Captions, Television and its Double

The year 1960 marks a turning point in the history of technology and politics. The Kennedy-Nixon presidential debate was the first to be broadcast live on television. Kennedy’s telegenic composure and appeal is credited with tipping the vote in his favor. In 1960 ninety percent of U.S. households owned a television. For the first time, Americans in 1963 say that they get more of their news from television than newspapers. Television becomes an increasingly important source of information and enormous cultural force in the United States marking the assassination of President Kennedy, the rise of the Beatles, landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth, I Love Lucy, Sesame Street, the Olympics, news of the war in Viet Nam, the Watergate hearings, the Watts riot, Star Trek, and the mini-series Roots. [source]

However, it would be at least another decade before millions of deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans could begin to participate.

From the National Captioning Institute:

Closed Captioned“The first innovators were not thinking about a captioning system for deaf and hard-of-hearing people. In 1970 the [U.S.] National Bureau of Standards began to investigate the possibility of using a portion of the network television signal to send precise time information on a nationwide basis. The Bureau believed that it could send digitally encoded information in a part of the television signal that is not used for picture information. The ABC-TV network agreed to cooperate. This project didn’t work, but ABC suggested that it might be possible to send captions instead.

This led to a preview of captioning at the First National Conference on Television for the Hearing Impaired in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1971. Two possible technologies for captioning television programs were demonstrated that would display the captions only on specially equipped sets for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers.

A second demonstration of closed captioning was held at Gallaudet College on February 15, 1972. ABC and the National Bureau of Standards presented closed captions embedded within the normal broadcast of Mod Squad.

As a result of the enthusiasm these demonstrations created in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, the National Association of Broadcasters studied the technical and economic factors involved in establishing a captioning service. The Association concluded that this captioning system was technically possible, but certain steps had to be taken before it could become a reality. The federal government then said it would fund the development and testing of this system. The engineering department of the Public Broadcasting System started to work on the project in 1973 under contract to the Bureau of Education for the Handicapped of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW).

While the closed-captioning service was being developed, there were some programs with ‘open’ captions airing on PBS. In 1971, The French Chef became the very first television program that was accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers. The ABC News was rebroadcast on PBS five hours after its broadcast on ABC-TV. From the time the captioned ABC News was first produced in 1973, it was the only timely newscast accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing people until NCI’s real-time captioning service started in 1982....

Toward the end of the technical development project at PBS, it became clear that in order to get the cooperation of the commercial television networks, it would be necessary to establish a nonprofit, single-purpose organization to perform this captioning. And so in 1979, HEW announced the creation of the National Captioning Institute. The mission and importance of NCI was clear from the beginning. It was to promote and provide access to television programs for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community through the technology of closed captioning.

On March 16, 1980, NCI broadcast the first, closed-captioned television series. The captions were seen in households that had the first generation of closed caption decoder.

A silence had been broken. For the first time ever, deaf people across America could turn on their television sets — with a caption decoder — and finally understand what they had been missing on television.

The closed-captioned television service was an overnight sensation. Suddenly, thousands of people who had been living in a world of silence could enjoy television programs along with hearing people....

NCI ensured a bright future for closed-captioned television by partnering with ITT Corporation in 1989 to develop the first caption-decoding microchip, which could be built directly into new television sets at the manufacturing stage. This led to the introduction and subsequent passage of the Television Decoder Circuitry Act, which mandated that, by mid-1993, all new television sets 13 inches or larger manufactured for sale in the U.S. must contain caption-decoding technology. Now, millions of people have access to captions with the push of a button on their remote controls.”

From a more recent Captioning FAQ:

“On August 7, 1997, the FCC unanimously approved new regulations which will mandate captioning on virtually all television programming in the United States. Section 305 of the Telecommunication Act of 1996 is being implemented as a new section (Section 713) of the existing Communications Act. On September 17, 1998, the FCC modified their rules, in what can be considered a victory for caption viewers. The ruling took effect on January 1st, 1998, and it phases in requirements separately for ‘old’ and ‘new’ programming.”

