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To write on analyzing an interaction, I picked up the iPhone app Clear. When Jingya told me that Kai is also doing the same, I thought real hard to come up with something else, but there are couple of reasons why I could not have chosen anything else for writing. With this post, I’m trying to articulate all the ideas based on research I did till now. Am still weak on applying theories from our class to the ideas discussed. Any help with that is really needed and appreciated.

My Motivations

First, the most striking feature of this app is that it has no buttons. In that sense, Clear defies the regular conventions and still it has been very well received by users worldwide. The reason is it literally emulates the metaphor of pen & paper, although in abstract ways due to its minimalist design, I’ll talk in detail later about this. And this whole thing is really very close to my capstone project. So writing and thinking about this interaction helps me get clarity about my capstone as well.

Second reason for choosing clear has to do with the reason for which people might be using this app in the first place – Procrastination. My final project for Rapid Design For Slow Change was on procrastination and after a lot of research, brainstorming sessions the design boiled down to a to-do list and some of our ideas about how to interact came very close to this app’s design, but our design was way too complex. So in that sense, I can see myself being able to write more holistically on analyzing Clear than any other interaction.

Design Introduction (Mixes artifact and designer perspectives)

Clear is a simple tool that allows quick creation of lists, to-do lists. The app is designed for the medium (touch) in the sense that the interface relies on direct manipulation of objects using gestures like taps, drags, slides, and pinches instead of traditional buttons and tabs. Drag down to create new item. Tap, hold and slide to reorder. Pinch-to-zoom to navigate a level above or pinch apart to add a new item. Swipe items to right to check them off or swipe left to delete them.

In this way, the app turns the content itself into an interface. And then the design uses affordances of a touch paradigm to cut down on everything that is not necessary. That said, it is interesting to note things that the app doesn’t do. It allows only creating basic lists and items within those lists. It does not allow for setting any reminders, neither does it allow syncing with your calendar nor does it help you figure out how old the item is. Well, there seems to be reasons for this – first has to do with its metaphor and second one has to do with procrastination.

Real World Metaphor – Paper and Pen

I’ve played with the app for few days and realized that the invisible gestures made a lot of sense and were very intuitive. The learning curve was really very small. This interesting fact both excited me and intrigued me at the same time. I was excited because how easy it is to learn and also puzzled at why is it so. So I closely examined the behaviors and various transition states, and realized that all the transitions, gestures have a relationship that essentially ties them together and that relationship is – paper. Yes, the design mimics a virtual paper and virtual pen (keyboard). This design is the closest digital manifestation I’ve seen of pen and paper. All the design decisions, the gestures support the metaphor and I believe that is the reason it is so easy to learn. The design mimics a folded paper with infinite length. One can expand to see the parts of the paper specific to a context, or compress again to just get a broad view of the swamp. The way those transitions while navigating across levels take place clearly mimic the paper metaphor. As one pinches, the items blocks squeeze and come closer to the finger towards the center of the screen and finally merges into a thin border of the macro item they belong to, as if folded and pushed behind. And immediately after the item is collapsed the whole screen slides up and the top item snaps to the top of the screen. My claim is supported by a link on ‘Using Origami To Mock-Up Ingenious Gestural Interfaces‘ that Leo shared about an article on FastCompany which takes the exact same screen from application Clear and shows a paper mockup.

So, reasons for a lot of things that the application does not do stem from its heavy reliance on the metaphor. There is one more interesting idea here. In case of Clear, the metaphor governs the behavior of application and not the visual design which is very unlike apple’s designs. Apple and many other designers puts a lot of emphasis visually clarifying the metaphor like the recently launched iPad app ‘Paper’ that combines the look and feel of paper with novel gestures to move around. Instead Clear uses thick colorful blocks with varied hot or cool color themes. Even the size of blocks does not resemble a ruled paper, instead the thickness does not multiply to screen size so it tell you if you need to scroll more. To me the reason for following a metaphor so closely in behavior but being visually completely apart can be linked to the context for which it is designed. It is designed to minimize any sort of distractions and allow people to really focus on things they want to get done. Also, since the application does not sync and offers no reminders or other frills, in long run I believe the design will not be used for getting grocery shopping done, but to get through the rut of you are stuck in. So, in a way visually moving away from the metaphor helps people retain focus without thinking too much about design and the known behavior of real world helps them learn the invisible language in ways that can be used without even thinking about it.


