Case Study: The London Design Museum website

Case Study: The London Design Museum website –hypertext transfer protocol: //

This instance analyze expressions at the web site of the London Design Museum and is divided approximately into two interrelated parts: the first gives a practical description of the site, looking at countries such as pilotage, usage of text and images, overall interface design and continuity of aesthetics. The 2nd efforts to contextualise these within the larger arguments concerned with engineering, on-line media design and hyper-textual writing. The Design Museum’s web site, as we shall see, is as an ideal focal point for discoursing both the chances offered by engineering and the obstructions to their realization.

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The initial page of the site is instrumental in declaring its overall aesthetic subjects ; it features a extremely colored cardinal motive against a blunt white background that is repeated, utilizing different images, throughout the site. The rubric of the design and the copywrite symbol that accompanies the image non merely underlines its exclusivity but lends to it a dignity that binds the ocular experience with the conceptual [ 1 ] .

We are offered three options on this opening page: the full content of the Flash site, the decreased content of the HTML site and the opportunity to shop the Design Museum’s store. All three options open new Windowss: the Flash version is preceded by a burden screen that depicts a graphic of whirling boxes and is followed by an initial options screen ; the HTML version takes the user straight to the options and the “Design Shop” nexus transports the user to the synergistic store country that I will discourse below.

The Flash site features a pilotage saloon back uping eight options, each with a figure of sub-options that are non merely displayed on the upper portion of the window when the nexus is clicked on but besides appear in black text underneath the pilotage saloon, scrolling automatically [ 2 ] . Where multiple pages can be accessed a three dimensional regular hexahedron can be revolved and clicked on and when non in usage the chief pilotage saloon is hidden until the mouse arrow moves over it.

The HTML site, evidently, features many of the same bill of fare and options but with a limited functionality.

The Design Shop is based around four alive images: ‘Eating’ , ‘Living’ , ‘Playing’ and ‘Working’ , each having a simple line drawing of pertinent symbols ( a cup, fork and spoon for ‘Eating’ , a clock and favored doghouses for “Living’ , a desk tidy for ‘Working’ etc. ) . The life provides a nexus to the assorted subdivisions of the store that houses a figure of merchandises that can be browsed along a horizontal scrollbar. Each point can be clicked on and selected to put in the shopping basket.

The store offers elaborate information on the design beginning of the merchandises it sells, associating them to the larger authorization and docket of the Museum ; the text is non merely enlightening but, combined with life and still images, suggests a multi-media environment that both AIDSs and entertains the user.

The lone two subdivisions of the site that are non contained within the little frame that comprises the viewing country are those accessible by the links ‘Design at the Design Museum’ and ‘Digital Design Museum’ ; these take the user to a standard browser window with a pilotage bill of fare to the right of the screen where a myriad of interior decorators and artist’s work can be selected and viewed.

Visually the site can be thought of as being constructed on two planes: the foreground that contains picks and information and the background that houses images and Sons. In pattern this means that, when browse, one is presented with an of all time altering flow of information but one that retains aesthetic and semiotic continuity throughout the site.

The Design Museum’s web site has a reasonably standard navigational format that allows a user to entree consecutive pages of informations non-sequentially. After snaping the appropriate nexus on the initial rubric page, I browsed the site, looking at pages indiscriminately, doing my manner through its many bill of fares and sub-menus and insulating some information and ignoring or short-circuiting others. I, efficaciously, became the writer of my ain experience, actively take parting in the creative activity of significance and the formation of construction. Before user engagement, the web site consisted simply of the potency for a consistent experience, a impression that as Michael Rush ( 2000 ) provinces is commensurate with a great trade ofavant gardecomputing machine art [ 3 ] .