Though numerous studies have shown that mixed-case text is easier to read than all uppercase, virtually all captioning in North America is done in uppercase only. The resolution of NCSA television and caption decoders generally results in ugly and illegible lowercase letters.

“[However,] mixed-case text is often used to indicate whispering, and is also often used for text that needs to be set apart, such as comments by an off-screen announcer (voice-over), or sound effects.

Caption decoders and televisions were not required by law to support lowercase letters at all until just a few years ago. There are, therefore, some televisions that will change mixed-case text to all uppercase.” [source]

Now, with the introduction of digital television, the design of the typeface for subtitling is no longer constrained by the technology of analog television.

This new digital environment provides for larger screens, higher screen resolutions, enhanced closed captions, and higher transmission data rates for closed-captioning.

TiresiasEnter Tiresias Screenfont, a typeface for television subtitling designed for maximum legibility. Development of the typeface included extensive user testing with viewers that had a wide range of visual abilities and viewing habits.

The Tiresias Screenfont was originally designed by a team led by Dr. John Gill, Chief Scientist for the Royal National Institute for the Blind.

“The typeface Tiresias Screenfont was originally designed for subtitling on UK digital television in 1998.... It has been specifically designed for screen display and has been adopted by the UK Digital Television Group as the resident font for interactive television. Screenfont is now being adopted for European digital television. Its use is also being considered in the USA.

Tiresias Screenfont has been designed to have characters that are easy to distinguish from each other. The design was carried out, with specific reference to persons with visual impairments, on the philosophy that good design for visually impaired persons is good design for everybody.”

Both font and philosophy have been taken from the television screen and applied to the public terminal, the built environment, and the printed page.

Other variations of Tiresias Screenfont have since been designed, each optimized for a specific purpose:

Tiresias PCfont is a typeface designed to display clearly on screen based systems, such the information displayed on TV monitors on public transport, at airports, railways or ferry terminals. Building societies and banks use screens to display information on cash dispensers. Many governments are now introducing screen-based public information systems in libraries and government offices. Tiresias PCfont makes these services and facilities more accessible.

Tiresias Infofont is designed to improve the legibility of information labels on public access terminals, ticket machines, telephone booths. The characters and letterforms have been designed to provide maximum legibility at a reading distance of around 30 to 100 cm. Infofont is not designed for large quantities of text.

Tiresias Signfont is for fixed (not internally illuminated) signage. The recommended usage is white or yellow characters on a dark background. Tiresias Signfont has a different level of boldness than Screenfont and PCfont, and has more open spacing than conventional type. Signfont is designed to provide maximum readability at longer distances.

Tiresias LPfont is designed for use in large print publications, and to be more legible than the standard typefaces that are currently in large print publications.

The Tiresias family of fonts are available for sale from Bitstream.

Update October 1, 2003: A couple of hard-of-hearing friends have brought up the petition campaigns that they, their friends, and parents participated in. The text above does understate the grassroots campaign.

>  21 September 2003 | LINK | Filed in , , , , , , ,

Recall Design

On September 15, 2003, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling and ordered the California gubernatorial recall election postponed.

Whitney Quesenbery, Director of Outreach, of the Usability Professionals’ Association Voting and Usability project has posted some selected excerpts from the text of the decision relating to design, voting systems, effectiveness, and usability:

“In this case, Plaintiffs allege that the fundamental right to have votes counted in the special recall election is infringed because the pre-scored punchcard voting systems used in some California counties are intractably afflicted with technologic dyscalculia. They claim that the propensity for error in these voting systems is at least two and a half times greater than for any other voting technology used in California. The effect is not trivial....

Voting InstructionsThese counties [using the old machines] comprise 44% of the total electorate. They include the most populous county in the State and the county in which the state capitol is located.

Plaintiffs tendered evidence showing that 40,000 voters who cast ballots in these counties would not have their votes counted because of technological defects in the pre-scored punchcard voting system. It is perhaps ironic that the sitting governor could well cast a vote on his own recall that would not be tallied. Many candidates seeking to replace him would face a similar risk. Plaintiffs also allege that the affected counties contain a significantly higher percentage of minority voters than the other counties, causing a disproportionate disenfranchisement of minority voters....

