Category Archives: Comments on Student Blogs (History 697)

Comment on Alyssa’s Post 4: “Color”

Alyssa’s Blog 4: “Color”

Like Alyssa, I am also struggling to find the right color palette for my WWII-era Web page.  She and I share the same reticence about inserting outlandish color schemes into otherwise historically focused Web sites.  Perhaps if the subject is actually “fun” — say, like 19th Century children’s games — then such palettes are appropriate. However, Alyssa and I both share subjects that are  serious in nature: war and disaster.  The challenge is to find a color scheme that represents the period without making light of the nature of our historical topics.  In these cases, I agree fully with Alyssa: grays, blacks, off-whites, and other neutral colors seem to be most appropriate. But they don’t catch one’s eye, and that’s the approach we need to follow to grab someone’s attention and impart our historical knowledge upon him or her.  She and I are contemplating the same things right now: how to find a proper but historical color scheme for our Web projects that meet that one key mandate of good design — grabbing one’s attention. Thanks for the insight, Alyssa. I take comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one struggling with historically appropriate color.

Steve Rusiecki

Comment on Jordan’s Post 4: “Color me #C60C30, #002244, & #FFFFFF”

Jordan’s Blog: “Color me #C60C30, #002244, & #FFFFFF”

My thanks to Jordan for his inspiring comments on dealing with color schemes in Web design. Jordan commented on my post — the one in which I lamented my difficulty in finding a good WWII-related color scheme — by advocating the same thing he discussed in the context of using maps: use the color schemes represented by the terrain as a way to find a middle ground in effective color representation. I found that guidance to be remarkably insightful because, as many have stated, “green” is the color that comes to mind when thinking about WWII. Ironically, green is a postwar representation of WWII uniform colors and equipment. The real color was “olive drab,” which appears more brownish and, in some cases, tan-like than green. I own over 200 WWII U.S. uniforms (I know, I know — but the veterans gave them to me!), so I know those colors extremely well. Therefore, working the postwar “green” a la MASH and other TV representations of military situations into my color scheme technically misrepresents the period. In effect, it is anachronistic. But by focusing on the landscape as Jordan suggests, I can incorporate “green” as one of the period’s true colors, capturing both the true color scheme of the scrubs and hedgerows above the D-Day beaches while meeting my audience’s expectations for “green Army stuff.”  Thanks, Jordan. As always, you’ve been a great help to me.

Steve Rusiecki

Comment on Eric’s Post 3: “Don’t You Dare Center ANYTHING.”

Eric’s Post 3: “Don’t’ You Dare Center ANYTHING.”

I would like to echo Eric’s thanks to the entire class for providing positive, constructive feedback on each of the Portfolio Web pages. Everyone’s page was just great. Like Eric, I used those comments and things I learned from the tutorial to make improvements to my Portfolio page. I must admit that I am extremely proud of that page — even though it has a loooong way to go.

I am in the same boat as Eric when it comes to having a history of engaging in what I now know to be  design faux pas.   I, too, am someone who would have centered everything.  When  Prof. Petrik demonstrated how crappy a centered Web page appeared, I was astonished that I once thought it was a good thing to do. Not any more! I get it now! And I agree with Eric that designing in Dreamweaver through both code and in live view can be challenging, especially when considering grid and aspect ratio. I’ve begun sketching out my typography Web page, and breaking the layout into thirds and then making it happen on the site are both very challenging — but certainly not impossible.  And thanks, Eric, for the hilarious Puritan Valentine’s Day cards.  Classic stuff.

Steve Rusiecki

Comment on Ben’s Post 3: “Structure” (Week 4 Readings)

Ben’s Post 3: Structure

I agree with Ben that viewing the tutorial “Creating a First Website in Dreamweaver CC 2014″ would have proved very helpful as an up-front viewing requirement, perhaps even before the first class meets. I stumbled upon the tutorial after our first class meeting and watched about half of it, which allowed me to build a practice Web site from scratch and then post it online. For me, that was an amazing feat, because I am not very comfortable dealing with new software.  I always seem to be the guy who hits that one button or clicks on something that causes the entire country to go to DEFCON 5 and launches the bomber fleet. The biggest problem I encountered, though,  was that the tutorial instructor explained how to open a new site and start building a Web page using a vastly different approach from our in-class practicum. For me, seeing something done on a computer the same way over and over again is the easiest way for me to learn it. I think reconciling the different approaches would be helpful — at least for someone like me!

Steve Rusiecki

Comment on Stephanie’s Post 2: “The Power of Typography: Balancing Your Audiences”

Stephanie’s Blog 2: “The Power of Typography: Balancing Your Audiences”

I found Stephanie’s discussion about selecting a Web font that works for dyslexic people but that may not communicate an intended (or expected) design message to be compelling.  I never considered the possibility that people suffering from dyslexia found specific font types to be easier to read than others. I had always believed that dyslexic readers simply preferred larger type with generous spacing.  I applaud Stephanie for raising this issue and for making me aware that my typography choices could inadvertently “shut out” a significant portion of my potential reading audience.  I will need to proceed with care in the future to avoid such a terrible pitfall. Thanks for a great, and very informative, blog post, Stephanie!

