Sunday, November 3, 2019

Juice B Crypts, Nice Design Feels & Menhera Kei

Weekly Update 2019-43: An electrifying, jiggly new album from Battles, how to get those nice design feels for users with a variety of needs and the fashion of bringing visibility to mental health in Japan and globally.

The art of pulling off the perfect cute..."sick makeup"?

Music: Juice B Crypts
Though I have already dedicated a blog post to prog rock kings of the 2010s Battles, their new album got me so excited that I figured it was time to bring them back into the mix again. Their 2019 release Juice B Crypts brings back everything I love about their sound: methodical layering of sounds, weird offbeat drum patterns, irregular time signatures and really cool collaborations with vocalists. Their fourth studio album brings fresh pairings with indie-pop weirdo Tune-Yards, Yes's Jon Anderson, Sub Pop hip-hop Shabazz Palaces and talented wordsmith Sal Principato.

Every song is a banger. I already have my ticket to see them in December at Lee's Palace, in the same venue just over four years since they last toured Toronto. Maybe I'll find a cool band shirt this time.

Ah, the second-longest week of my BrainStation semester is completed. I marked through my students' project briefs and got a feel for their app ideas. Reading through them is always interesting, but it can get a little tiresome to go through them all in such a short time. I compromised with myself and spent my Last Nice Weekend™ marking the briefs on the sunny patio at work. Since no one is around the office on Sundays, I got the chance to play on the drum kit as a little reward.

On the festive side, I got to create my halloween costume for Yuni's annual halloween birthday party this weekend. It was so nice to see all my old friends from working at the newspaper at York back in the day.

This week brings the accessibility conference a11yTOConf, two enriching days of learning to care for the needs of our users as content creators. I'm excited to meet some people, watch some inspirational talks, and bring back some useful content for the accessibility team at work.

Next weekend, Larissa is hosting her annual halloween dinner party. We're going to check out a church sale in the morning and then I'll help her to cook some spooky foods for dinner.

On Sunday, Emilia and Jessica and I will check out the final Kensington Market Pedestrian Sunday of the year. Even without the drumming, I'm sure there will still be some cool things going on.

Random Thought: Nice Design Feels
With a11yTO coming up this week, I've been thinking about my goals for accessibility in the things I design. In my work and the products I interact with as a user, I find the best experiences come from interfaces that are designed in a way that fits the user as closely as possible. This can be achieved by gaining understanding of the problem by testing with multiple perspectives in user research, and then achieving a design that either works for all those perspectives, or can be customized to work for any of them.

And how will you know when you're successful? Ask people and do more testing. To me, designing things to be accessible is akin to the internal sigh you feel when something is just designed nicely, cleanly, and in a way that fits users. It's often subconscious (I've mentioned before that design is a thankless job) but it's the best thing ever when you get it right - for the designer and their users.

Inspiration: Menhera Kei
Fashion moves so fast these days; a lot of stuff passes me by. I just found out about a Japanese based fashion steeped in sickly sweet colours and a love of...mental health? Yep, Menhera (メンヘラ) is Japanese slang for mental health and this has somehow become a fashion trend. I know that when anything from Japan enters the mainstream in North America, it's probably old by now, so cut me some slack if you're already in the know.

Menhera was started to revealed to reveal the 'mask' people use when surrounding mental illness and sickness. I think the stigma we feel around mental illness around the world definitely makes people feel like they have to put on a mask every day to hide their pain or feelings of "otherness" amongst "normal" people. As a sufferer of chronic mental illness, I am starting to see that it is not as uncommon as society tries to convey and this fashion movement makes attempts to normalize it through a "kawaii" lens.

Especially as mental illness is invisible, the use of medical-related imagery and "sick makeup" allows people to visually express how they feel on the inside for others to better understand them. Much as the movement might seem frivolous with cute characters and pastel colours, I think it's an interesting representation of the fact that life is a mix of good and bad. Sometimes we have to take the pleasant pink clouds with the giant, sparkly syringes.

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