Plaintiffs argue that the use of defective voting systems creates a substantial risk that votes will not be counted. In addition, they claim that the use of defective voting systems in some counties and the employment of far more accurate voting systems in other counties denies equal protection of the laws by impermissibly diluting voting strength of the voters in counties using defective voting systems. In short, the weight given to votes in non-punchcard counties is greater than the weight given to votes in punchcard counties because a higher proportion of the votes from punchcard counties are thrown out. Thus, the effect of using punchcard voting systems in some, but not all, counties, is to discriminate on the basis of geographic residence....

No voting system is foolproof, of course, and the Constitution does not demand the use of the best available technology. However, what the Constitution does require is equal treatment of votes cast in a manner that comports with the Equal Protection Clause. Like the Supreme Court in Bush, “[t]he question before [us] is not whether local entities, in the exercise of their expertise, may develop different systems for implementing elections.” 531 U.S. at 109. Rather, like the Supreme Court in Bush, we face a situation in which the United States Constitution requires “some assurance that the rudimentary requirements of equal treatment and fundamental fairness are satisfied.”...

Independent research confirms the error difference between pre-scored punchcard systems and others in use. The July 2001 Report of the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project (“Caltech-MIT Report”) studied the residual vote rates of different voting systems from 1988-2000 in the entire country, and found that punchcards lose significantly more votes than optically scanned paper ballots.

The district court discounted the impact of voting systems on the special election, relying in part on the Secretary of State’s attestation that he would “be undertaking extensive voter education efforts that could have the effect of lowering the residual rate in the upcoming election.” However, Plaintiffs effectively countered this unsupported assertion with statistical evidence showing that voter education was ineffective in counteracting the error rates inherent in the use of prescored punchcard voting systems....

Further, as we shall discuss later, the Secretary of State has already missed statutory deadlines for submitting educational information to voters concerning the initiatives on the ballot....

The State has an interest in holding a fair election - one trusted by the candidates and the voters to yield an accurate and unbiased result. The high error rate associated with the decertified machines to be used by 44 percent of the voters in October would undermine the public’s confidence in the outcome of the election. The margin of victory could well be less than the margin of error in the use of punchcard technology. This would not be the case in an election held in March 2004, when all the obsolete machines will have been totally withdrawn from use. Avoiding an election that promises to dilute the votes of any particular community - let alone communities with a disproportionately high concentration of minority voters - firmly promotes the public interest in a fair election....

There are also some unique pragmatic problems associated with this election that may be alleviated by a short postponement. For example, because of the short timetable established for this election, approximately a quarter of California’s polling places - 5,000 of 20,000 - will not be ready for use and voters will be forced to vote at a different polling place. This has the potential of creating substantial voter confusion on election day. Further, the sheer number of gubernatorial candidates — there are currently 135 names on the October 2003 ballot — will make operation of the plastic guide substantially more cumbersome to use, potentially compounding the inherent problems in its use....

In addition to the public interest factors we have discussed, we would be remiss if we did not observe that this is a critical time in our nation’s history when we are attempting to persuade the people of other nations of the value of free and open elections. Thus, we are especially mindful of the need to demonstrate our commitment to elections held fairly, free of chaos, with each citizen assured that his or her vote will be counted, and with each vote entitled to equal weight. A short postponement of the election will accomplish those aims and reinforce our national commitment to democracy....

A desire for speed is not a general excuse for ignoring equal protection guarantees.”

>  16 September 2003 | LINK | Filed in , ,

Ballot Design, 1880

From the Gotham Gazette:

“The concept of gathering signatures on petitions dates back to the late 19th century. It was supposed to help eliminate the political parties’ control of the ballot, according to Douglas Kellner, a commissioner at the Board of Elections. (See timeline of New York election law )

1888 ticket from the Benjamin Harrison election campaign.Before that, there were no printed ballots in New York. Voters simply went to the polls and wrote down the candidates of their choice. To instruct voters on who was running, political parties printed up a slate of candidates, which the voters could take with them to the polls.

This system had many problems, one of which was that political parties often printed counterfeit lists of candidates to deceive supporters of the opposition. "A counterfeit ticket would list a few of the party’s prominent candidates - just enough to fool the unwary - with the rest of the names coming from a rival slate," said Kellner.

