Project D: Exploration

This is a visual study on a series of user guides/manuals/instructions to define how visual elements may help user to understand and more effectively use a product. At the end of the study, I hope to be able to summarize some principles or tips of user guide visualization and design.

310436.jpgThe first manual is called The M16A1 Rifle: Operation and Preventive Maintenance, or officially known as DA Pam 730-30, the reason I chose this manual is not only because it fits my personal interest but also because of the special technic used to make this manual. The main content of the cover of the DA Pam 730-30 is a comic strip of two soldiers in a fight, however, the solid black captions with Arial font text and the Army publication number by the upper right corner tells us this is not a comic book. Another clue that makes this manual unusual is the lack of color, while the silver age comics tend to have very bright colors, the manual is mainly printed in black and white with different shades of tan and brown, making the rifle printed in bright orange very standing out. The lack of color indicates that the publisher intended to keep the cost low. On the second page of the manual, there is a very suggestive and personified title with a girl dressed in bright orange holding a M16 rifle. And a series of panels explaining how to field strip a M16A1 rifle, in each panel, the part being mention is printed in the same bright orange.

With a little background research, you will know this manual was originally published in June 1968 then revised in July 1969 and was sent to soldiers in Vietnam, at the time, US Army was officially adopting the M16 series rifles to replace the old M14 rifles. While the replacement happened in the middle of the war, most of the soldiers were never trained with a M16 rifle back in the states; and rumors say that some of the soldiers were provided false information about the rifle as the M16 was not developed by the Army and some people in the Army wanted it to preform badly in order to keep their jobs. Eager to find a way to pass the correct information about the rifle to individual soldiers, the Army hired Will Eisner, a famous comics artist to design a manual that the soldiers, as young as 16 years old at the time, would love to read by themselves. And Eisner ended up creating DA Pam 730-30. Comparing to the similar manual published in 1970, it is not hard to see which one young soldiers would prefer to read.


By visually analyzing DA Pam 730-30 and comparing it with another manual, we can learn a couple of things: first is to design the manual according to the user profile of the product or sometimes specifically the manual. A bad example of this is a Kenner brand Batman Batmobile toy manual. The instructions in this manual are mostly word specific; the illustrations are rather hard to understand without reading the texts even for adults; while the toy is supposed be designed for children as young as 4 years old. You may argue that the children’s parents may read the manual for them, however, that may not always be the case.



Another thing we learned from studying the M16A1 manual is that without significantly increasing the cost of the manual, a color can help clarify the content by highlighting a specific part. There are different ways to achieve this effect. For example, in the Owner’s Manual for Dyson brand DC07 vacuum cleaner, designers used realistic color for the illustrations of the vacuum; and then highlighted specific parts by decolorizing and transparentizing other parts in the illustrations. However, designers should be very careful when using realistic colors in the user manuals, as it may cause confusion when the product is offered in more than one color configuration.


Finally, Will Eisner also used the technique of X-Ray vision and cut out image to allow us to see through the bolt carrier of the M16A1 rifle, and have a better understanding of what we are supposed to do in terms of cleaning the gas key attached to the bolt carrier. This kind of technique can also be found in the user manuals of many commercial products, including the IKEA furniture manual I am about to review.


The IKEA assembly instruction for Bestå Burs TV units I analyzed is designed to be Minimalist matching the over style of the IKEA brand. The second page is a warning section illustrated in a comic style without any text, a large cross is used to indicates wrong practices. Page 3 and 4 are a complete list of what included in the package, different parts are labeled only with Arabic numerals; each individual part is illustrated in a technical drawing style with different overall scale but accurate aspect ratio; and was illustrated from a most recognizable point of view. From page 5, the assembly instruction begins, all the parts on the same page are illustrated in the same scale with enlarged details in speech balloons; and from an angle people possibly work from. When one of the two parts with similar appearances is being used, both parts will be showed with the wrong part crossed with a large X and distinguished with part numbers.


