SpecLab and Great Design

[In place of a reflection, this week for the Digital Humanities Seminar we were instructed to pick out three examples of great design after reading Johanna Drucker’s SpecLab]

What Middletown Read: A project I found a few month’s back, I really enjoy this project from a theoretical and practical stand point. From a design perspective, I find its simple design to be sneaky good. While its earth tones and simple search interface may seem plain, its plainness is its beauty. The project explores the “plainness” of everyday life, taking something many people do everyday, check out library books, to analyze a city. By reflecting the project’s examination of everyday life through a simple design (which I also find reminiscent of a library website), the design contributes to the project’s purpose without drawing attention to itself.

Historian’s Eye: Matthew Frye Jacobson’s project, that I’ll probably end up reviewing in a later blog post so I can play around with it more, relies heavily on its design to convey its argument and purpose, starting with its homepage image of “Better History” written on a wall. With minimal text, Jacobson communicates largely through picture galleries. An almost exclusive black and white color scheme also heavily influences the project’s feel.

WordSeer: A project I came across just yesterday, WordSeer is a text analysis tool built at Berkley. Using slave narratives as examples, the tool explores grammar in text. With another deceptively simple interface, WordSeer priviledges the text, but also colorfully highlights the text which the user wants to analyze. When juxtaposed with the essentially colorless background, the vibrantly highlight text jumps off the screen, emphasizing the place of that word in the seemingly plain text. I am tempted to call it a visual metaphor for the process of text analysis, but that might be getting carried away…