To clear up the process, the government began in 1880 to print a uniform ballot that would be presented to voters to fill out at the polls on Election Day. Political parties were allowed to nominate their candidates to be listed on the ballot. But in addition, candidates not selected by the party could get on the ballot anyway if they could submit enough signatures from voters.

To ensure that the signatures were valid, a series of rules were put in place - many of which are still used today.

Ironically, these rules set up over a century ago to assure a more open, honest and democratic process of elections have become just the opposite — a powerful tool for political parties and incumbents to maintain their advantage. To these New York politicos, the best elections are those in which there is only one candidate left on the ballot for voters to choose.

Many incumbents, backed by their political party, have teams of lawyers who will go over a challenger’s signatures, line by line, looking for minor mistakes like missing zip codes, misspellings, and voters who have signed petitions not knowing whether they live in the district or not.

In the past, candidates have been knocked off the ballot for such infractions as writing the abbreviation ‘St.’ instead of ‘Street’ or forgetting to staple a cover sheet.

If the person gathering the signatures - called a petitioner - makes a mistake such as forgetting to write the borough on the bottom of the page, all of the signatures that he collected can be thrown out. If enough signatures are declared invalid, a candidate is eliminated.”

>  2 September 2003 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

ISO 14001 Reconsidered

Reader Desmond B. writes:

“Browsing through your site, I was interested by your relatively neutral presentation of the ISO programme. You presented some interesting aspects of the bureaucratic inanities, as well as some of the difficulties of applying euro-centric standards (the symbology not being applicable worldwide) on a global scale. It seems as though there are many positive aspects to the ISO programme (your mention of Toyota’s practices), it appears that there is relatively little citizen/democratic control or oversight of this organisation. It’s one thing to standardise container sizes, but environmental management procedures should perhaps be a more public affair. Curious to see some critical comment from you regarding this, especially considering the frequent mentions of ISO on your site.”

True enough. In my two posts that mention the ISO I was fairly neutral. I was less concerned about democratic accountability of the ISO because the standard setting process is fairly open and decentralized, and standards compliance is entirely voluntary. It is up to governments, not the ISO, to legislate, regulate, or enforce implementation of the standards.

ISO LogoStandards are developed by consensus of broad-based technical committees and working groups. According to the ISO site:

“In these committees, qualified representatives of industry, research institutes, government authorities, consumer bodies, and international organizations from all over the world come together as equal partners in the resolution of global standardization problems.”

Though the views of these interests are taken into account in the standard development process, only ISO “member bodies” can actually participate in the final vote. A member body of ISO is the national body ‘most representative of standardization in its country’. Only one such body is accepted from each country.

That said, the ISO’s consensus process is becoming less open:

“As part of the streamlining of existing procedures, ISO committees will in future, subject to certain conditions, have the option of dispensing with the committee stage — the part of the ISO process during which national positions are debated in order to reach consensus within an ISO committee — and with the final approval stage, during which the texts of final standards are submitted for formal approval by the full ISO membership.” [source]

The ISO’s patent policy highlights the need for more public participation, accountability, and oversight.

The ISO requires individual or corporation’s holding patent rights on any part of an ISO standard to grant usage rights freely or under “reasonable and non-discriminatory terms and conditions” that apply throughout the world. While this may seem fair, the working committee of the relevant standard determines what is “reasonable and non-discriminatory.” This policy has kept some technical standards out of the public domain and from being implemented in some Free Software projects. For instance, it is impossible to write Free Software which can encode or decode MPEG-2 video or encode or decode MPEG-1 Layer 3 audio in the United States. When the organzation that sets standards for the Internet, the W3C, floated its own draft policy considering “reasonable and non-discriminatory” licensing fees, it was widely condemned in public comment and eventually dropped in favor of a draft with royalty-free licenses.

As Desmond notes, though, environmental management procedures are a different matter from, say, standard paper sizes.

