OCAD Bookstore should do better (yes, @51OCADU)

I received some promotional mail from OCAD’s bookstore today, and this is it, in its entirety:

Having trouble viewing this email? Click here. Terms of Use | Contact Us

Without loading remote images (reading email with remote images is an unsafe practice), the mail they sent me is pretty much completely devoid of content.

So what if I clicked the link? I chose to do it on my text browser and I found that it’s pretty much just the same thing, only worse:

Having trouble viewing this email? Click here. [c8652cd6-9923-4d17-abae-bd5543fc82ca] [6b674e6e-88df-406a-9e68-8645794bc916] Terms of Use | Contact Us. OCAD U Bookstore, 51 McCaul Street, Toronto, Ontario M5T 3K4 Canada. SafeUnsubscribe? Tell a Friend! | Update Profile | About our service provider. Sent by manager@51ocadu.com

The mystery: Why did they even bother? If someone is “having trouble” seeing the original email, they probably can’t see images. Why repeat exactly the same thing, with no alternate text?

I was viewing the linked page on a text browser, which when confronted with alt-less images is smart enough to truncate some file names and replace some small ones with asterisks. (Text browsers, after all, are still visual interfaces.) Blind people, using screen readers, are going to be tortured with the images’ super long file names.

I know our bookstore is run by U of T, but if I called out the U of T wouldn’t it be even more damning? This is 2016, friends.

Of course this is graphic design…

Yesterday I was mentioning to Emily that I couldn’t understand some of the graphic design work on the 5th floor. One looked like it came from Industrial Design. But the bulk of what I couldn’t understand looked just like installations.

Then today, while I was trying to find all my friends’ work in the final two hours, I ran into another one, Zviko Mhakayakora’s This Feels Like Home:

<cite>This Feels Like Home</cite> at GradEx 101

However, this time, although at first I felt puzzled for a short while, as soon as I read the artist’s statement I thought, “Of course this is graphic design!”

Context made all the difference. The designer framed this as an educational exhibit, and it clicked on me: This is environmental graphic design work for a museum exhibition. Graphic designers do this kind of work all the time.

So EGD is being taught at OCAD, and I think it appears to be taught well. One day, maybe OCAD’s campus will actually have good EGD.

The end, no matter how you determine it’s the end

Today was convocation. So it’s now the end, no matter how you determine if it’s the end or not. Anyway, several things that you’ll only see in an OCAD convocation:
  • Telling people to tweet and instagram their convocation experience (and plastering the backstage with the hashtag) but telling the same people they have to check in their phones in a coat check.
  • Not getting your diploma on the stage and having to return your gown before getting your diploma. (This was a real head scratcher.)
  • The school officials not following all the standard formulaic verbosity on the stage. (In fact when the chancellor (?) asked the president the rhetorical question of whether to confer degrees in absentia the president didn’t even say a thing—she just gave a nod.)
I thought this wouldn’t be a thing after GradEx, but this was still a thing. I thought I would see more people, but I guess it’s hard when this doesn’t happen at school.

Why graphic design is not dead

DK and I chatted a bit yesterday about GradEx. We quickly went to “What is the point of this exhibition,” then to “Our program has no personality,” and then beyond. But as I pondered this today I realized that the fact that our program has no personality is not a showstopper. Bringing organization to disorganized elements and imposing a scheme to a composition that has no harmony shouldn’t be something foreign to us: This is what graphic designers do. I still remember during the post-conference townhall at AIGA’s 2012 “Pivot” conference when Ric Grefé talked about the importance of keeping our “craft” or risk losing our “specialness.” I was skeptical we had anything special to talk about. Doesn’t everyone have our technical skills these days? And then I was not even a good graphic designer. But the amazing thing is that even a not-so-good graphic designer who has never even been properly trained was able see problems that even people trained in other design disciplines apparently failed to see. I see this as validation of Ric Grefé’s claim: We do have something special (I still don’t know what it is), and our specialness does not lie in our technical software skills—our “craft” is something else. Which I believe brings us back to “What is the point of this exhibition.” When I chatted with the guy who’s showing sculpture next doors today one thing I mentioned was that I wanted to do GradEx because I didn’t feel I finished until I do this. When NW said it’s almost finished and I said “Two more days!” I really felt those were the right words to say. For a design student, the end is not having thesis done (“I thought thesis was hell; GradEx is also hell,” as relayed by RT), neither is it having technically graduated (as I so call my awkward situation), nor is it convocation; the end is having gone through GradEx, in all its “hellish” ways. Like what DEEP and INCD’s “Culminating Festival” should have been, GradEx is a full environmental graphic design (EGD) project, complete with inclusivity and accessibility issues to solve. This year’s two cohorts have not tackled it rightly, as an inclusive design problem (to be fair, neither has OCAD Administration tackled it rightly, as an EGD problem), so we have mostly squandered the precious opportunity. I wish next year’s cohort will take GradEx more seriously for what it is—an EGD project worthy of tackling from an inclusive design viewpoint.

