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Klaus Kaasgaard <[log in to unmask]>
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Mon, 3 Aug 1998 12:16:11 +0100
text/plain (38 lines)
Returning from vacation I read the interesting discussion about branding. It
seems to me to be a mistake to make a sharp distinction between branding and
usability / branding and design. Branding should be considered part of the
design and if effectively done will orient the user toward the kind of
environment - the genre - that her or she is now operating in.

Someone made an analogy in which it was stated that branding is what you
care about when you design the packaging for a piece of software. Usability
is what you care about when you design the software. This seems to me to be
a bad analogy which introduces a distinction which cannot be upheld when we
think about how we (as users/readers) interpret texts and artefacts in our
daily practices. As designers we shouldn't seperate the two. Packaging is
also a way of orienting the user toward the genre of the product - and is
design by definition (even though you can't judge a book by its cover - it
does tell you a lot about the contents). And in the specific softwaredesign
branding is also an important issue. Instead of distinguishing between
branding and the facts or the 'content', we should focus on how the two
interrelate in ways that enhance usability. Branding is not - per se - just
another annoying feature to be dealt with when navigating in electronic
environments (although they often are!).

I come to think of a stimulating paper that Brown & Duguid wrote a couple of
years ago in "Human-Computer Interaction" about "Borderline Issues in
Design". They warn against making the kinds of distinctions that I see here
and there in the discussion about branding (between content and context).
Instead they encourage software designers to focus on how the "canonical
artefact" is supported by border ressources which vary in time and between
communities of practice. Branding should function as such a border

Klaus Kaasgaard
Kommunedata (the usability lab)
Lautrupparken 40, 2750 Ballerup, Denmark
Tlf: +44 44686444 - 4693
Fax: +44 44877890