We all procrastinate. That is the reason deadlines exist. Procrastinators are different from lazy people, in the sense that a lazy person will not do anything as he knows even if he did anything, it won’t be interesting. On the other hand a procrastinator will be busy doing things, but will delay the most crucial thing. Mostly it is because they have not figured out how exactly to get it done and having an infinite timeline helps push it back and focus on trivial issues first. Only when pressured (externally) by others around us or via deadline can we find motivation enough to sift through that confusion. Interestingly, the most effective external motivation to convince yourself  under such circumstances can be as simple as hearing from friends and family – “just get your act together and get it done” or “i know you can do it”.

So how this explanation ties into clear’s design?

The way human brain cycle works to achieve complex tasks is to think of doing it or being asked to do it, to plan and assess situation & resources, to act, to analyze and to take further decisions if necessary. We quickly skip a lot of these steps for routine or mundane stuff, but we follow a lot of these and in order to get through things we have not done before or if we are not confident about them. So in such situations, being able to look over them repeatedly and reassessing the situation is key (this might explain why designers usually create moodboards, or fill up walls with always visible post-it notes). So, instead of syncing the tasks with your calendar or reminding you automatically, the application forces you to come back and look again, to enforce reassessment. And hence they have a feature that allows one to reorder things as quickly as possible and also quick editing. The application uses thick blocks of bright colors for showing items in a list, the visuals gives the  list an effect of a heatmap that inherently reminds one of prioritization and so do they react. So in a way for the design to be effective, it is essential no to have reminders or sync capabilities. (This needs lot of work and research to backup claims.)

Also, there are two ways to clear off items. Left swipe strikes off an item, displays a check mark and fades away the item, but the item is still slightly visible. The idea is based on the principle of positive reinforcement, and having a sense of achievement. Checking things off gives a sense of accomplishment, and it stays with you till it becomes a distraction and you want to get rid of it. This transition state can be particularly useful when trying to accomplish something for the first time. The checked items in a way say that this much is already accomplished akin to a friend saying, you have already come so far the next step is also doable.

When you create an item, it’s a vague thought about an activity that you thought you might do. Over time your thoughts refine and you want to change something, hence it is designed so that it is really quick to pick up and item and edit it. There is also a limitation of 30 characters per item, and that limitation aids the purposeful intention as that forces one to be thoughtful, and that helps a lot when dealing with vague.

Another thing that often make people to overcome procrastination is inspiration. And we know that creativity inspires. I relate this to Murch’s reading where he talks about blink and how that relates to transitions. The app designers worked heavily on the transitions not just to support the metaphor, but also to be true to the purpose. The transitions between various states are not typical right to left screen slides or popup screens, instead they are playful and novel. They contain you within the same space unless you intentionally want to leave. I assume this has been intentionally done to inspire positivity in people who use it. This inspiration thus provides room for them to be creative in their thought process, and hence be productive. (again, this needs lot more grounding)

When watching films in theater, the ambiance is dark (black) as it helps in getting immersed into the experience and forget everything else that might distract. The design exploits this principle to allow immersion into one’s own thought process by serving a black background with all of its colorful themes. This immersion also allows for a quick reflection, self assessment.

Socio-Cultural: Why we need an app to get our tasks done in the first place?

