Criticality: Final Updates

I rewatched my Criticality feedback video from Theo and Carol in order to make some notes on any revisions that I needed to make. I knew that this was one of my stronger projects of the year and that the feedback was really positive, and only some minor revisions needed to made, which is why I have chosen to work on my other 5 projects before focusing on this one. In therms of the feedback itself, I found it really easy to follow and to understand this video format feedback and would love to have had this format of feedback more over the last three years. It’s really personal and easier to understand than written feedback for me personally.

Here is the link to my submission at formative stage in February:

The feedback

Overall, I was extremely pleased with the feedback for this project. Theo commended me on the simplicity and minimalism of my PDF submission which contained the link to my video outcome. The main points highlighted from Theo were as follows:

  • Every figure is £2500 – this seems unrealistic, and they should be more varied.
  • Why does the screen recording scroll all the way to the bottom and then scroll back up? It seems like a mistake in filming or an unnecessary scroll.
  • The screen seems to have a lot of wasted space around the phone. Maybe zoom in more on the phone to fill out the screen more. Also, it seems unbalanced with the full screen version squished at the right hand side of the screen.
  • There should be a call to action on the outro such as a website or social username.

I also showed the video outcome to my peers Abbie and Meg to get some more feedback from them. The feedback was generally really positive, but some of the points they gave were as follows:

  • The background looks a bit unprofessional – maybe try filming on a backdrop?
  • The blurred cover image of each commercial post is the same colour – maybe vary these to be more realistic
  • The voiceover pauses slightly at 0.57 and sounds a little unnatural
  • The username of the person who’s posted the commercial post changes when the blurred photo is revealed

I found it so useful to show my outcome to my peers to get their opinion on it, and I feel that the points they made were completely valid and I feel that it really helped me to reflect on my outcome. It will help me to make a much more developed and refined outcome for the summative submission next Friday.

The developments:

I started by remaking the feed elements on Adobe Illustrator and bringing them all together in Adobe XD to change the figures and blurred images:

I started by using the gradient tool to create the blurred image-conceal. I used the eyedropper tool to take colours from the concealed image to make the blurred colours more relevant to that image. I chose to do this over using the blur filter because I found that it didn’t blur the image enough and this was more realistic. I also changed the rates on each post at this time too to make a more varied price range. This makes the feed seem much more realistic and relatable overall. Changing these small details has made my outcome so much more refined, which really made me realise the importance of the development stages of a project, along with getting valuable feedback from a range of different audiences who will notice different details.

My next step was to re-record myself scrolling through the updated Instagram feed XD file. I chose to record myself scrolling along with screen recording (as opposed to just screen recording), as in a previous tutorial with Theo, we discussed the importance of adding personality and character into outcomes by using humans faces and limbs to make the outcomes more relatable. I think that showing my hand scrolling through the feed will really help emphasise the fact that this outcome can be used by anyone and that would definitely improve the reach of the overall video campaign if it were to be launched on social media or TV adverts.

Filming the scrolling

I then used iMovie to put these two videos together, and tweaked my voiceover to sound more professional and less script-like. Finally, I added my Instagram handle at the end of the outro which adds a call to action towards my Instagram page. Depending on which social media channels, this video would also include a link to both my Instagram page and my website portfolio, to increase traffic towards my work, and alo the project specifically.

Design Document

At formative stage, there was no need to submit a design document for the Criticality project, so I have created this from scratch. I looked back through my Learning Journals from last term which were essential for creating a detailed and in-depth design document. This really helped me realise the importance of documenting my work process and developments as I go along. I will definitely apply this method of working in my future freelance work because I find it gives such a thorough diary of amendments and finding what works and what doesn’t with different projects. In hindsight, for some aspects of the project, I would have liked to have created some more detailed Learning Journals to help me and my lecturers understand my process in more detail. This is something that I definitely improved for my Final Major Project, and will continue to work to improve on throughout my freelance work in the future.

I like my design documents to be enjoyable to read, rather than just plain, boring documents. I feel that being bright, interesting and interactive really helps them stand out from the crowd. For my previous outcomes, I always incorporate the brand identity throughout the design document – I feel that this maintains brand consistency and also helps to reinforce and showcase my branding skills subconsciously. My criticality project focuses heavily on the social media platform Instagram, and doesn’t necessarily have a brand identity because it’s a proposed built-in feature to Instagram. So, I have decided to use Instagram’s colour palette and gradients to help my lecturers subconsciously associate my project with Instagram while they’re reading the design document. I’ve also included collages of elements from the Instagram app like the Like, Comment, Share and Save icons, along with using the same typeface that Instagram uses within its interface design (Helvetica Nue) which also helps to reinforce the brand consistency.

