Schweitz Design

“The Bus” gets it Right.

My most recent vacation was to Ocean City, Maryland. Wildly popular among visitors is the city’s public transit, often referred to as the “drunk bus,” but officially known as simply The Bus. The popularity of the bus derives from two factors;  1. It runs up and down the coastal highway for 145 blocks and can take you to the majority of OC’s attractions, and 2. It only costs two dollars for a pass that is valid all day (from 6am to 6am). Running all night along OC’s strips of bar after bar as well the numerous hotel corridors makes the drunk bus a perfect marriage of safety and (sometimes a bit too much) fun.

I, of course, immediately took notice of The Bus logo which appears on all of the bust stop signs as well as on the recyling bins located next to each bus stop (awful green eh?). I really like this logo, more so because of how it speaks than how it actually looks. The logo is fun, vibrant, a little bit quirky and based on my experience in the ocean town really captures the spirit of Ocean City. It’s playful and doesn’t take it self too seriously (After all, it’s the drunk bus). Are there elements of this logo that could be done better? Yes. the gradients on the tires don’t match the logo as a whole, the exhaust suffers from the same issue because of lack of shading and the bevel is probably wholly unnecessary. But, honestly, having ridden the subject matter and spent a week in the town, I find myself setting design-y nitpicking aside and quite honestly most of the people I saw on The Bus were in no shape to critique anything. I like this logo because it’s fun and that’s all it needs to be.

Gauging a Visual Gap

The recent lack of posts has been due to some excellent vacationing but I’ve returned to the blogosphere and the above infographic (seen via Digg) caught my eye.  As is the case with many of the popular infographics that grace the front page of digg, this is pretty well designed and touches on a topic with wide appeal. I have a problem with it however and I’m not quite sure whether it’s a legitimate design issue or a fault in my personal perception.

My problem is with the key which clarifies the underlying color coding of the infographic. The key reads from top to bottom, or rather from “undetermined” to “nailed it” in this case. This is all well and good in the stand alone sense. Logic dictates that a list going from essentially “least” to “most” makes perfect sense. However, the graphic itself does not read this way for me. Since the ones who “nailed it” are essentially in the top right, I read this graph from top right down. This means the graph reads in the exact opposite direction of the key. For me, this is a usability issue. It makes the graph harder to understand (which is wholly problematic since the nature of graphs is to make information easier to understand through a visual representation.)

Having stated my problem, I also mentioned above that I’m not sure if this is me nitpicking or this points to a larger issue in terms of interpretation of this piece. The operative word here is “interpretation.” So much of what we, as designers do is try to manipulate the perception of others through visual media. Our goal is to ultimately make the viewer interpret any given media in the manner that we (and more specifically our client) want.

In a similar, albeit infinitely more abstract manner, Ben Dunkle writes an interesting post on his blog about life. In his “Comment Icons” post he raises the issue of which direction to point the “pointy part” of a comment bubble. “Which one says ‘Comments’ more directly?” he asks.

Is this nitpicking? Is there a right? Is there a wrong? Is there an answer? I think think the answer is yes. I also suspect the answer might be no. That which we do everyday as designers is subject to the personal interpretation of each individual viewer/user; try as we might, there are some things that will never be viewed as intended because each unique interpretation  is shaped by the experience, culture and conuntless other factors realted to each individual viewer. In conclusion, the pointy part should point left, or at least that’s how I interpret it.