Make It So Chapters 3, 4, & 5

Chapter 3:

Throughout the chapter, there were three things that were portrayed as critical to an interface’s functionality and perception. The first of these categories was font and its use to convey information through a screen. Font is super important because it conveys information to the user through it’s appearance. Fonts that are more block-like and all uppercase tend to be harder to read and mimic early style computers making the user seem more intelligent or knowledgeable. In addition, fonts that have more character like serif fonts are more readable and can be used to convey very important information that needs to be read. The size of the font is also important providing insight into the importance of the information. All of these characteristics add up to convey information about the importance and urgency of the words being displayed without the user even having to read them.

In addition to font, color is also stressed as a very important visual aspect when it comes to displays. One aspect mentioned throughout chapter 3 is the idea of the blue and glow phenomena that conveys futuristic text. This is interesting because whenever I hear blue and glow I think of hologram which is very futuristic highlighting the cultural implications of this color. In addition, colors like red on a display signify more urgent or error-like messages. While this isn’t always the case, red is described as having a sense of danger. This is an interesting interpretation because red in other cultures also signifies good luck or happiness which is generally thought of to be the opposite of danger. This difference in color perception is very interesting because it brings up the idea that it is pretty much impossible to create a perfectly perceptible user interface. While we can come to a general consensus on what means what, it is very hard to create a display that means the same thing regardless of culture especially when it comes to color schemes.

Finally, in addition to color and font size, one large aspect of displays is the user interaction through buttons or cursors. One example brought up in chapter 3 is the Star Trek LCARS interface that uses shadows to give the digital buttons on the screen a sort of depth and animation. This not only makes them feel more life-like but also gives feedback as to whether the button was pressed or not. These types of visual cues that are missed when translating from physical to digital interfaces are key in user interaction and is something that can contribute to a device being amazing or completely unusable.

Chapter 4:

Volumetric projections are very good at portraying information in such a way that humans are comfortable with. Since we see the world in 3D, VP’s allow the user to interact with the information in such a way that mimics their natural perspective. Where this can become an issue, however, is in the realness of the projection. As discussed in chapter 4, VP’s can be very tricky if they are made too realistic because the user might actually think there is something there when in reality there isn’t. While this isn’t all bad for most applications, when something that has to be physical for the safety of the user is made virtual (like a step or floor) this can create circumstances ready for injury.  In addition to safety and trickery, VP’s also have to portray the 3D information in such a way that looks natural and mimics the proportions of regular space. Otherwise the information might seem very abnormal and not as informative.

Chapter 5:

Gestural interfaces are very intuitive for the most part but also have the caveat of moving the entire body to do one single action. While there are seven distinct motions set by physical intuition but also movies and TV, these motions require sustained use of the arms at heights around heart level requiring lots of strength and endurance to keep up. This results in the user getting very tired after a small amount of use. So while gestural interfaces might seem cool, they are mostly just used for futuristic looking interfaces.

Good and Bad Visual Feedback


Many doors that I have encountered are very poorly designed in that they don’t indicate which direction they are supposed to be opened or where they are hinged. While this might look good from an aesthetics stand point, it hinders the ability to quickly recognize which side of the door to push or pull and whether or not to push or pull. One example of a very poorly designed door are those entering the UC from the football field entrance. While they do a good job of showing where the door hits a stop and thus whether it will be a push or pull open, they hide their hinges very well and have no physical indicators to persuade users to one side of the door or another. This has on many occasions resulted in me walking right into the door and being immediately brought to a halt because it’s the wrong side. On doors with a turn handle or ones with a push to open bar that has a direction to is, the side to push or pull from is made much more clear.

Assignment: Visual

The assignment is two parts- one, reading chapters 3-5 in Make It So, and two, examples of good and bad visuals.



Chapter 3: Visual Interfaces

The authors discuss visuals in the context of user interfaces and controls, identifying cinematic cliches such as the heavy use of blue glow, transparencies, and circular screens to suggest futuristic technology. The drivers coming from the needs of film include post-production work, legibility (movie watchers can only read so much text on a screen so fast), and narratives (communicating additional information about the scenario or cultures of of the users, dramatic tension, attractive/entertaining visuals for audiences).

Chapter 4: Volumetric Projection

The volumetric projection, aka projections of massless, moving 3d imagery, is used as a futuristic means of communicating, despite various practical drawbacks (need for stealth/privacy, and need for sorting out eye contact).. Authors address that 2d information representation may be better than 3d and challenges with VP, including that past VP remains very similar across time, and that deviating from the tried-and-true qualities may lead to confusing and failure to fulfill audience expectations.

Chapter 5: Gesture

The authors discuss examples of using gestures to provide input  to a system and challenges associated with their use, given that gestural interface systems need to understand intent and need to be able to be manipulated to do a variety of tasks, many of which are abstract. Minority Report, which we discussed in class, was referenced. The authors list 7 major gestures used in Hollywood, which are intuitive to our understanding of working with tactile objects in the real world (the book says pinch and spread for scaling has no physical analog, but it is very commonly used today for the manipulation of touchscreens). They discuss the limitations of a ‘natural’ user interface working off of gestures- also, in class, we discuss how gestures can differ between cultures, even for gestures that we may consider ‘natural.’

Good and Bad Visuals

Unusual Stop Sign: On my commute, there is a stop sign at a mostly L-intersection that had a second sign beneath it saying “Except for Right Turn” – meaning that those approaching the  T can turn. It is located at a unique condition, where the L-intersection has a fenced off road to one side (which gives it the look of a T-intersection). Given that the area is a bottleneck, this sign encourages that traffic continues to flow, especially since it seems the majority of people do turn right. I have thought it was weird since I first saw it, but I cannot think of a better way to communicate to drivers. It is good to show the STOP, in case the driver is turning left. Then, as the driver prepares to stop, they read “except for right turn” and those turning right keep moving.

3d or 2d: We had a seminar presentation about modelling hazards and infrastructural risks in the event of natural disasters. One student asked the presenter about 3d modelling and topography, and the presenter showed an example of using 3d, but also said that when one works with data in 3d (4d, really, if we are considering time as an integral dimension to these predictive models), the computational lag is so great that it cannot perform under the tight time constraints sometimes needed for natural disaster risk assessment and disaster response. Therefore, working in 3d may actually not be suitable or appropriate, depending on the scope and scale of the problem.