What Is Design?

In general, anything that is planned, tested, modified, or rearranged with a specific purpose has design. See also: Usability.

As a writing teacher, web author, computer game programmer, and scholar of dramatic literature, and media critic, I encounter design on a daily basis. This page contains links to a handful of case studies in which design plays an important part.

Design Case Studies

Cruel Amusement Park Instructions
Amusement parks just wouldn't be amusing without all the warnings that we ignore.

Why People Think They are Above Having to Read Instructions
While it is annoying not to be able to set the VCR or fix a plumbing problem the right way the first time, truth be told, the consequences of our daily failures don't mount up to much in modern society. The average person is surrounded by a lot of very complex gadgets that consume a great deal of our time -- which is bothersome, but the inconvenience level is low enough that most of us aren't motivated to change our behavior.

Mechanism Description (Object Description)
A mechanism description is a short report designed to convey to the reader a technical understanding of the function, appearance, and operation of a particular object.  In one or two sentences, give the reader a quick overview of these three elements, before you launch into the details. 

Newbie Web Author Checklist
Follow this checklist before you publish your web project, and you'll avoid many simple technical glitches that might prevent your visitors from accessing or fully appreciating your content.

Exposition in Interactive Fiction
I have watched closely as storytellers who are new to programming, and programmers who are new to storytelling, approach the task of writing IF for the first time.  After serving as a judge on the IF Prologue Competition, and reflecting upon some of the post-competition debate on, I felt that I learned a few things about interactive fiction in general, and the importance of interactive exposition in particular.

World Trade Center: Literary and Cultural Reflections
Skyscrapers in general, and the twin towers of the World Trade Center in particular, symbolize, for many writers, either prideful arrogance, or a new technological beauty. This site attempts to survey what has already been written on this topic.

Palm Beach County, Florida, Elections Ballot
The result of the 2000 U.S. Presidential race was so close that some Democratic Party officials argue that one Florida county's hard-to-use ballot may have unfairly decided the presidency.

Jupiter Media Metrix Press Release
Hundreds of companies have failed after spending millions developing fancy online "features" that nobody needs or wants. This web page contextualizes a critical analysis of a press release from a research company that supported this kind of excessive spending

Kairos Critique: Kudos and Curses for an Online Journal
For the past few years, whenever the opportunity arose, I have critiqued the online journal Kairos as a high-concept site that works very hard to hide its content from its readers.  Pictures of the old site tell the sad story.

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