A simple answer to the above question could be that today technology mediates everything and has increased pace of life. So to keep up with things around, we need to externally offload so many things that we might need to remember otherwise. And also, over decades our notion of time has changed significantly. Stephen R. Covey, author of ‘First Things First’ categorized post World War II modern-day evolution of time management into four generations:

1. First generation is the traditional and rudimentary approach based on clock based reminders and alerts

2. Second generation focuses on planning and preparation of work schedules and events, setting time-based goals.

3. Third generation aims at prioritizing various tasks and events.

4. Fourth generation is similar to third, but aims at prioritization based on importance of task rather than the urgency.

It will not be wrong to say that everyone reading this post will related to third or fourth generation. So to put simply, an effective time management is a complex task and a tools that allows for effective external cognition is not a luxury, but a necessity. My argument is supported by research published in the book ‘Time for Life: The Surprising Ways Americans Use Their Time’ by John P. Robinson and Geoffrey Godbey which talks about how the notion of time for Americans has changed over decades. The results from comparison of diary studies across three decades, shows the phenomenon to be true across social class, gender, age. And the researchers have found it convenient to classify time as having four types of meaning for individuals: 1. paid work (contracted time); 2. household/family care (committed time); 3. personal time; and 4. free time. These are strongly related to the role distinctions of worker, spouse, and parent and can further complicate the ways in which paid work time and free-time activities can interact.

Further in the study they show a diagram depicting Interrelations across the four types of time. In the diagram they relate Contracted work and Committed time to the notion of ‘productivity’, Personal time to the notion of ‘maintenance’ and Free time as ‘expressive’. And they also mention a floating fifth time category as ‘travel’ as that affects how other notions interact with each other.

So, how is this discussion important? We as humans as ambitious and want to be productive and also be seen as being productive. So we often prioritize things that don’t allow for expression, but our desires to express and enjoy ourselves always bear significant space in our decision making process. Probably this demonstrates the rut that we constantly go through in our minds. And this is a lot. So any tool that we use should not allow for any distraction away from this rut. Pen and paper used to be the best pals, but with changing times the tools also need to advance and support the ecosystem. There are just too many things one has to handle that reduces the impact pen and paper used to have.

The application Clear has a razor sharp focus the cues that can allow for immediate immersion into our own thought process and be effective at the end of the day.


Other ideas:

Detailed design elements of the artifact itself

Designer’s background and how that has influenced the design

Creativity | Focus on thinking process – new ideas | Novel tools enhance creativity – Adobe

Principles of Aesthetics as a lens to look at the design


This post might feel random to lot of people, as it does to me right now. But I felt it might be interesting to some.

Christian Metz analysis of film holds true for analyzing interaction design in particular. He argues – the reason film is popular as a form of art lies in its ability to be both an imperfect reflection of reality and a method to delve into unconscious dream state.

In the interaction paradigm the same argument holds as the interfaces that we are presented with are reflection of the virtual reality (read mental models). The second part of his argument is still valid to an extent for regular interfaces since they flow into one another (imagine time lapse here). The flow is not continuous for obvious reasons – they offer choice. Now if we think of this in context of games, the Metz argument makes total sense, the only key difference being real being replaced by our notion of virtual (which is based on real anyways).

Link to JumpCut Archive

The following article led me to dig more about Christian Metz:

Here is a random post from me, I apologize because it’s gonna be messy. In this post I want to practice ‘critique’. Today I just felt that we are not critiquing things as much as I expected. We are trying to relate theories to practical examples and that is great, but I believe we should also be critiquing a lot. I got this idea after today’s capstone class when Jeff asked us to critique each other’s work.

So, I’m gonna take a list of interactive objects that all of us deal with on a daily basis. I’ve tried to choose interactions at different levels just so as to experiment. Here is the list of objects:

1. Automatic Doorlock

2. Bathroom Shower/ Tap

3. TV Remote

4. Experience of watching TV

5. URL

6. Office softwares (Take any example, it sucks)

7. Political system

1. Automatic Door Lock

I’ve had a lot of troubles with seemingly simple door locks. While I was in my apartment in Mumbai and Fountain Park Apartments, I always had to ensure that I carry apartment keys as I stepped outside. Otherwise the door with lock automatically.