The major requirements of an Environmental Management System (EMS) under ISO 14001 include:

  • Issuing a policy statement which includes commitments to prevention of pollution, continual improvement of the EMS leading to improvements in overall environmental performance, and compliance with all applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.
  • Identification of all aspects of the community organization’s activities, products, and services that could have a significant impact on the environment, including those that are not regulated
  • Setting performance objectives and targets for the management system which link back to the three commitments established in the community or organization’s policy (i.e. prevention of pollution, continual improvement, and compliance)
  • Implementing the EMS to meet these objectives. This includes activities like training of employees, establishing work instructions and practices, and establishing the actual metrics by which the objectives and targets will be measured.
  • Establishing a program to periodically audit the operation of the EMS
  • Checking and taking corrective and preventive actions when deviations from the EMS occur, including periodically evaluating the organization’s compliance with applicable regulatory requirements.
  • Undertaking periodic reviews of the EMS by top management to ensure its continuing performance and making adjustments to it, as necessary. [source]
The ISO 14001 is a process for environmental management that may be applied to just about anything. It is not an environmental performance certification. The ISO itself notes:

“ISO 14001 does not establish performance requirements or specific criteria and indicators for defining sustainable forestry. Among the misleading practices that ISO wants to put an end to [is]... giving the false impression that... ISO 14000 is a label signifying a ‘green’ or ‘environmentally friendly’ product. This is not so. They are not product standards.” [source]

Nor does the auditing process include public oversight.

“Companies write their own public environmental policies — compliance with these policies, or even compliance with the law, is not a condition of certification. ISO 14001 certifications neither audit nor verify on-the-ground environmental performance. Public consultation is not a requirement of the certification process, nor are public summaries of certification audits required. Because ISO 14001 has no forestry performance standards, any forestry company — from the most environmentally destructive to the most well-managed — can be certified. Contrary to claims by the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, third party audits to the ISO 14001 standard do not ‘ensure sustainable forestry’.” [source]

Indeed, Greenpeace criticizes the ISO 14001 standard and its use by the Vancouver-based company International Forest Products (Interfor) to “greenwash” its logging operations in old growth rainforests along the coast of British Columbia.

“Weaknesses of the ISO 14001 standard include:

  • Compliance with the environmental policy, or even compliance with the law, is not a requirement of certification — the company sets the environmental policy
  • ISO 14001 neither sets nor endorses any environmental performance standards, in forestry or in any other industrial sector
  • ISO 14001 certifications neither audit nor verify on-the-ground environmental performance
  • Public consultation is not a requirement of the certification process, nor are public summaries of certification audits required
  • ISO 14001 is not an environmental labeling system
  • ISO has no effective controls to prevent misleading marketing claims related to ISO 14001 certifications.

Environmental management system (EMS) certification schemes are completely different from environmental labeling schemes. As the ISO points out, “Two organizations carrying out similar activities but having different environmental performance may both comply with its [EMS] requirements.”

Environmental labeling, on the other hand, requires performance above a threshold. The environmental label is only awarded if a product or service has reached this level. The distinction between ISO 14001 and environmental labeling is essential. Because ISO 14001 has no forestry performance standards, any forestry company — from the most environmentally destructive to the most sustainable — can be certified. An ISO 14001 certification tells the consumer nothing about the relative environmental performance of any company’s, including Interfor’s, forestry operations.[source] (Emphasis added.)

>  5 August 2003 | LINK | Filed in , , , , , ,


ISO logoThe International Organization for Standardization is an international non-governmental organization that coordinates the development of voluntary technical standards.

ISO is a network of the national standards institutes of 146 countries with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates the system. National standards institutes, not governments themselves, are eligible for membership. Each country sends only one member, and each member has one vote.

The ISO does not regulate or legislate. It’s standards are developed by international consensus among “experts drawn from the industrial, technical and business sectors... experts from government, regulatory authorities, testing bodies, academia, consumer groups or other relevant bodies.”

“There are more than 2,850 of working groups in which some 30,000 experts participate annually. This technical work is coordinated from ISO Central Secretariat in Geneva, which also publishes the standards.

Since 1947, ISO has published more than 13,500 International Standards. ISO’s work programme ranges from standards for traditional activities, such as agriculture and construction, through mechanical engineering to the newest information technology developments, such as the digital coding of audio-visual signals for multimedia applications.

