Universal Design Chart

Free Download, Creative Commons Licence

To understand access needs, you also have to understand the barriers. This universal design access chart, compiled from a variety of sources, outlines access needs and potential barriers to consider when developing online content for the web or social media. You can share it under the terms of the specified Creative Commons licence.

Contentology

Contentology is a neologism I created in 2002 to describe a digital communication theory that calls for a more deeply integrated approach to content strategy. In my Contentology.com blog that I was writing back then, I defined it as “the science of content”:

Contentology blends disciplines such as information architecture, information design, usability engineering and “Webitorial” writing. Simply put, it’s a methodology for planning, developing and organizing information. 

Source: Contentology.com, June 6, 2002

Contentology is about these things: The meaning, the vessel for that meaning, the channel for that vessel, and the people who exchange the meaning using vessels and channels. It’s not just about words. Words are symbols that can have varying presentational qualities. They are imbued with subtle layers of meaning, but their meaning can also be manipulated.

It’s not just about visuals, either. Graphic designs are simply another vessel for carrying meaning, whether overt (as in a financial chart) or subliminal (something that provokes an emotion or a reaction, like a photo of a mother and her child, or an image of the World Trade Centre in New York).

And in a multimedia environment like the Web, it’s also not just about audio, video, animation, software downloads, chat, IM or any interactive features. They, too, are either vessels of meaning, or channels to carry that meaning. 

Remember the definition of the word “content” from its Latin roots of “contentum” and “continere” – that which contains meaning, not meaning itself. Content is, by definition, not just something you drop into a vessel, but both a vessel and the idea within it. In other words, you cannot separate pure meaning from its container…

Source: Contentology.com, June 2, 2002 (URL unavailable)

I wanted the idea of Contentology to be as open source as possible so people would start thinking and talking about it more, so in 2003, I submitted the term to the Internet definitions in NetLingo.com, which describes it as follows: 

Contentology integrates research, knowledge and skills from all fields that focus on analyzing, developing, and designing or structuring content. Areas of interest include electronic publishing, information design, user experience design, Web design, information technology, etc.
Source: NetLingo.com

I’ve been encouraged to see that in the last 17 years, the concept of Contentology has grown wings and that in the era of social media dominance of the web, people are finally talking about online content as something that is fluid, repurposeable and able to create a powerful dynamic depending on how it is being used. The 21st century is indeed becoming the Age of Content.

The Font of Youth

How to Select a Language for Your Language

We all know that when we use all caps, OUR WORDS SHRIEK. And when we use a script-style font, or even just italics, there is a sense of intimacy, personality and even romance. Serif fonts say art and culture, while sans-serif fonts say business and technology. What fonts do you really like? Hate? Whole websites have been devoted to the hatred of Comic Sans, and a feature-length movie has been made about Helvetica

Content is never neutral as it is always being shaped by design, presentation, context, delivery and other factors. And from the early days of monks who drew lavishly illuminated text to bloggers who write their rants in lean Verdana, the art of typography has literally given us a wealth of languages for our language. 

No doubt fonts are a kind of meta-language. Our choice of fonts for personal correspondence, business writing or website copy tells people something about us. It influences how our content communicates, and it even makes a statement about time and place, the same way wearing skinny ties and stovepipe pants conjures up images of the 1980s.   

Some promising new fonts in the last few years include ITC American Typewriter Pro, ITC Franklin, Carter Sans and Bradley Type, and there’s a list of the top 100 best-selling fonts of all time, updated daily. Vintage fonts are a lot of fun for creating a kind of textual mise-en-scène as it tells a story the instant you see it. Have a look at these free vintage fonts ― Carnivalee Freakshow, Circus Ornate, Showboat and Parisian, to name a few.

The following table lists 12 notable fonts, along with the year they were introduced. Some originated as fonts for print and conventional advertising channels, while others in the ‘90s and later were intended for screen use on computers. BTW, Facebook uses a modified version of the Klavika font.

Think about how your choice of font style for your website or other digital media project may date you and your project. When these fonts were introduced they became popular, and even though most remain in the canon of default fonts found on most machines, they still hearken back to their original era.

chart of historical fonts and their design origins