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PROCESS BOOK Graphic Design 352 Spring 2012


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information with emotion This semester was focused on how to represent research and information effectively. There are many ways to represent statistics and information. There are bar graphs, pie charts, Venn diagrams, flow charts, and scatter plots to name a few. These can all be used to represent the data visually, but whether or not these sterile templates can impart a real, emotional response I tend to question. Without the context given by good graphic design many very startling data sets become rendered cold and distant. Distant numbers from distant lands that do not affect our lives in the least. Simply put, a Microsoft Word bar graph probably isn’t going to change much in the world. My strategy this semester was to not only represent the information effectively but also to make the user actually want to be involved with the data. With this in mind, I wanted to pick a topic that most people viewed negatively and make it into something neutral or even positive. I wanted to get the user’s input and then by the end of the experience allow them to discover new conclusions on their own using the data that I provided.


A study in rats Once again, I ended up picking an animal for the basis of my project. This time, it was the rat. This is a creature that most people either hate or don’t even consider and I thought it would be interesting to try to change people’s attitude towards them. I did not necessarily want to try to make everyone feel at the end that rats were amazing cute critters...that would be too difficult of a task considering the way our culture has painted them. Rather, I wanted people coming away from my project thinking about how interesting the history is or to respect them as an animal. Or maybe they will just be a little less scared of them if they see one on a subway. I personally two pet rats of my own, so I already have an affinity with them, but beyond that the history between rats and humans is long and filled with twists and turns. It is also an animal many have strong feelings about. Most people hate rats and think of them as filthy gigantic rodents with a freaky tail. This over exaggeration causes people to have a phobia of a creature that is relatively harmless just as long as we are prudent in our waste management and keep our homes well sealed. Something else I find interesting is how some other cultures see rats as a positive creature. For example, they are the first animal in the Chinese Zodiac, the one closest to god. People born under the sign of the rat are said to be charming, lucky, and intelligent. They are also a fairly common source of protein in many countries around the world. In the West, however, they are seen very negatively, despite the fact that we were the ones who domesticated the rat in the first place as companion animals. Soon after, varieties of

rats were bred for scientific research. Many advancements have been made because of studies with rats, especially with antidepressants and other similar drugs. In the US, we have no way of knowing how many rats are actually used in testing because rats (along with mice and birds) are not considered “animals” according to our animal protection laws. It is estimated that 250,000–1,000,000 rats (but probably more) currently are being used in labs around the US. People tend not to think of the sacrifices that are being made by these generally disliked rodents for the sake of mankind. Overall, this project is about education. If people come away from the project feeling with a slightly different view about rats I will be very happy. They are a creature that I really respect. Rats are affectionate, intelligent, easy to care for,and fun to observe. I think of more people owned rats or knew their historical significance the world would be a better place.


Humans and Rats, We’re a lot alike

Contract same diseases - with our similar physiologies we often can contract the same diseases. The Black Plague (carried by fleas on rats and other animals) not only killed humans but also the rats.

The reason that we humans probably dislike rats so much is because we are so alike. They eat what we eat, live where we live, and the things that are terrible about our own species are the very same qualities that we hate in rats. Here are a few interesting similarities between rats and people.

Pass on information from generation to generation if a rat colony becomes ill because of a particular type of food the colony will avoid it for generations. Certain populations of rats show social learning. In specific areas rats dive for mollusks, or will hunt down sparrows using learned skills from other rats.

Highly adaptable - rats are highly adaptable, just like humans and can thrive in almost any area. The brown rat is especially hardy.

Supraprimates - we are both belong to the group “Supraprimates” along with rabbits, other rodents, other primates, and tree shrews. Therefore, rats and humans are much more closely related to each-other than to the Laurasiatherias, a group which includes basically all other mammals including cows, wolves, cats, moles, giraffes, whales, etc.

Laugh - most rat vocalizations are in the ultrasonic range meaning we can’t hear them without special equipment. It has been shown that rats make a noise similar to a laugh while playing, being tickled, mating, or in other positive situations.

Empathetic - rats are very empathetic creatures. In studies, a rat will always try to free a trapped cage mate, even if it hasn’t met the other rat before.

Rats and humans are omnivorous - we will both eat any sort of food, be it plant or animal. We both especially like grains and cereals. We live in the same places - rats have followed humans to every part of the globe. They like the warm, safe environments that our infrastructure provides such as attics, sewers, and alleyways.