The significance of this, as Lisa Blackman ( 1999 ) inside informations is the authorization of the user:

“The enticement of freedom and power is seen to be in the consumer who need merely be concerned with doing the right ’product choice’” ( Blackman, 1998: 132 )

Harmonizing to Blackman, sites such as the Design Museum’s that, as we have discussed, is to a great extent imbued with options, bill of fare bars and pilotage, engenders a displacement in the “agency credited to the user” ( Blackman, 1999: 133 ) . In other words, the synergistic nature of the Internet non merelyallowsusers the freedom to shop how and where they wish but besides alters their really ontological position [ 4 ] . Interactivity, states Blackman, connotes power and freedom: the freedom to make our ain experiences from the picks we make and the power besides, finally, to shut the window.

One of the intrinsic facilitators of this authorization is the usage of nonlinear scheme that, as Wise ( 2000 ) asserts more accurately reflect the ways in which human knowledge organises and disseminates information. In our instance survey this could be highlighted by comparing the Design Museum’s web site with the more traditional medium of printed affair. As David Bell ( 2001 ) suggests, whereas as it possible to plane pages or skip chapters, a book is still basically a additive medium, non least of all because it has a physical presence that denotes definite boundaries. Hypertext has no such boundaries because, foremost it is “open and infinite” ( Bell, 2001: 1 ) and secondly, it is a practical infinite non defined by physical bounds ; it has no beginning or terminal and no definite entry or issue points, it hence resists hierarchies of significance and privileged, a priori constructions

( Dillonet Al. , 1996: 123 )

This impression extends into the artistic kingdom ; in the Design Museum web site particularly, we see a non-hierarchical aesthetic that views images of design classics such as Gerrit Rietveld’s Red/Blue chair as bing on the same aesthetic plane as the waies to the Tower Hill tube station or the grant monetary value at the door. Margot Lovejoy ( 2004 ) sees such cultural inclusiveness as being non merely a aspect of postmodernist art but besides peculiar to the digital age that engenders a new “infrastructure” ( Lovejoy, 2004: 6 ) based on the deconstruction of the limit between high and low civilization.

This impression is peculiarly pertinent to the Design Museum web site that invariably stresses the importance of good design on mundane life without of all time necessitating to overtly province it. The fount used, the coloring material matching, the intermingling of high and low design, the apposition of one off andhaut caturemerchandises, the pilotage and life are all semiotic forms for what we could name ( adoption and accommodating a term from Barthes ( 1993 ) ) ‘designicity’ , they all denote design. However, reflecting the pronouncement of Marshall McLuhan ( 1973 ) , this message is conveyed through the web site as a whole medium instead than stated straight.

Such a flattening of the interpretative model besides bears out Blackman’s impression of the freedoms engendered by digital media ; meaning such as used by the Design Museum’s web site needs no specific cognition or privileged experience and therefore deconstructs the boundaries between specializer and layperson, privileged and unprivileged discourse. However, in their essay ‘Television, computing machines, engineering and cultural form’ , Dewdney and Boyd ( 1995 ) offer us a different position:

“The issue of whether multimedia will widen the diverseness of voices in a civilization is finally one of where and how people meet the technology.” ( Dewdney and Boyd, 1995: 166 )

For Dewdney and Boyd, the promise of a cyber-Utopia and a genuinely free and powerful user is limited by engineering and committedness ; the same things that have limited advancement for centuries. Ironically, this is besides bourn out in the Design Museum’s site, where a true province of navigational freedom is denied to the user through coding errors and issues of continuity [ 5 ] . The illation of Dewdney and Boyd is that such restrictions are ever likely to hinder the creative activity of a truly free and powerful user and, in fact, the engineering is ever besides likely to be effected by economic issues.

In our instance survey, for case, it is easy to see that the experience of the web site is dependent on a figure of issues outside of its technological operation: there is the demand for a moderately fast computing machine, for illustration, or for a changeless electricity supply, basic educational accomplishments etc, all of which can be seen to be based more on socio-economics than scientific discipline and information engineering.

Of class, in many ways, this argument can be seen to reflect the philosophical poles of technological or media determinism ( for case, in McLuhan, where the engineering shapes the agent ) and societal constructivism ( where the society or the agent forms and effects the engineering ) . Each of these places have both strengths and failings in leting us to understand the nature of the transmutation from consumer to user [ 6 ] , nevertheless, taken as a mutual opposition, they are improbable, to offer us any conclusive statements. In the essay ‘Technological Momentum’ ( 1994 ) for case, Thomas P. Hughes asserts that, in actuality, the state of affairs can be seen as much more complex ; resting possibly on the nature, size and adulthood of the engineering itself.

