Information design:
in practice, an informed theory

InformForm is an international platform for information design, which celebrates and explores both practical and theoretical experimentation within the field of design. It prides itself on showcasing relevant examples of work by students, for students. Read More

Interview: Nattanan Naewmalee

by InformForm

What is the Thai Hand Signal Design Project? What are its objectives and goals?

This project progressed from my MA thesis English hand signal dictionary and hand signals in human activity collection. This used data collection and pictorial symbol design to clearly communicate to the target audience—deaf people, and others who are interested in hand signal learning. The difference between the MA thesis and this project is that the A-Z font is in Thai system hand signal created by Khunying Kamala Krairiksh and not English. This was first design drawn by Mr. Kulnoi Thongnoi. The design process was based on pictorial symbols and developed to information graphic design. Both Thai and American designed a finger-spelling se. These included alphabet, vowel, and numbers, and were adjusted to be the educational media for teachers in Setsatian School of the Deaf2. The objectives of this project are to develop the hand signal learning system via both Thai and American fonts with complete details. Furthermore, to apply the knowledge from information design and pictorial symbol with developing the hand signal learning system to be more interesting and up-to-date. A residual aim of the project was to stimulate the development of hand signal learning system in Thailand, and to meet the international standard and be able to widely distributed in the future. We wanted to officially share the research with the public and create educational fairness between deaf people and the public in general.

This project started during your MA and has since been applied in a ‘real life’ context. Where did the idea come from? What sparked your interest in sign language?

During my two-years at Central Saint Martin’s College of Arts, I was granted a full scholarship from Assumption University, Thailand. Living in a design oriented environment like London made me more concerned about how a graphic designer can work for society in terms of education support, and design for social equality. This is considered to be the crucial fundamental standard of a developed country. After graduation, I returned to Thailand and started to work on the Thai hand signal project at Setsatian School of the Deaf, which is the centre of all the deaf schools. That made me realise more about the current problem of learning systems there, we found that the teaching material for deaf children hadn’t been updated for more than 30 years. So I had a good place to begin and I also felt it was my responsibility to bring the MA project to my home country.

What are your thoughts on the time and space that you have in an educative environment, particularly to develop concepts, experiment and explore?

In education there’s a lot of opportunity to experiment: consuming time with testing until the project is completed. I had many recommendations from advisors and friends at the time and these were useful. Compare this to an advertising agency, where we can’t spend much time on anything, as all the tasks need to be finished in a very limited timescale.Therefore, the educative environment is important for developing ourselves, seeking strength, and decreasing the weaknesses of a project or idea. However, harsh criticism is inevitable and uncountable revision3 is also a symptom of this environment, but everyone can surely survive if we are patient and open-minded to all feedback.

Testing and having a solid understanding of your intended audience’s abilities and needs is crucial in a successful information design project. What are your thoughts on that in relation to this project?

The most important process within this project is testing if it can practically be used. I created the testing paper4 and asked 60 deaf students and teachers to read the designed finger spelling and translate it to Thai within 45 minutes. The result was satisfactory overall, but required a little adjustment in the details of the output.

You also developed the Dingbats font ‘Nattanan TSL Fingerspelling’. Typography and pictographic design are both fields of study exploring non-verbal communication. Why was developing this font important to you?

I found that the learning system for hand signal is divided to two categories. The first one is Sign Language which is used for sending message to the others and another one is Finger Spelling that we move our fingers to communicate the alphabet one-by-one and then spell to words. The second is the fundamental learning that was designed by Khunying Kamala Krairiksh, and the first design drawn by Mr. Kulnoi Thongnoi. It is continuously used in learning finger spelling until now. Unfortunately it’s quite difficult to create or develop the educational materials or books; the teachers have no drawing skills and require volunteers to help, which means it can take a long time to develop the teaching materials. Therefore, I decided to help creating the finger spelling font set5, which can be used with computer and all teachers can then design the academic media faster and much easier. And, surely, the learners can read and understand the finger spelling more easily.

Here at InformForm we are of the belief that learning never stops. What are some of the most important things you’ve learned since you graduated?

I’ve learned a lot from my project. Firstly, how to build up and design an information system that is quite sophisticated, and highly detailed. Secondly, how to reach the highest working standards and how to prioritise work. Aside from these two points is the intention and love in your own work that I have learned. Some parts of my MA work have been selected and published in design books. I’ve developed my project with society by conducting crowd funding from the public. This allowed me to print 15,600 finger spelling posters via social media named Thai Hand Signal Design Project6. The posters will be distributed to all deaf schools in Thailand with Setsatian School of the Deaf as the distribution centre. Through this project, I realised that the designer can play an important role in the drive of a social project. This starts at the point of research all the way to sharing with your public, showcasing the relevance and value of the design.

Finally do you have any advice for students studying the subject?

Don’t be afraid of hard work, and be patient with all assigned tasks. Respect your advisors and friends and be sincere when sharing your own feelings and when sharing or recommending ideas to others. Mistakes happen naturally throughout the design process, and so don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself when this occurs. Finally, design must follow function.

Posted in Articles
February 23, 2015
1100 words & 4 images

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