Standardization of screw threads helps to keep chairs, children’s bicycles and aircraft together and solves the repair and maintenance problems caused by a lack of standardization that were once a major headache for manufacturers and product users. Standards establishing an international consensus on terminology make technology transfer easier and can represent an important stage in the advancement of new technologies.

Without the standardized dimensions of freight containers, international trade would be slower and more expensive. Without the standardization of telephone and banking cards, life would be more complicated. A lack of standardization may even affect the quality of life itself: for the disabled, for example, when they are barred access to consumer products, public transport and buildings because the dimensions of wheelchairs and entrances are not standardized.

Standardized symbols provide danger warnings and information across linguistic frontiers. Consensus on grades of various materials give a common reference for suppliers and clients in business dealings.

Agreement on a sufficient number of variations of a product to meet most current applications allows economies of scale with cost benefits for both producers and consumers. An example is the standardization of paper sizes.” [source]

The internatinoal technical standards also include international safety standards for products including toys (ISO 8124-1:2000), camping tents (ISO 5912:1993), bicycles (ISO 4210:1996), and contraceptive devices (ISO 8009).

In 1987, the ISO expanded to develop “generic management system standards.” ISO 9000 is set of a quality management guidelines that apply to all kinds of organizations in all kinds of areas. Once the a quality system is in place, an accredited external auditor can certify that your quality system has met all of ISO’s requirements. They can then issue official certification that you can use to publicize that the quality of your products and services is managed, controlled, and assured by a registered ISO 9000 quality system.

ISO 7001

ISO 7001ISO 7001, “Graphical symbols for use on public information signs,” is a set of international symbols based on the “ISOTYPE” system of icons and pictograms introduced by Otto Neurath in the 1936. However, soon after the 7001 was published, it was determined that the standard international symbols did not have a standard meaning or clarity in every country. Published in 1989 and revised in 2001, ISO 9186 is a procedure for user testing of graphic symbols to determine which symbols communicate the intended meaning most readily to most people. There are two main test methods: a comprehensibility judgment test and a comprehension test. [source] Pictograms with exceptionally high comprehensibility in several countries can eventually become part of the ISO 7001 set.

ISO 13407 “Human centred design processes for interactive systems” provide guidelines for the planning and management of usability testing in the development of computer systems.

In 1993, the ISO established a technical committee, ISO/TC 207 to develop standards for “Environmental management.”

“This move was a concrete manifestation of ISO’s commitment to respond to the complex challenge of “sustainable development” articulated at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. It also stemmed from an intensive consultation process, carried out within the framework of the Strategic Advisory Group on Environment (SAGE). SAGE was set up in 1991 and brought together representatives of a variety of countries and international organizations — a total of more than 100 environmental experts — who helped to define how International Standards could support better environmental management.

Today, national delegations of environmental experts from 66 countries participate within ISO/TC 207, including 27 developing countries. In addition, 35 international non-governmental and business organizations participate as liaison organizations. The national delegations are chosen by the national standards institute concerned and they are required to bring to ISO/TC 207 a national consensus on issues being addressed by the technical committee. This national consensus is derived from a process of consultation with interested parties in each country.” [source]

The committee works in hand with ISO/TC 176, which develops the ISO 9000 family of standards for quality management and quality assurance.

“ISO 14000 refers to a series of voluntary standards in the environmental field under development by ISO. Included in the ISO 14000 series are the ISO 14001 EMS Standard and other standards in fields such as environmental auditing, environmental performance evaluation, environmental labeling, and life-cycle assessment. The EMS and auditing standards are now final. The others are in various stages of development.” [source]

ISO 14001 certification remains valid for three years and requires audits performed at least annually.

While U.S. environmental regulations do not apply outside of U.S. territory, ISO 14001 applies to all of your operations:

“Perhaps the most significant factor accelerating ISO 14001 compliance is the ever-increasing globalization that characterizes the auto industry. More and more, auto manufacturing is mirroring airplane manufacturing: parts and components might be manufactured anywhere, and assembly might occur anywhere.

