OCADU deploys new identification system for its buildings — but it’s STILL a weird system

I just read an announcement on Facebook that OCAD has just started deploying a new system for identifying buildings on campus. Gone is the old, weird building-numbers-encoded-into-room-numbers system; replacing it is a system based on short alphabetic building codes, just like you would expect to see on any other Canadian university campus.

What makes this new system bizarre, however, is that instead of basing the codes off the buildings’ names, it’s basing the codes off the names of the streets the buildings are on. So instead of *MSC (a hypothetical code for “Main building and Sharp Centre”) you get MCA (for “buildng 1 on McCaul”), or instead of *RSP (hypothetically a perfectly good code for the “Rosalie Sharp Pavilion”) you get the impossible-to-remember MCD (for “building 4 on McCaul”).

Instead of less than ten building numbers to memorize, we now have to memorize 13 random-looking three-letter codes.

This is just one problem. For the Annex building we also get two separate codes, SPA (“building 1 on St. Patrick”) for the first floor and MCC (“building 3 on McCaul”) for the upper floors. Technically the Learning Zone isn’t in the Annex building, but experientially it is. This is the same experiential situation as the Main Building vs the Sharp Centre, where both buildings get only one code because experientially they are one; so by analogy SPA and MCC should also be merged into a single code — and of course that code should be abbreviated from the name “Annex Building” and should not be “building 1 on so-and-so” or “building 3 on so-and-so.”

The new system is still a much-needed change: It is still vastly superior to the old system, where even students get confused. (Just last September I was in what was until last week building 7 and a new student missed her floor because she thought her floor was the 7th floor — despite the fact that an explanation of the room numbers was posted right beside the elevator.)

The new system is, however, still a weird, counter-intuitive system that requires students to memorize random-looking codes. Not a good design.

And why do this kind of work mid-February, around midterms, instead of doing it at the end of the semester, after finals? No one said it but I bet it has to do with getting ready early for Grad Ex. In other words this is probably marketing work. But if we’re still getting a weird system people are still going to feel we don’t know how to design wayfinding systems. The feeling wouldn’t be as strong as before, but it would still be there. Not good marketing.

Which really begs the question: Who designed this bizarre system? Don’t tell me again that such an important system hasn’t been designed by a designer.

Yes, this year’s Grad Ex is my Grad Ex

I was surprised when I actually got a reply to my question after only an hour:

Dear Ambrose, It includes those who have already graduated in the fall. I hope you'll consider participating. Sincerely, Brian Desrosiers-Tam

So this is for me. But do I still want to do it when I no longer have the work with me? Should I do it?

Because we are talking about ceramics, the mere fact that I’m not sure means I need to re-create my work, like now.

GradEx?

I just received this year’s call for participation in the GradEx. Details are sketchy for now but last year’s insistence on having “constraints of space” has been replaced by their asking us to “participate in large number”.

So the question is: Is this call directed to me too? As much I wanted to be part of Grad Ex last year, things have already fallen too much apart this semester; and as well, all my thesis work is now either in the hands of random strangers or inside storage in a museum. I still have maybe half of my trial run pieces…

So I guess ultimately I what I want to know is: Should I re-create the work that’s no longer with me?

Web accessibility is straightforward, or is it?

One of the two things I needed to do in the past week was to post some information on an existing web site. Pretty straightforward information really, but how do you mark it up? Here is the copy, in disguised form of course:

Aardvark New Year Dinner
Saturday, February 21
New Aardvarkia Banquet Hall
Cost: $38 (VAT included)

6:30pm: reception
7:00pm to 9:30pm: dinner and speaker presentation

Join us in celebrating the Year of the Aardvark! Noted author Tia Aardvarka will be present to talk about her recent work, Attack of the Zombie Blue Aardvarks and the Re-emergence of Totalitarianism.

The copy was to be posted in a Drupal-based system that deletes HTML5 semantic tags and aggressively strips away most attributes (including even language and ARIA attributes). The CSS stylesheet is locked down so you can’t create new styles. Most of the existing styles seem to be UI-related and not much is useful for styling content. So how do you mark this up, especially the top two blocks?

The first line is easy: It’s an h2.

The usual lazy way to mark the rest of the first block up would be to treat it as a list and style the bullets out, but you can’t, because you can’t change the stylesheet. You could treat it as a single paragraph with br tags but this will sound awful with a screen reader. Or maybe you could do multiple divs, which sort of makes sense but then you can’t create the space between the various blocks.

The second block is obviously true tabular data, but if you styled it as a table there’d be an odd-looking space on the first row because the first cell on the second row contains so much text. So do you treat it as a table, or do you not? If you don’t, you get into the same situation as the first block.

So even this seemingly straightforward copy is creating a lot of problems. How do you handle such situations in a locked-down environment?

Perhaps, perhaps we should start by doing some experiments so that we can know how to rank our options?

old Canon dead

Since my Pentax is half dead, I have been using my old Canon. But when I tried taking some pictures today I found I couldn’t turn it on. I thought the battery was dead. But when I went home and plugged it into the charger the “charging” light didn’t flash. Zilch. Since I had to charge some other batteries I unplugged the Canon charger, plugged in the NiMH charger, and the NiMH charger just ran fine.

So I have no idea what happened to my Canon. Anything could have gone wrong: Fried charger, broken cable, dead battery, or — heaven forbid — fried motherboard. Maybe it’s just too old and decided to refuse doing any more work.