Whichever one of these positions is subscribed to, what is certain is that the nature of our relationship to media is altering. Whether they are a merchandise of societal bureau or a Godhead of it, websites such as the Design Museum’s denote a displacement in ontology, a displacement that Michel Foucault anticipated in his 1970 bookThe Order of Thingss( 1997 ) :

“As the archeology of our idea easy shows, adult male is an innovation of recent day of the month. And one possibly approaching its end…if some event of which we can at the minute do no more than sense the possibility…were to do them to crumple, as the land of Classical idea did, at the terminal of the 18th century, so one can surely bet that adult male would be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the border of the sea.” ( Foucault, 1997: 387 )

Web sites such as the Design Museum’s deconstruct non merely our impressions of high and low civilization, or the relationship between the writer and reader, manufacturer and consumer but the subjectiveness that these double stars suggest. The ultimate inquiry of hypertext and its relationship to human bureau is so, possibly, non how it came approximately or what organize it takes but whether it signals a superhuman development or an ontological decomposition.


Barthes, R ( 1993 ) , ‘The Rhetoric of the Image’ published inImage, Music, Text, London: Hang and Wang, pp. 32-51.

Bell, D ( 2001 ) ,An Introduction to Cyberculture, London: Routledge.

Blackman, L ( 1999 ) , ‘Culture, engineering and subjectivity’ , published in Wood, J ( erectile dysfunction ) ,The Virtual Embodied, London: Routledge, pp. 132-148.

Cohen, M ( explosive detection systems ) ,Film Theory and Criticism, Oxford: Oxford, pp.833-844.

Dewdney, A and Boyd, F ( 1995 ) , ‘Television, computing machines, engineering and cultural form’ , published in Lister, M ( erectile dysfunction ) ,The Photographic Image in Digital Culture, London: Routledge, pp. 147-168.

Dillon, A, Levonen, J, Rouet, J.F, Spiro, J and Spiro, R ( 1996 ) ,Hypertext and Cognition, ( London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates )

Foucault, M ( 1997 ) ,The Order of Thingss, London: Routledge.

Hughes, T ( 1994 ) , Technological Momentum, published in Roe Smith, M and Marx, L ( explosive detection systems ) ,Does Technology Drive History?, London: MIT Press, pp. 101-114.

Haraway, D ( 1991 ) , The Cyborg Manifesto, available online at hypertext transfer protocol: // [ accessed 20th December 2005 ]

Langon, T ( 2000 ) ,Surviving the Age of Virtual Reality, Missouri: University of Missouri

Lovejoy, M ( 2004 ) ,Digital Currents: Art in the Electronic Age, London: Routledge.

McLuhan, M ( 1973 ) ,Understanding Media, London: Abacas.

Metz, C ( 1982 ) ,The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema, Bloomington: University of Indiana.

Web sites

hypertext transfer protocol: // [ accessed 23rdDecember 2005 ]

Further Reading

Bell, D ( 2004 ) ,Cyberculture: The Key Concepts, London: Routledge.

Kukla, A ( 2000 ) ,Social Constructivism, London: Routledge.

Levinson, P ( 1999 ) ,Digital McLuhan: A Guide to the Information Millennium, London: Routledge.

Loader, B ( 1998 ) ,Cyberspace Divide: Equality, Agency and Policy in the Information Society, London: Routledge.

Morese, M ( 1999 ) ,Virtualities: Television, Media Art and Cyberculture, Bloomington: University Of Indiana.

Schroeder, R ( 1996 ) ,Possible Universes: The Social Dynamic of Virtual Reality Technology, London: Westview.

, M ( 1999 ) ,Virtualities: Television, Media Art and Cyberculture, Bloomington: University Of Indiana.


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