Criticality: 1:1 Tutorial with Theo

Today I had a short 5minute 1:1 session with Theo. I explained that I was going to create a digital mockup of my Instagram feed showcasing the “paid content warnings”. He loved the idea, but encouraged me to create a real life video rather than a digital mockup in order to make the outcome more personal and “real”. I loved this idea and will definitely be trying this out! I have a really clear vision of what I need to do next so I’m really pleased with the outcome of this tutorial. Sometimes even a short 5 minute chat can make me feel so much more organised and confident with my ideas.

I’m going to go ahead and create my feed mockup in Adobe XD so that I can properly simulate how it would work in a real life situation through my video.

Criticality: 1-1 Tutorial with Carol

Today I had a short 10-minute 1:1 tutorial with Carol. I asked her if she thought that my idea of building a prototype of the Instagram content warning feature in Adobe XD was a good idea and she agreed that it was. She suggested I created a set of warnings, maybe some for promoted posts, some for brand partnerships and some for gifted items – this would help differentiate the different forms of advertising within Instagram. She also agreed that the use of sound and vibration would be a great way to disrupt the user’s experience of scrolling through their “home” or “explore” page.

My next step will be to build a prototype of the feature using Adobe XD.

Criticality: Idea development

As I’ve now chosen the idea that I want to take forward, I decided to carry out more research to find more ideas to make the overall concept stronger and more unique, rather than just swapping out a feature that Instagram (essentially) already possess.

Last week, Carol mentioned that I could experiment using sound to disrupt the Instagram viewer’s experience further. I decided to carry out some further research into this topic of disruption and how sound can disrupt an experience such as scrolling Instagram.

In an article by Hilary Andersson for BBC Panorama Social media companies are deliberately addicting users to their products for financial gain, Silicon Valley insiders have told the BBC’s Panorama programme, Andersson mentions how companies such as Instagram and TikTok make the user experience so easy, comfortable and flowing so that the user feels at ease and wants to carry on scrolling.

This leads me to think that the more disruptive of this comforting, easy to use atmosphere I can be within my project, the more likely it is to have an impact on the user. I think that the use of a combination of a short duration sound and a low impact vibration (such as when a notification comes in) would help to emphasise the disruption in this case.

REFERENCES

BBC News. 2018. Social media apps are ‘deliberately’ addictive to users. [online] Available at: <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-44640959&gt; [Accessed 4 February 2021].

Criticality: Group tutorial with Carol

After having researched a lot of different ways in which I could display the amount of money paid to an influencer for an Instagram post, I narrowed my ideas down to a final three:

  1. Endless scrolling

This idea would work in a way that the more money the influencer was paid for the partnership or post, the longer the viewer would have to scroll past it repeating itself. This idea is designed to irritate the follower, and help them to understand just how much the influencer has been paid to promote this product or service.

2. Glitch/distort effect

This idea would make a paid partnership post more distorted or glitched the more money that has been paid to the influencer. An organic post (such as my post, the right) would be clear with no distortion at all, whereas a paid post would have a distorted effect shown.

3. Paid content warning

This idea plays on the “sensitive content” warning page which conceals a post which may contain sensitive content. The idea would be that it “warns” the viewer that this specific post is a paid promotion of a product or service, and not just an organic recommendation.

I presented each of these ideas to Carol and my peers, and the general feedback was that idea 3 was the strongest. The main reasons were that it was relatable, easy to understand and was really disruptive of someones daily “scroll”. It was noted that the idea needed a lot more work and research but this was definitely the strongest at this stage. Carol suggested that I experimented with sound/vibration and how these could be used to disrupt the viewers further

Criticality: Group tutorial with Theo

In a group tutorial with Theo, we each discussed our initial thoughts and ideas for the project, and what the main message we wanted to convey was. Theo reminded us that the core idea of the project must be strong, and used his work as an example here:

The primary message or idea behind this project was that people cannot spend any time away from their phones – they take them EVERYWHERE with them, even when they’re eating. So, the iPhork provides a solution to eating and scrolling simultaneously.

My dissertation topic focused on Instagram influencers paid partnerships or “ADs” with brands and how this can be a successful marketing tactic. However, I also discussed the issues that surround the marketing tactic when it comes to disclosure of the partnerships. I thought of integrating this idea of misconception and lack of disclosure into the criticality project. Instead of having to disclose that a post is paid or endorsed, the influencer would have to display how much they had been paid for the specific post or campaign. The main message that I want to be communicated is that there is a lack of disclosure and followers are naive to the amounts influencers are paid to promote certain products or services.

