Thoughts on Making It So

After reading the forewords and the first chapter, I was amazed at first by the idea that we can learn design elements for real-world interface from interfaces in science-fiction and movies. But then as pointed out in the book, everything designers do before the product is manufactured falls into the realm of speculative fiction. Imagination drives the design, and real-world concern controls or withholds the possible and impossible so that the design is doable. I was amazed particularly about the Xenotran Mark II Dynamic Sand Table given as an example that lesson can be learned from X-man or science fiction. First of all, I did not know such a thing exist! A dynamic map that projects up-to-date satellite imagery developed in 2004! Secondly, this makes me rethink the relationship between technology and science fiction. I used to think that new technology is developed due to practical concern for the military, and the technology becomes mature and accessible when the cost falls. But that’s only half of the story, as the military does the same thing as the science fiction writers to find better solutions, only with more resources and commitment to develop the technology.

The best thing I learnt from chapter three is that boundaries of visual interface are wider than I thought. I used to focus more on the function or performance and consider visual interface rather as an mere aesthetic element. However, as shown through chapter three, the combination of elements such as text-based or graphic user interface, typography, color, transparency, and layers not only can convey a feeling for a specific time (futuristic, or a historical time period), but also affect the way users take in information. How to distribute (Overlaying? Spread out spatially?) and present(motion graphics? with glow>) the information has a powerful influence on the utility of the interface. In addition, it is so interesting that some of elements considered futuristic were originally used due to the technical difficulty. Some elements that stray away from the ordinary “future” may also be accepted as futuristic. It shows a dynamic relationships between technology, design, and culture.

Author: Zerui Huo

Hi I am a junior majoring in civil engineering. I would like to do a minor in physical computing. I like playing video games.

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