Form analyzing this manual, we learned that a product’s manual should have the same overall designed style of the product. Another company tends to have matching style manuals is Apple; their manuals have the same visual elements as their websites and packages. Also, Apple is one of the few companies that use photos of the product in the user manual without having the manuals look cheaply made. It relays on the printing technology and material Apple used to make these manuals.


Another fact we can learn from the IKEA manual is that commonly understood symbols and text can be used to reduce cost when a product is being sold worldwide as it may save the trouble of designing manuals in different languages. However, it is very important to make sure the symbol used in the manual is commonly understood. For example, in the Instruction Manual of the Omni Mount TV mount, the designer used a stop sign to remind users to proceed with caution. However, although stop signs are commonly used in North America, they may be in different shapes or not very commonly used in other countries. Users from those countries may misunderstood the meaning of it when reading the manuals.


And the last but not least: an accurate illustration is usually enough for the users to distinguish different parts, however, when similar parts are present, text and numbering system should be used.


When talking about media, Marshall McLuhan mention how the media may extend our sense and eventually changes our way to see and understand the world. In terms of user manuals, as a media, they change our way to see and understand the product they represent by extending our sense of sight using different visual elements. For example, a user manual may extend our sense of sight and allow us to see through a piece of metal like the bolt carrier of a M16A1 rifle, which we could never see through with our naked eyes and understand its structure. Or it may even affect our sense of agency using symbols and illustrations explaining what to do next. A better user manual is a media that extends one’s sense further.


Project C: Interrogation


I Want You for U.S. Army (1917)

Color Code/WWI/Conscription


The United States Army Then – Now – Forever (1940)


ANC, 1944

Nurses Are Needed Now! (1944)



But for Him… (1951)

Korean War/Stalemate/Conscription


We Don’t Make Promises. We Make Guarantees. (1971)

Vietnam War/All-volunteer Army/African-American


Today’s Army wants to join you. (1973)

End of Conscription/Material Rewards/Women’s Army Corps


Are You Army Strong? (2012)

Individual/Politically Correct

Reading #5

The first video is the original news clip by CNN, which includes the carefully edited version of the security footage in the documentary Stranger Fruit.

I edited the news clip, to show how it would look like if the creators of the documentary did not cut the security footage but simply black out the part they do not want the audience to see; like what governments will do when they release classified document.

The third video is the St. Louis County prosecutor showing the entire (uncut) footage at a press conference.

By comparing the three, you can see content of the same footage may change by different editing techniques. If the creators show the entire footage, then there is no shocking story in the documentary, it will not sell. If the creators simply blackout the contents they do not want show, it will raise questions, people will not believe it; and the documentary still will not sell.

As people living in a visual world, I think it is very important for us to understand these techniques before making a judgement.

Project B: Analysis

IMG_0770Sign on the outside, which people can see from the Duff Ave.

IMG_0772The colonial style building was built in 1997 with steel structure, it was designed to look older than it actually is.

IMG_0773IMG_0774IMG_0789These restaurants had no connection to the Hickory Park.

IMG_0777Booths in the dining area.

IMG_0778IMG_0783Decorations in the dining area show the customers the history and style of the restaurant.

IMG_0781The greasy spoon style counter by the kitchen is designed to display the restaurant’s tradition.




The regular and ice cream menus give customers a sense of a family restaurant.

IMG_4306IMG_5716Aluminum tray and dishes are another why to show the restaurant’s history. The layout and the large quantity of the food also indicates that the business is affordable and honest.

IMG_0794Delivery vans with different decals indicate that the company is still not fully developed or it is growing faster than the owners expected.

Exercise III

In terms of the route, I was just kind of following Monica, I thought it would be interesting to compare how different people may see different things during the same trip.


The painting style of the banner caught my eyes, it reminds me of some posters designed by Edward McKnight Kauffer. The painting style with limited colors used was originally created to reduce the cost of printing.


The deserted house is the sign of a poor neighborhood.


The first time I saw clothes hanging outside since I came to America.


I was surprised to see this tire swing since the Utility Park is only about 100 yards away.


“Free sh*t!”


