Factors in good multimedia design

May 26, 2000

The players. The artists

Artists generally work with static images to present a message or induce emotions. At times, the message may have many interpretations, and it is left to the viewer to form an opinion.

With multimedia, conversely, the message should be presented clearly and concisely and without misinterpretation. Artists do not always understand and appreciate how to use the multiple channels and interactivity associated with multimedia and they can end up relying on the presentation of still images or producing dynamic and interactive environments that are unusable.

The computer scientists. Computer scientists have a detailed understanding of the technology and how to present different media on the desktop or over the internet.

Although they have a good grasp of what the user wants and how to design an interactive system to meet their needs, they can lack an ability to engage the user in the environment. They need to think of different ways of allowing the user to interact and of ways of making the interface visually appealing, while maintaining sound usability.

What to teach. Human-computer interaction. Discuss psychology, user modelling and user-centred design. This is missing in the creatives, and it hinders the effectiveness of their designs.

Authoring tools Introduce the students to hardware and software issues of audio and video capture and editing with tutorials and hands-on practice. This is generally missing from both those with an arts background and those progressing from computer science.

Creativity. Immerse students in sources of creativity and provide a secure environment in which theycan hone their creative skills and produce portfolios. This is rarely taught as part of the core subjects in a computer-science degree and thus is perceived to be missing from graduates. By promoting idea-generating and reasoning, rather than memorising andregurgitation, students can exhibit real creative flair.

How to teach. * Pool libraries of creative ideas and media clips, and examples of multimedia and websites, both usable and confusing, and visually appealing and unsightly

* Help students to get away from the idea of typed letters on paper and instead think of sketches carved in the bark of a tree or waves washing away words written in the sand

* Go to as many late-night Edinburgh fringe events as your wallet will allow

* Attend the opera, dance and art events, and discuss mood lighting and talk choreography with the luvvies

* Discuss and collaborate with art colleges, graphic communication centres and animation houses

* Speak at each other's lectures so that we learn from each other

* Be iterative in our development of multimedia design courses, for as the first graduates of our dedicated training begin to make their mark we must continuously undergo reviews to remain in touch with the industry.

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