Steve Rusiecki

Comment on Ellen’s Post 2: “The Perception and Placement of Truth”

Ellen’s Post 2: “The Perception and Placement of Truth”

Ellen and I seem to be on the same page in our skepticism regarding Phil Renaud’s claim that changing fonts directly led to better grades. Errol Morris outlines some basic statistics behind Renaud’s claim; but, like Ellen, I need to see more studies that could replicate these results in order to determine if there is something to Renaud’s claim or if what happened was an anomaly. I’m most interested to see if people assign greater credibility to one font over another. Can font selection influence what someone perceives to be true simply because that information is communicated using that font? This question is certainly worth pursuing.

I further agree with Ellen that the subject of footnotes and endnotes on the Web  is a complicated one. Perhaps the best way to get around those pesky interruptions in reading flow that seem to distress so many people is to adopt the Marco Arment technique. Readers simply tap once for the popup note to appear and then tap again to make it disappear. But, as Ellen suggests, the presentation format for these notes is what matters. She is correct in highlighting Prof. Petrik’s cautionary discussion of getting the notes “right” on the Web because they, as Prof. Petrik rightly argues, represent that critical “breadcrumb trail” that lends power to our historical arguments. I intend to use notes on my Web site project for the class, and I want to be sure that I can do two things: (1) maintain the reading flow for all users and (2) carefully capture the sources and evidence behind my assertions so that my arguments are convincing. This effort could prove challenging, though.

Lastly, I think Ellen’s portfolio Web site looks great. Very impressive! I’m glad she shared it.

Steve Rusiecki

Comment on Peter’s Post 1: “Drucker’s Difficult Graphesis”

Drucker’s Difficult Graphesis

I am in complete agreement with Peter that Johanna Drucker’s Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production fell flat as a book designed to offer techniques in the practical application of visual knowledge production. Her 2011 article, which we read in Clio I last semester,  was extremely engaging and offered examples of how capta (her term for interpreted data) could be represented visually to demonstrate its inherent subjectivity.  I appreciated her historical overview of visualizations as producers of knowledge, but her final chapter, Designing Graphic Interpretation, was only 12 pages long and offered very little in terms of practical application. Her 2011 offered much more in this regard. In fact, I was quite impressed with, and drawn to, her theory of all data as capta and the need to capture the “messiness” of this data in any depiction of that information graphically. Unfortunately, she ventured into too much post-modernist territory and stayed there for the book’s duration.  I’m with Peter: Johanna Drucker passed up a great opportunity to put theory into practice.

Steve Rusiecki

Comment on Alyssa’s Post 1: “Appearance Matters”

Alyssa’s Post 1: “Appearance Matters”

Alyssa and I share the same excitement about delving into Web design.  We’re both eager novices.  I especially appreciate her take on the importance of how good design on a book cover can make even the crappiest tome seem appealing.  And, as a professional librarian, her opinion in this regard carries great weight with me.

We are both equally concerned with the problem of preservation. In my blog post, I reacted much like Alyssa to the concerns about Web impermanence  that Jill Lepore addressed in her article.  I applauded the efforts of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine in capturing for the historical record everything that appears digitally on the Web. I see it as a noble and worthwhile enterprise. But Alyssa is right about one thing: Why save everything? Future historians won’t be able to sift through the massive amounts of data archived by the Wayback Machine.  And, frankly, as Alyssa rightly points out, “[m]ost of what is on the internet isn’t worth being seen years from now.” She is absolutely on target when she asserts that the Wayback Machine requires some strict guidelines in what it saves for future reference.  Alyssa points out many of the most critical categories, such as digital projects, academic articles, government information, popular and / or influential blogs, news Web sites, and so on. But what about those culturally and socially significant Web sites such as Facebook and Twitter that identify who we are today?  I agree with Alyssa that no one in his or her right mind will ever want to view his or her Facebook page of today in the year 2050. That would be the equivalent of finding photographs of yourself wearing a powder-blue leisure suit. (Unfortunately, I have one of those pictures!).  The historical community will have to give this subject some serious thought, because we’re the ones who will need to use this information — now and well into the future. But what we choose to save will require some discretion; prescience; and, in some cases, quick thinking.  Something that appears on the Web today that suddenly sparks a world-wide movement may disappear  from the Web tomorrow — and we may have missed capturing it. How will we know in advance? What will be the indicators that prompt us to save something for future reference that we’re not even certain it may be important? I’m glad I read Alyssa’s blog, because she helped me recognize the depth and complexity of the Web’s “impermanence” problem in a way that I failed to explore in my own blog.  Thank you, Alyssa!

Steve Rusiecki