Sewn stripes and embroidered stars.


One owner kept his/her house neat. The fact that the house was built on a higher ground makes it look bigger.


A natural track.


No idea why the girl was talking to him from the bench by the window instead of the chair by his desk.

Exercise II


Analyzing the Facebook page, the dark blue tool bar clearly distinguish itself from other contents on the page, it allows the user to quickly interact with others, it does not move as long as you are on a Facebook page. It is not only a tool bar, it is also a title of the website.

On the left flank of the page, it is a set of buttons, they can be useful and handy depends on the user’s habit. However, they are not necessary or at least, not essential, the developers put them their because most of the users are right handed and right handed people pay less attention to left side of the screen. It meant to be handy for those who actually use them and ignorable for those who do not.

In the middle, the new posts and tools to post are located slightly to the left, so the developer can have a little room left in the middle to feed what they want the users to see. This maybe something seasonal, like the games of the day; or the ads according to your browsing history.

On the right edge of the screen is a list of the user’s friends, it is a quick menu for the Messenger. However, as someone who uses the Messenger a lot, I could not figure out what is order of friends, and why only some of them are in the list. It is certainly not arranged by who I contact more; or as you can see, also not by alphabet or log on time. One thing for sure though, this list is frequently changing, the developers mush have some other concern in it.

Reading #3

In chapter 4, the author mentioned John Berger and his Ways of Seeing, then he raised a question about how to distinguish art and pornography, it was a way to define art in a rather objective way, which is also a rather common way. It reminds me of my thinking after watching Ways of Seeing.

In the first episode of Way of Seeing, Berger mentioned how one’s experience may affect his/her understanding of a piece of art work. I remember reading something about the Chinese teenagers in the 1980s, in the closed and harsh society, male teenagers do everything they can to get their hands on college fine art text books; they then look for nude painting in order to discover female bodies. In their eyes, any art work with nude in it is pornography regardless what the topic was or how famous work became. It makes think if we should avoid subjective understandings or take advantage of it when we create our own visual works.

Reading #2

The author introduced us to a couple different ways of reading visual images in the first three chapters. In the first chapter, the author introduced a seven-process system to read “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” paintings. It sounds very reasonable; however, as professional artists, do we really need a book to teach us how do this? Or most importantly, do we really need the information we acquired from the system? For example, when a fine art student looks John Constable’s the Haywain, he obviously does not need to analysis what kind of painting it is, he will be able to figure out the medium, style, and subject of the painting in a heartbeat, there is not even a process, he just knows. Also, does he really care about the age, location, or time of the painting? Or does he just want to know about the techniques the painter used to achieve the effects? He does not want to know why the water is flowing slowly, he just wants to know how Constable made it looks that way.


In terms of Panofsky’s three levels of meaning, it can be very useful in many scenarios, however, the accuracy of one’s understanding on an image deeply relies on his knowledge, when we do not have the knowledge required for reading the image, we may end up with a conclusion that sounds reasonable but completely wrong. But the author did not advise us how much research we may have to do in order to achieve a decent understanding.

Project A: Decoding the Map




Attractions in the Bad Reichenhall Area
Cities/Towns/Districts in the Bad Reichenhall Area
Highways/Roads/Bike Tracks in the Bad Reichenhall Area
Gondola Lift Line in the Bad Reichenhall Area
Water in the Bad Reichenhall Area
Mountains in the Bad Reichenhall Area
Hotel in Bad Dürrnberg


Public Utilities in Bad Reichenhall
Highways/Roads/Bike Tracks/Railway Tracks in Bad Reichenhall
Water/River in Bad Reichenhall
Districts in Bad Reichenhall


Hotel in Bad Dürrnberg
Gondola Lift Line in the Bad Reichenhall Area




Waginger Sea
Bad Dürrnberg




700m x 500m Grid System


700m x 500m Grid System





Legend Box
Color Scheme
Type Face






Attractions in the Bad Reichenhall Area





The Bus Stop Icons (Haltestelle)



Planning Road Trips