I discussed my idea with Theo and my peers and everyone agreed that the idea was strong enough to take forward, but that it needed more thought in terms of how I could display the amounts of endorsement the influencers are paid. Theo suggested a distort style filter whereby the more distorted the photo, the more that the influencer has been paid. I thought this was a really clever way of communicating something critically and so after the tutorial I decided to think of as many different ways I could display the payments as possible.

It was also really refreshing to hear my peers’ ideas at this stage. I find that I’m struggling a lot with communicating and discussing ideas with my peers at the moment, as usually we would spend days in the studio together and informally discuss and bounce ideas off each other. I really miss that!

Overall the tutorial was really helpful and I’m feeling optimistic about the project.

RESEARCH

During my dissertation, I delved much deeper into the psychological effects on followers regarding influencer-brand partnership disclosure. The highlighted version is that in most cases, followers have more trust and respect for influencers that consistently disclose their brand partnerships over influencers that post without disclosing their partnerships. In 2017, Instagram introduced a standardised, built-in disclosure feature whereby influencers has easily disclose paid partnership posts as shown in the screenshot below.

This lead me to think about other information sources or even “warnings” throughout instagram. I thought about the sensitive content warning which blocks out posts that may involve sensitive content and thought that there may be potential within that idea of concealing the post and making sure the viewer is aware of a paid partnership before revealing the post.

Criticality: Launch brief

Yesterday, Theo gave a long talk introducing the 3 week Criticality project. The presentation he gave was very similar to the constellation module Critical Practice in Art and Design that Theo taught in first year, which I had attended, so I was very familiar with most of the ideas, examples of work and the themes that he talked about. Theo gave an insight into what he’s achieved throughout his design career, which was really interesting and inspirational. He showed us a list of just some of the different role names his practices have come under, such as; artist, designer, Design consultant, product designer, interaction, UX designer, UI designer, graphic designer, information architect, author, critic, illustrator, artist, poet, photographer, cross-stitcher, film director, company director, editor, salesperson, teacher, manager, trustee, and many, many other roles. This reinforces that Theo’s work is not Art or Design, but a combination of the two.

He also discussed what it means to be ‘critical’ and what it means to be ‘affirmative’. I learnt that to be critical is to design for debate, for designs/art to be thought-provoking and engaging, whereas to be affirmative is to design for production, to have a standard view on things.

The following quote by Dunne & Raby explains what it means to be critical to these people:

Critical Design uses speculative design proposals to challenge narrow assumptions, preconceptions and givens about the role products play in everyday life.

It is more of an attitude than anything else, a position rather than a method. There are many people doing this who have never heard of the term critical design and who have their own way of describing what they do. Naming it Critical Design is simply a useful way of making this activity more visible and subject to discussion and debate.

Its opposite is affirmative design: design that reinforces the status quo. – Dunne & Raby

After this, he talked about the term ‘zeitgeist’ which translates from German to, time (zeit) and spirit (geist). This term can be used in any subject area across the school, as it simply means using things – this could be materials, ideologies or behaviours from the past. Artefacts that exemplify a certain era, such as the link between neon colours and the 90’s, peace, love and the hippie style to the 60’s. It’s expected that in many centuries to come, our generation will be remembered for its plastic usage and disposal. In short, zeitgeist is our understanding of something due to our exposure to it.

Theo also highlighted the importance of conceptualism within this project. It makes a viewer think carefully about a message someone or something is trying to communicate. A great example of conceptualism is Banksy. In October 2018, the Girl and Balloon was auctioned and sold for £860,000. As soon as the piece sold, the frame began to shred the painting, stopping halfway down.  Banksy was trying to communicate the message that art shouldn’t be something people should buy to put up on their walls in their home for no real reason, and that it’s in fact about creating art for enjoyment and satisfaction. Banksy’s only way of rejecting the establishment is to sabotages their attempt to profit from his artwork. Conceptualist artists and designers’ aim is to change the way others see the world, and the process of this is amazing.

Theo then showed some critical design work from previous students which was really useful to help contextualise initial thoughts and ideas going forward for the project.

For example, this project Like Fatigue by Thea Hickman-Riding is really interesting as it shows a phone screen in full colour and a greyscale background. This implies that the phone user is focusing solely on the likes on the phone and is unaware of their surroundings. If you look closely, you can see reasons as to why each person liked the user’s post on each “like” notification such as “liked your photo for attention” and “liked your photo because you paid for it” etc.