con·nect, verb, “bring together or into contact so that a real or notional link is established; join together so as to provide access and communication.”
There are plenty of variables to consider when trying to connect something – from simple matching issues to quite complicated concepts. The other day I was watching a short video about living is a Swiss town, and the author showed how different are the electrical outlets. So there is the matching issue. What are the other types of clashes that one could experience while connecting things together? New and old obviously may give some trouble. Big and small is another one. There are plenty of visual issues if someone attempts to connect a couple of elements belonging to different styles or categories. On top of that, there are many logical problems that we may encounter: what is it that we are trying to connect and why? Let’s look at some of the ideas that offer an insight into connectivity using architecture (mainly) as an analogy.
The construction of Punta della Dogana (a customs house) in Venice, Italy stated in 1677. Atop of the building, there are two statues of Atlas holding a bronze sphere with a representation of Fortune which also serves as a wind direction indicator. Until 1980 the building was used as a customs house. Then, after more than 20 years of being abandoned a restoration project begin in 2008 guided by the renowned architect Tadao Ando. It is now an art museum. Ando’s architectural style is said to create a “haiku” effect, emphasizing nothingness and empty space to represent the beauty of simplicity (Wikipedia). For me, it is a formidable example of how “old meets new.” Centuries-old brick pillars and ultra-modern elements visually and stylistically support each other, despite their differences. Sometimes connecting very different worlds does not mean a clash of styles. The key is a simplification. Also, it is better to be really different than just a tiny bit different. In reality, those tiny differences will scream at the observer while, if well organized, significant differences will add to the overall experience.
I will again use architecture to illustrate this. Often, when connecting two spaces, for instance, an old building with an addition, the design team chooses a third element to bridge the visual gap. A standard floor can provide a sense of “being together.” Colour and texture can perform the same function. In a simple trick, a floor can extend to the outside space separated only by a sheet of glass, creating a feeling of one, connected space. The technique does not apply only to architecture. Design uses it every day. Look at the brand guidelines for any major firm. Typography, use of colour, and space can make many different publications consistent.
Probably the most important factor. There is a need for a certain logic when connecting different concepts. A common language, a set of patterns, or metaphors needs to be in place. Otherwise, the message will fail to communicate. Sketch is one of the most popular design tools. It uses cards or artboards in its workspace. It integrates beautifully with InVision, a prototyping tool where cards can be connected. Recently, I’ve been experimenting with another tool called famous – again, it uses cards and imports Sketch files in a smooth integration of design intentions. Using a language explains it well. If we speak different languages, it is hard to communicate and understand each other. In the case of Sketch, InVision and famous, cards provide the primary link, and the rest falls in place. In contrast, there are no cards in Photoshop, although a concept or artboard exists but not in the same sense. As a result, it is easier to use Sketch if the workflow includes InVision or famous.
For those of you, dear readers who follow this blog, I think you know by now that our Competency Modeling Environment is ready and already being used by one of our clients. The Skill Profiles, if deployed together, add tremendous value to the whole ecosystem. To illustrate, imagine a job or a role that has been designed and saved under a Competency Model – if Skill Profiles are connected, the system will find skill gaps. Now, those skill gaps will lead to Learning Resources, offering insights on how to close the gap. Of course, this is a simplified version of what our algorithm is performing behind the scene. What is left now is to integrate the Competency Modeling and Skill Profiles. We decided to use a few visually linking elements, so the experience of navigating both sides is seamless. We also opted for several commonalities in terms of available actions and visual patterns. The idea of using spaces that clearly use sharp contrast did not gain much traction. We discussed an option of a toggle between Competencies and Profiles, but frankly, we feel that the experience will be less fragmented if instead of using contrast, the system is organized in a similar style. Ultimately, we will hear from you and learn if it was the right decision. Stay tuned. We are almost there, exciting moment in a long journey to finally see the outcome of months of planning and thinking.
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