This means that a single automaker can have multiple facilities all over the world, under the same corporate umbrella, which require a consistent EMS and measurable results in order to operate competitively. ISO 14001 is one of the best ways to ensure that these needs are met.” [source]

UPDATE: See my August 5, 2003 blog post ISO 14001 Reconsidered.

>  24 June 2003 | LINK | Filed in , , , , , , ,

Green Toyota

Via Metafilter, I caught this article in The Herald-Dispatch.

Both of Toyota’s engine assembly factories in the United States have achieved “zero landfill status,” which means that Toyota sells or gives away every waste product it produces to companies that recycle the waste: metals are melted down, plastic is mixed with sawdust to make plastic lumber, sludge from the wastewater treatment plant is sent to a company in Lima, Ohio, where it is mixed with other materials to make portland cement.

ECO“Toyota has an environmental action plan calling for, among other things, reducing total energy use by 15 percent by 2005. Management at the Buffalo plant decided to do better, aiming for 19 percent. The plant achieved its 2005 environmental goals late last year, [said Don Stewart, maintenance manager for Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia.]

The Buffalo plant is operating on an even tougher environmental plan that is scheduled to be fully implemented by 2006, Stewart said. Among the requirements is the zero landfill plan. The plant had already managed to avoid sending any hazardous waste to landfills. The next logical step was to not send any waste to landfills, Stewart said.

Some Toyota plants in Japan had already met that goal, so it was attainable, he said.”

The process has required investment, as well as revision of the manufacturing process.

“Stewart said zero landfill makes sense financially in several ways. For one thing, it eliminates liability for the company decades from now should problems at a landfill need to be corrected. In many cases, federal regulators require companies that dump materials in a problem landfill to remove them.

The Buffalo plant more or less breaks even on its zero landfill program, Stewart said. For some materials, recycling is more expensive than using a landfill, he said.

Toyota’s plant at Buffalo is ISO 14001-certified, meaning it meets a voluntary international standard for environmental protection. The certification process requires that the plant have a formal environmental policy, a system designed to track the plant’s environmental performance and established mechanisms for continuous improvement.

Toyota PriusNow that the plant has attained zero landfill status, the next step is to work with suppliers to reduce the amount of waste materials coming into the plant....

Toyota is requiring that all its suppliers achieve ISO 14001 certification by the end of this year.”

In Toyota’s text about their environmental commitment is a press release on their ISO 14001 status and Toyota’s guidelines and requirements for its suppliers. Toyota sub-contracts much of its manufacturing processes, so its suppliers handle much of the waste product.

Toyota’s Policies for Global Environmental Protection Initiatives was established in 1992. The “Toyota Earth Charter,” was revised in 2000. Toyota’s Eco-project is designed to promote these policies so to the entire company, and to apply the concept of “Totally Clean” to every stage of a car’s life cycle, from development and production to use and disposal.

In 1998, Center for Resource Solutions awarded Toyota a “green e” for the use of sustainable electricity by its California operations.

In 1999, the United Nations Environmental Programme awarded Toyota their Global 500 Award, the first such award received by an automaker.

In addition to it’s green manufacturing process, Toyota also mass produces hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles. See, a rating of fuel economy and emissions by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

See this article and this definition of Toyotism (or Toyotaism) for more on the human side of Toyota’s manufacturing process.

>  22 June 2003 | LINK | Filed in , , , , ,

Design for Democracy

Misleading ads, voter intimidation, malfunctioning and confusing ballots... problems continue to plague U.S. elections. And designers are starting to step up.

Design for Democracy is an non-profit organization in Illinois . It’s mission is to:

“Improve the informational and physical systems involved in the American voting experience through education and user-centered research, evaluation, strategic design, and implementation, in order to support an environment in which every voter counts.”

vote!From the about page:

“The team is national. Our focus is local. We approach election issues with a unique perspective: as designers. To do that we have specialists in graphic design, industrial design, interface design, Web site development, anthropology, and usability, all of whom understand the human factors in the voting.

We are objective and independent, and we are valued for our ability to consider all possible solutions without preference to a particular technology, ideology or organization. Our commitment is to the public good and we adhere to standards and practices that preserve our client-focused point of view. Our recommendations and the materials we create will be based on meeting election code requirements and understanding what will be easily implementable by those who operate elections.

