Flo Heiss

Posted by PH on September 08, 2007
Resonant Interval

Following on from the previous post, one of the most interesting presentations at the D&AD Xchange 07 was that of Flo Heiss, Creative Partner at “interactive marketing agency” Dare.

The presentation was entitled How To Make Digital Your Bestest Friend and was structured around 7 ‘principles of good design’. Whilst targeted mainly at those marketing online, these principles could quite easily be applied to almost any kind of web design:

  1. Be Useful.
  2. Be Engaging.
  3. Be Entertaining.
  4. Make It Unfinished.
  5. Be Honest.
  6. Give Up Control.
  7. Do It For Real.

I’m not going to go through Heiss’s examples of each principle one by one, or attempt to spell them out, because – and this is one for my students – what you need to do is to challenge them. It’s no use accepting these principles at face value and measuring their validity against the specific examples Heiss presented and which I might re-present here. What you need to do is to use them, test them against web resources you are familiar with. How strong are they? Do they break under certain circumstances? How widely applicable are they? Etc.. For myself, I’d prefer to talk here about a couple of these principles in a far more general way:

4. Make It Unfinished. I personally believe this is one of the most important concepts for any designer, writer, film maker, or artist of whatever sort to grasp. There has to be some space for the subject to enter into. You don’t have to say everything, you don’t have to explain everything, you don’t have to show everything. The incompleteness is what draws people in and allows them to resolve it for themselves: the unfinished work involves and engages the audience. The unfinished work respects the audience by not imposing a viewpoint, by allowing dialogue… The unfinished work creates a resonant interval.

This also applies to teaching. One of the worst sins you can commit is to present a subject to a student as though we know everything about it, as though it’s a closed book. It never is, because at the end of the day all meaning is ultimately socially situated: facts mean nothing in isolation, and only make sense within a particular set of inherited cultural norms, values, or beliefs. Therefore there is always a dialogue between the facts ‘out there’ and the sense made of them ‘in here’. Nothing is ever absolute, nothing ever really ‘finished’, and to present them is if they are is, at best, misguided.

7: Do It For Real. This is the example Flo Heiss used, one of Dare’s adverts for Vodaphone:

All good fun! I suppose what Heiss means by this is that there comes a time when working online—or with computers, it’s the same thing these days—is not enough and you just have to go and start pushing physical objects around. Of course it’s true, for no matter how sophisticated our computer technologies are they still fall a long, long way short of our multi-dimensional, tactile, dynamic, sensuous, and unexpected real world. Staring into a screen and clicking occasionally doesn’t really compete.

I’m blathering. So, yes: Flo Heiss! Excellent thought-provoking presentation. Nice.

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