Similar physiology - rats and humans both have very similar digestive and nervous systems.

Highly Social - we both absolutely need the company of our own kind and generally live in communities.

Intelligent - one of the reasons that it is so difficult to remove them from our homes is because they are so smart. The know not to eat poison and can often predict a predators movements and escape.

Hands - rats have hand-like paws which they can use for basic manipulation of objects (usually food).

Overpopulation - we are both too smart for our own good and tend to overpopulate, causing the balance of nature to tip. We are not environmentalists.


wild vs. domesticated Wild and domesticated rats are as different from one another as dogs are to wolves. Rat domestication has it’s origins in the blood sport “rat baiting” where a dog is thrown into a “pit” with a hundred rats and is timed to see how fast it can kill all of them. Supplying this sport on captured wild rats alone became too difficult because of this sport’s popularity so rat catchers started breeding them. One of the most infamous rat catchers was Jack Black, rat-catcher and mole

destroyer by appointment to Her Majesty Queen Victoria during the middle of the nineteenth century. He would supply the pits, but would also keep rats with interesting colors which he bred as pets for sophisticated ladies. They would keep them in guilded squirrel cages and often decorate them with ribbons. It is said that even Queen Victoria kept a few pet rats. Later, several strains were developed for use in scientific research.

WILD RATS

DOMESTICATED RATS

Agouti Coloration - wild rats can be brown to grey in coloration, but they have agouti fur, meaning that each hair has three stripes of color in it.

Many Colors - domesticated rats have been bred to have many different types of colors and patterns. Berkshire, hooded, siamese, and dalmatian are just a few.

Avoids humans - wild rats will never seek human companionship unless tamed from infancy.

Seeks human companionship - domesticated rats will often seek out human interaction on their own.

Highly aware - wild rats are hyper aware and will flee at the first sign of danger.

Less observant - domesticated rats have decreased sensitivity to light and sound.

Later maturity - wild rats sexually mature later than domesticated rats and have smaller litters.

Early maturation - domesticated rats can start breeding at 4 weeks old and have larger litters.

Average life span less than a year - wild rats usually die of illness or predation before their first birthday.

Average life span 2 years - domesticated rats have a longer life since they are protected from predators.


first idea My first idea was to draw people in with an interactive website. It was going to be HTML5 powered site where in order to cunning, cute, or creepy? (our complex relationship with rats)

firstly, what do you think about rats? They are creepy/dirty animals. They are intelligent and interesting creatures. They are pests that destroy food supplies and infest buildings. They make playful and loving pets. They are a common food/protein source around the world.

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The results They are petsts that destroy food supplies and infest buildings.

They are a common food/protein source around the world.

get to the next page you would scroll down. That way, the user would have to go through the site in a very specific order. My idea was to start off the experience with a quick one question poll, “What do you think about rats?” At the very end, after going through the whole site, they would be asked the same question again to see if after getting more information about rats if they had changed their mind. The things that I thought were sucessful about this iteration were the cheese wheel pie chart and the rathistory timeline.

cunning, cute, or creepy? (our complex relationship with rats)

I decided to move away from this idea as it was overly complicated and just started to get really bogged down, especially when I decided to animate it. I ended up switching to a iPad/ iPhone app instead.

around the world

firstly, what do you think about rats? Karni Mata temple

They are creepy/dirty animals. They are intelligent and interesting creatures.

rats in history

They are pests that destroy food supplies and infest buildings. They make playful and loving pets. transition to agriculture Rats have been our constant companions ever since.

They are a common food/protein source around the world.

genus “Rattus” first evolves. Modern humans first appear.

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rats in history

The results They are petsts that destroy food supplies and infest buildings.

They are a common food/protein source around the world.

transition to agriculture Rats have been our constant companions ever since.

genus “Rattus� first evolves. Modern humans first appear.

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Animation storyboards These storyboards were for when I was going to do an animated version of the scoll-down site. Even though I didn’t end up animating this, it was still a crucial step to developing the final app.


Final APp Because of suggestions by classmates, I ended up changing my concept entirely, turning it into more of a game. From the very beginning the user is encouraged to like rats because he or she becomes the owner of one. I tried to lighten the mood a bit as well so that the app would be more appealing to children. As the user reads articles they get more sunflower seeds and if they read all of a certain type of article or achieve an accomplishment they will get a badge. They can trade in their sunflower seeds for things to decorate their rat’s home with or for gift cards and pet stores.


Rat Project Process Book