Archive for January, 2011

January 31, 2011

No Excuses for Poor Signage

It was an honor to present concepts discussed in this blog on Friday to the Nonprofit Commons in Second Life. A wide range of organizations were represented by their avatars in the central arena. There to discuss signage, I reviewed the best reviewed here and discussed tips and ideas for how they can improve their signage overall. Although most of the organizations, unfortunately, design their own signs, there are still ways that they can improve by following some basic considerations. Hopefully they will grow enough where they can afford to give their group a graphic face.

Liane Sebastian virtual presentation

Sitting off to the extreme left, my avatar waits to make the next presentation. My title slide is up, a cube of my sign designs, and four examples of inworld books.

So here is a synopsis of the presentation that I made to them:

LESSONS AND SUGGESTIONS FOR VIRTUAL GRAPHICS:

Perhaps the biggest frustration for visiting any location in SL is to figure out where you are. How many times do you tp into a spot and it takes five minutes just to figure out if you are in the right place? On the assumption that I am not alone in this

In real life, my graphic design and publication practice primarily services nonprofit organizations. So naturally I have been studying the design of Nonprofit Commons. And because I write about design as a published author of print books and articles, I have been blogging about my discoveries and what I have learned here. I am thrilled to be asked to share my perceptions and hope that my comments are useful to you.

The most important thing any organizational director can do in their SL presentation is to take a step back and try to put him or herself in the shoes of the visitor. How easy is it to see the signage?

The most important concern, as your first face to every visitor, considerations that will help improve your presentation:

1.  Placement. It is better to have more smaller signs than a single large one. Many organizations place a sign above the door, causing the newly arrived avatar to have to look up. The first place to have a sign is where someone can see it at the landing point. Then, there needs to be one by the door. Finally, there needs to be one just inside. In NPC, it makes sense to also have one on the roof.

2. Clarity. Many signs are very hard to read. A good test is for how small it can be made and still be legible. Boldness in SL is very important because people move fast and look at images from a great range of distances and angles. Any image that doesn’t hold up misses an opportunity to grab.

3. Distinction. A simple, bold, and visually expressive logo combined with a unique color pallette works the best in helping to attract visual recognition. Consistency between visual components for an organization is achieved through a defined identity.

4. Welcoming. Beyond the placement, the more creative the greeting, the more quickly the visitor will become engaged. Visual techniques, modular content, special concerns, publications, events—these are all opportunities to entice.

5. Informative. Presenting a sign of more than a very short paragraph is presenting a sign that won’t be read. Four sentences maximum. It is better to have more signs with less on them than fewer signs with more on them. Also, psychologically, people always seem to read captions. So caption photos wherever possible. Make the content as visual as you can with a photograph, diagram, or chart.

Visiting all of the organizations in NPC, evaluating what you do visually and in marketing, I also learn more about how you operate, meet expectations, and fulfill your missions. My fascination with business is equal to my fascination for virtual reality as a publishing medium. Like blogs, websites, wikis, etc., Second Life has a role to play in the suite of communication tools. But what makes it much more special are the collaborations, personal friendships, and international stage.

Advertisements
January 1, 2011

Basic signage: The SL Chicagoan Office

overview
It seems that good virtual signage should not be difficult. Applying just a few principles is pretty basic:

1. Make the sign big enough to read. If it can’t be seen from a short distance, it is too small.

2. Place the sign in a position where avatars can see it (and not have to scroll around to find it).

3. Place more than one sign around entrances. Coming from different directions for eyes looking at a variety of images are in a hurry and can miss single placments.

4. Put identity information at the bottom of information posters. So if a visitor does come inside without seeing the entrance signage, there is still the reinforcement with consistent identifiers.

Yet as obvious as these principles may seem, why do so few organizations and presenters consider them? Fully one-half of the commerical places—from shops to nonprofits to art galleries to cafés—the visitor has to SEARCH for the identity of the location! Often they leave without knowing whom they just visited!

Within a recreation of Chicago in the 1920s a backdrop for a role play sim,* the publication from that era has also been brought back to life: The Chicagoan magazine. Unfortunately this jazz-era publication only had the short life of nine years, yet captured the essence of the era’s culture and character.

Chicagoan virtual office
-Street signs hang just above head level so that avatars can easily see from down the street and when approaching.

On a street corner of the recreated historic “Loop,” The SL Chicagoan magazine has an office—set up for visitors and as a distribution hub of the inworld publication** with links to the blog, is a collaboration of those writing historical fiction in a virtual setting.

Chicagoan virtual office
Magazine image hangs in the window. Large banner sign on the inside wall can be seen from the doors and through the windows of this corner space.

The virtual office for the Chicagoan demonstrates a simple strategy for signage and placements. Integrating into the historic setting, conveying the spirit of the original magazine, and making the location easy to find all work effectively for this now popular hangout for tea and conversation.

Chicagoan virtual office
The counter identifier is for the complimentary classified section.

* a role play simulation creates a historic setting and the residents assume various roles and then act the parts. The Chicago Roaring 20s sim has over 500 members with dozens active at any given time. The recreation assumes the form of a real city, but in a fictional environment.

** inworld publications are virtual books that avatars interact with like print books–turning pages, housing on shelves, etc. They can easily have a real world tie-in equivalent and vice versa.

Chicagoan virtual office
Kiosks around the sim display for distribution.