So I now have no working camera and can’t document any more work. A half dead Pentax is still better than a completely dead Canon, I guess. Sigh.

graduated

I told Danica about the weirdness yesterday and we decided that I should talk to the office about it, and so I did go to the office today and was told that my grades were ok and I should get the letter any time now.

So imagine my surprise when I got home and found that I just got the letter.

So technically I’m now graduated.

So what’s next?…

OCAD building numbers

Campus map taken at the entrance to the Annex Building on October 22, 2012; the date on the map unfortunately not legible but it clearly reads August and seems to read 2012 (although the map would clearly be already outdated in August 2012)

As I’ve mentioned on my Wikipedia profile, building numbers on the OCAD campus are almost always buried inside a system of 4-digit room numbers that is both bizarre and confusing (not only to visitors but also, at least sometimes, to students). So normally, unless you use your brain to do some inference (which is easy, but which Wikipedia for some reason abhors), you almost never see any “proof” that this system of building numbers actually exists.

However, sometimes the building numbers do surface on maps, such as on this map that I photographed during my second semester for reference for our installation project. As you can see, all numbered buildings on this map are actually identified by their own numbers, except for the Main Building, which is identified as buildings “A” (first to fourth floors) and “B” (fifth and sixth floors) instead of as building “0”.

Aside from this version of the campus map, I believe I have only seen standalone building numbers on a map in the 2012 student handbook. I believe I’ve also seen the system mentioned in passing in a style guide, but yes, that’s about it as far as I know.

New signage spotted at OCAD, and it’s bad, as usual (sigh)

A couple of days ago (I think it was probably Tuesday, but it could have been Monday) I sat down at the food court and — lo and behold — I spotted new signage:

New directional signage point to the Annex Building and Main building

Unfortunately, it’s, as usual, bad. Just a quick glance immediately revealed obvious problems, such as, “where exactly is the Annex Building?”

Same sign seen close up

Since the arrow directly in front of me points to my left, naturally I looked left — but a sign was nowhere to be found. In other words, if a veritable visitor is to step inside the food court, they would be utterly lost as to where the Annex Building actually is:

No directional signage where the left-pointing arrow points to

Since the other arrow actually points towards the Annex Building what I did next was to look in that direction. But this is what replaced the big, old Ontario College of Art and Design sign:

Directional signage point to “Library Classrooms” and “Learning Centre” [sic]
Close-up of the same sign

Many things are wrong with this sign (such as it’s not the Learning Centre but the Learning Zone, which is also considered a library so the sign is really pointing to not one library but two), but for the moment let’s just say the visitor will follow both arrows and see the big sign. Unfortunately they would still not know where the “Annex Building” is because it’s not mentioned anywhere on the big sign. For whatever reason, even though the big sign marks the entrance to the Annex Building, there is no identification signage.

It feels, again, as if either a traffic analysis was never performed, a sign schedule was never produced, no one checked the design documents for obvious errors, or — God forbid — no one ever even asked for any design documents to be produced.

Let us pause for a moment here. I now know Facilities (as opposed to a design department as one might expect) handles signage, but this is still inexcusable: Even if most people in Facilities have no knowledge of EGD, someone still must know enough EGD to check the quality of any tenders. As it stands, if this is a tendered project then either really no one in Facilities knows any EGD, or OCAD’s tender process does not require EGD designs to produce design specs; on the other hand, if this is an in-house job, then shame on whoever did the design — OCAD staff should at least know how to spell the name of the library on the first floor.

I simply cannot understand how any of these scenarios could have happened. And it boggles the mind that errors so glaring that a student who has never been properly trained in EGD can spot on sight have slipped through the school bureaucracy unnoticed.

Please, spend fewer dollars on marketing and more on proper design. What OCAD needs is not more empty words saying how great we are but some proper EGD on campus (I’m not even asking for award-winning EGD) — some good design to show the world that OCAD is capable of teaching students good design — when instead what we see every day is so embarrassing it’s akin to saying our profs are incompetent. Until our EGD is fixed marketing won’t fix whatever image problem the school’s trying to fix.

semi-planned but still unexpected expenses

So yesterday (Friday) after the meeting I was thinking of just buying two Vietnamese subs for lunch and started wandering in the general direction of Spadina. And then it dawned on me that since I was already on College I might as well find a computer store and see if people actually still sell CF card readers (since I was told people actually still sell these things).

So the first store I tried turned out to be Canada Computers, and I was pleasantly surprised that this Canada Computers (probably because they have to to survive in this part of the city that borders multiple universities) doesn’t have that annoying anti-student policy. But I was told to walk two blocks east to another Canada Computers because they don’t have CF card readers but the other one would have because they “specialize in photographic equipment.”

So I got my CF card reader (yay for stop-gap measures until I can figure out what to do with my broken SLR) and went to Gwartzman’s to take a second look. And I found that — contrary to what store staff told me the first time I went there — they do have a ceramics section. It is just small, but not any smaller than the Curry’s near OCAD.

Anyway, I actually got a mannequin because I thought it would probably be better than building a clay model every time I need to check a pose. As for whether this is actually true, we’ll see…

maybe i’m still closer to here than there

So three days ago I got an unexpected email that I found incredibly odd, and I’m still mulling what to do next. That said, in the meantime I have talked to a few people and I’m starting to believe this is most likely a result of the “internal verification” that was mentioned more than a month ago.

If this is indeed the case, then it can only mean that I’m still very much officially a student, albeit a student who’s not registered in anything.

I still feel I’m in the twilight zone or something, but at least when people ask me again I’ll have more confidence at how to answer — or what to do when I go to Gwartzman’s again…

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