A few things we should have done (not my program, but OCAD as a whole)

I thought I liked this year’s map. At least the sale is on the map. But people have asked UH enough weird questions that she suspected the map isn’t showing stairs or elevators or how to get to other buildings. But I just checked the map and these things are all there. Yet people aren’t finding this information. This is a failure of the graphic design. And the app? Sorry, it might have been a cool idea, but people aren’t using the app as far as I can see. People are asking me where to find the paintings. People aren’t using the app; they’re using the printed maps. And 21 colour codes with neither alternate text nor icons is non-inclusive design. Last years I thought the signs were bad. This year’s signs are no better. And showing at GradEx certainly changed my views of just how bad our signs are. People don’t know where they can find more things on the first floor. We have no directional signage. All this is embarassment for a design school.

New era at OCADU re-announced: New students will no longer be able to join Facebook’s “OCAD” network.

Just got this in my student email:

This is a message to all students: The following service will be decommissioned on APRIL 30, 2015 at 9:00 AM: REDIRECT SERVICE FOR THE STUDENT.OCAD.CA DOMAIN. When student email was migrated to Gmail in 2012, the email domain was changed from @student.ocad.ca to @student.ocadu.ca.  To facilitate the transition and avoid service interruption, a server was set up to redirect all email from the old domain to the new domain.  That service is now scheduled to be decommissioned. What does this mean for you? If you have subscribed to any services (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) using your email address with the old domain (student.ocad.ca), you will need to update your email address for each of those services.  A communication was sent out in 2012 to alert students, so it is very likely that those affected would have updated their various accounts at that time. If in doubt, check which email address you used to subscribe to various online services and ensure that your student email address is the current @student.ocadu.ca. Contact the IT Help Desk at ithelp@ocadu.ca or x277 for more information.

This isn’t new; according to them the last time this was considered was two years ago. I mentioned on Facebook that this would mean new students would not be able to join the “OCAD” network. They pulled the decommission. Two years later they are announcing the decommission again.

So what changed? Maybe they forgot. Or they thought joining a Facebook network isn’t something they should care about. Or maybe something else. I don’t know.

Sure, Facebook networks do hardly a thing any more; but it’s still a show of affiliation. April 30, 2015 will still be a milestone in OCAD’s history: Officially denying new students the possibility of showing their sense of belonging to the school by joining a network on Facebook.

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.

one year too late

So yesterday I was at 205 because I was to be at an SU meeting and then stayed in the building afterwards because I was trying to see if I could get other things done there or was needed there. Yes, a most atypical day since I usually don’t stay in that building. But since one of the things was to see if a prof happened to be there (and because I don’t want to stay on the 2nd floor and I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay on the 5th floor), I went to the 7th floor, and was surprised when someone called my name. Danica had told me she’s working for AV now; still, I was surprised to find her working on this side of AV. Actually, I never associated the 7th floor with AV, even I knew (in an intellectual sort of way) the AV desk is there. Why? Now that I think of it, people in my program (including profs) never borrow stuff from the 7th floor; we all automatically borrow from the 2nd floor, as if the 7th floor AV desk didn’t exist. No wonder I never knew there’s a common room on the 7th floor until I found my thesis advisor. No wonder we feel so disconnected. (I mean more disconnected than the typical grad student.) I wonder: If someone I know had been working on the 7th floor AV desk way back when I was in first year, would anything have changed?

Unexpectedly amazing presentations at @OCADUPress’s Function 4

We talk about people with synesthesia and people with vision loss in class, but none of us has them, and it felt like no one knew anyone who has synesthesia. So imagine my surprise when I went to Function 4 (when I still have stuff to work on) and found out that the second presenter, Greg McRoberts, has synesthesia, and he talked about how some shapes sound, how some sounds are associated with shapes, and, after the presentations, how unnatural some of these custom written ditties on electronic devices feel to him. His blindness in one eye also inspired him to come up with the idea of inventing a “seeing aid” device that does “augmented vision”. Greg McRoberts with his seeing aid device Greg McRoberts’ seeing aid device When I saw the device before the presentations I thought it looked like an Arduino, and, indeed, it is an Arduino. The third presenter, Ibrahim Abusitta, talked about his work that explores an Eastern cultural identity within Western society. I ran into one of my profs right before I headed to the Student Gallery, and he was wondering what the talks would be about. I told him I didn’t know, and I didn’t. But I think everyone in my program should go to these Function series talks.
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