Design for Democracy... is not aligned or associated with any corporations, organizations or entities that advocate a specific voting product or service.

Design for Democracy works directly with election officials in both large and small jurisdictions to maximize their resources and achieve specific goals.

For large jurisdictions, we can comprehensively study singular issues and determine areas for improvement in processes, procedures and materials. Then we can apply our knowledge and experience to recommend and implement those improvements.

With smaller jurisdictions, we can apply proven strategies and solutions, including templates that can be easily adapted to a particular need. These templates have already been used successfully in two Cook County, Illinois elections.”

Affiliated organizations include the Industrial Designers Society of America, the American Institute of Graphic Artists, the Usability Professionals Association, and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Thus far they’re primarily active in Chicago, with a project in Oregon. After a proposed redesign of Chicago’s butterfly ballot, the group then worked to change the Illinois Election Code to implement the redesign and legally allow the use of lowercase letters in candidate names. Student projects include the design of a more universally accessible voting booth and a more efficient document handling system.

Also, the nod to “user-centered research” in the mission statement refers mainly to field research and documentation rather than actual participation by voters and poll workers in the design process. At minimum, the usability professionals should be able to incorporate user feedback and testing into the process rather than just at the initial data gathering phase.

Once the voting process is redesigned, a hard look at how design can facilitate public participation in other processes (such as candidate making, ballot initiatives, campaign financing, city planning, etc.) would be much welcome.

Otherwise, this seems like a good first step towards engaging designers in civic affairs.

A follow up to this brief blog item on ballot design from May 2002.

>  16 November 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

Nutrition Facts Facts

Says @issue: The Journal of Business and Design:

Nutrition Facts“Less than a century ago, food labels barely identified what was inside a box. Consumers had to trust the manufacturer to use only healthy ingredients—not always a safe bet. In 1924, the Federal Food and Drug Act gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to clamp down on bogus health claims and misleading labels. The FDA also tried to make manufacturers more accountable by requiring them to list their names and addresses on the packaging. By 1973, packaged food makers were also required to supply nutritional values listing the amount of vitamins and minerals inside, but the manner in which this information was presented was often inconsistent and incomplete. The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 finally called for a major overhaul of food labels. The FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture set out uniform guidelines for the new labels. Launched in 1994, Nutrition Facts offers a plethora of health-relevant information.”

Brand design firm Greenfield/Belser, best known for their law firm marketing material, designed the new nutrition facts label. Reknown designer Massimo Vignelli lauded the label design in the July 1996 AIGA Journal. Praising the clarity of the information architecutre, its visual integrity, and flexibility of the design on packages of all shapes and sizes, he writes, “The label is a clean testimonial of Energy Guidecivilization, a statement of social responsibility, and a masterpiece of graphic design. Not a small achievement in today’s graphic landscape.” He does not point out that the generic, anonymous design and apparent lack of “marketing devices” actually brands the space and its information as neutral, scientific, institutional, and authoritative.

Greenfield/Belser’s Web site describes other forays into design in the public interest as well:

“In 1999, we applied a variation of that label design, Drug Facts, to all over-the-counter drugs. Years earlier, we designed the Energy Guide that appears on all major appliances.”

>  17 August 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , , , , ,

Congressial Markup Language

“The purpose of this website is to provide information related to the ongoing work of the U.S. House of Representatives in relation to the eXtensible Markup Language (XML). Under the direction of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and the House Committee on Administration, the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House have worked together with the Library of Congress and the Government Printing Office to create Document Type Definition files (DTDs) for use in the creation of legislative documents using XML. As this is an ongoing project, it is important to note that the DTDs presented here have not been finalized, and may change over time.”

>  15 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in ,

Vote Redesign

Ballot design changes everything. How much was lost because of a bad interface? Since the 2000 election, the American Institute of Graphic Artists has lobbied Chicago on the redesign of a local ballot, and the U.S. Government to include communication design criteria in any election reform bill. See also Disenfranchised by Design, an essay written in 1998.

>  2 May 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , , , , ,

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