design has been largely limited to translating three-dimensional and four-dimensional content into the two-dimensional space of print. For example, maps give us a two-dimensional representation of space, while a calendar gives us a graphical representation of time. The advent of digital multimedia--sound, time, motion, interaction--allows us to "decompress" static, two-dimensional displays with the hope of enriching the users' experience by enhancing comprehension without sacrificing the complexity of the content.

Giving information visual form, ordering content, and orchestrating interaction suggests a narrative, or ways of reading. Sometimes readings are simple like the "rise and fall" of a typical graph and sometimes complex "stories" with multiple content and varied interpretations. As interaction with information expands, the opportunities for developing multiple narrative approaches to the same information grow. Importantly, by expanding the ways users can interact with information, we more accurately reveal that information is constructed to be interpreted and is not merely self-evident.

Laura Kusumoto

Laura Kusumoto is Director of Production at LVL Interactive, a Web site design and development company. Her background spans 18 years of software engineering and multimedia production in such diverse areas as artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

New media are the catalyst for merging applied arts and applied sciences. As an electronic space, the Web pushes designers and engineers to the forefront of this convergence. Like a car or a toaster, a Web site must look good, work correctly, and sell. Building a commercial site mixes the disciplines of graphic design, engineering, and business--and this sometimes feels like a convergence of water, oil, and milk. Taking cues from industrial design, Web teams can work synergistically to deliver value and enjoyment to the consumer.

How many of us like waiting 60 seconds to download an animated graphical doodad that struts its moment on the stage, full of sound and fury but meaning nothing? Today, we use the Web mainly to retrieve information in the form of text. As the Web matures, we will more often consume multimedia content. Web surfers prefer convenient access to all types of content, through an interface that immerses us in the flow of interactions. Any break in that flow is irritating.

Some Web designers obstruct usability at the very moment they are in a position to facilitate it. They are in this enviable position for a reason: the Web is visual. After all, it was the graphical browser that popularized the Internet. Without graphics, it was a cold and inconvenient place. Corporations today are enlisting professionals to help shift the focus of Web design from self-expression to usability and market value.

There is no user manual for the Web. With few conventions to follow, Web designers are groping to create interfaces with the right balance of form and functionality--to make a Web site as easy to use as a toaster that delivers tasty contents.

The field of industrial design offers insights for Web designers. It devotes equal reverence to form and functionality. Separate, yet interdependent, design processes yield a sleek-looking car with superb performance. In commercial Web development, visual design (graphic and information design) combines with engineering to create a product. This presentation will review examples of industrial and Web design with an eye towards how these disciplines interplay in the development process

At past SIGGRAPH conferences we've heard the plea: "We are the visual communicators! Empower us to do the design!" Now, Web teams are concerned not with whether, but how, we make this happen. We need to communicate with each other to bring out the best in both visual and engineering design. This presentation concludes by looking at the different disciplinary cultures of graphic designers and engineers, focusing on how to deal with each.

Anne Burdick & Louise Sandhaus

Anne Burdick is a graphic designer, critic and educator. Her firm, The Offices of Anne Burdick, is located in Los Angeles, where she teaches in the graduate programs at Art Center College of Design and the California Institute of the Arts. Anne is Visual Editor of the ELECTRONIC BOOK REVIEW (ebr), an on-line literary journal <www.altx.com/ebr> and co-editor of ebr6, an upcoming issue on image and narrative in new media.

Louise Sandhaus is a consultant in user-interface design and the Associate Director of the Graphic Design Program at the California Institute of the Arts. Recently, she was co-organizer of "Bit x Bit: Rebuilding Design Education in the Digital Context," part of a 3-day event on design education sponsored by the School of Visual Arts, NY. She was also co-organizer of the Los Angeles-based panel discussion, "Authoring Options: Who is the (Author)ity in New Media?"

What is the future of writing and the book in e-space? And what does this have to do with graphic design?

Anne Burdick and Louise Sandhaus will present work from new media projects that explore these questions. Looking at the history of the book and its role in shaping Western culture--as an object, a technology, and a metaphor for intelligence--Anne and Louise ponder how the forms of the future will shape what we know and how we know it. As form-makers, organizers, and visualizers, graphic designers have the ability to imagine new possibilities for form which enable new constructs for thought.

Louise will present the work of two recent interdisciplinary courses, "Mutant Design: The Future of the Book" and "The Apple Design Project '97: The Future of Libraries," sponsored by the Apple Research Laboratories and conducted at the California Institute of the Arts.

Anne will be presenting her collaboration with the writers and editors of the ELECTRONIC BOOK REVIEW, an on-line forum committed to reviewing all aspects of book culture in the context of emerging media, promoting translations and transformations from print to screen, and covering literary work that is designed to be read in electronic formats. As Visual Editor, Anne is responsible for establishing structural parameters that will both limit and enable the kinds of writing that can take place at the site.

Natalie Buda

Natalie Buda is an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida, where she developed the Flagler Graphics Lab for student experimentation in electronic spaces. She has an undergraduate degree in film and video, a master's degree in graphic design, and professional experience in corporate video. Recently, she presented "The Electronic Muse: Rethinking Originality and Ownership in the Digital Age" at a national symposium at the Cummer Museum of Art.

Mastery of visual language, composition, and space are some of the devices graphic designers use to create and steer the messages audiences receive from a variety of media. Electronic media (e-space) embody the elements of variable time and space, which are not a part of traditional print media. These two variables make a difference in conceptualizing and designing for e-space because they allow for greater control over how the audience receives and navigates through communication.

The visual mapping of an electronic space portrays a sense of time and place within the electronic production, and differentiates it from its surrounding environment. Processes used in designing information to establish a place and time include creating visual hierarchy, navigation through trail marking, and pacing. Some of these methods used in authoring visual messages spring from older conventions in cinema and print media and are reinterpreted and expanded in e-space.

Using the procedures of visual language and the skills developed in a graphic design curriculum, students in the Flagler Graphics Lab (FGL) address the concepts and processes for designing in new media. For example, can one use graphic design to influence what happens cognitively and visually on the screen as well as between the screens. Experiments from the FGL will be presented to demonstrate how visual direction makes a difference between "here" and "there" in electronic space.