This simple design has its own benefits too. The lock ensures safety even if you forget to lock the door. If you are in a hurry, it becomes convenient to just shut the door and leave. But this comfort comes at the cost of a huge cognitive load and a tension to ensure that I’m carrying the keys. In ways, this design forces me to change my behavior. Why? Because I do not have any other choice. And I can’t live without using the design. In this case it is because of the situational paralysis. I can’t go and ask someone to change the lock with a valid reason, because the lock works fine. And admitting my laziness or negligence of carrying the key is embarrassingly embarrassing.

The images I’ve chosen are not the best, but I could not find anything closer. Actually I don’t even remember how exactly they looked. That’s how obvious was the function of this design that I never focused on it even after using it hundreds of times. I’m sure not everyone has similar locks and thus not have same problems. But I’ve noticed similar locks at various places now. And nonetheless, its a design worth a critique. If we compare this to locks in many hotel rooms these days, where the keys regulate electricity. There is a much better feedback one gets from the design itself. Since there is a value of saving electricity associated with sense of security (of not forgetting your keys), it not only becomes much easier to perform the activity but you also feel responsible for doing so.

2. Bathroom – washbasin tap & shower knobs

Another rant that comes from my ‘unpleasant’ experiences almost everyday. I end up burning my skin multiple times for not having the precision skills of an aircraft controller (btw, even they use autopilot mode as practicing those skills is cumbersome). This washbasin tap is controlled by a single lever. Now from a functional stand point, this is very convenient and an essential feature of design because mostly while using it I have something in my hands like a shaving cream, toothbrush, soap, etc. The design of this lever is very intuitive too – left for hot, right for cold. And here comes the problem. With such a design user will trade-off control over either the speed of water flow or the temperature of water. In my case I do not control the flow speed. It makes a lot of sense because there is no shortage of water in US. And that design choice leaves us the interaction that matters most – a comfortable water temperature controller.

But since left goes for hot and right for cold, the only way I can get warm water flowing is if I manage to push the lever back, exactly in the center. That just never happens for me 😦 Rather than having a frost bite with the cold water, I prefer to bear the burns. The reason I picked this interaction is because seemingly simple, there is a lot of detailed level design precision that was required and which is clearly missing here. This is a common design and I’m sure many people might be facing this issue. Below is a picture of the washbasin in my bathroom.

The shower knobs in my bathroom are a classic case of how not to design products. I hate to take shower because of this design. There are a lot of things I can crib about this design:

– There are two knobs here, primarily to give control over both speed and water temperature. I basically needed just one. I acknowledge the need to control both aspects, but operating two knobs is definitely not the solution.

– I have to un-intuitively turn one knob to left and other to right to increase the speed of water flow. This design decision makes me think every time I attempt to move them.

– The rate of change of temperature is way higher even if I make a very very slight twist. I know not all shower knobs are like mini cooper steering wheels and neither should they be. But this is a big problem. I’ve to spend a lot of time getting the two knobs to balance, so that I can take a shower without burning myself out.

3. TV Remote

I’ll try and keep all the remaining ones brief. To me, a TV remote is the most used and ugliest piece of technology in our hands. Not only is it confusing, but I’ve never ever met a single person in my life who even knew what all those buttons stand for. (Asserting without data) 99.99999% people use 5 buttons 99% of times – on/off, channel up/down, volume up/down, mute, and switch to previous. Still we have over 20 buttons. Now with touch interactions becoming the norm, the TV remotes are also changing soon. Apple attempted a iPod-esque remote. People like it for its simplicity, but it is very very limiting in what it allows one to do and some of the interactions are not very intuitive (I got this from talking to few friends who use Apple TV). In last semester, I did a physical prototyping project and attempted to re-purpose a computer mouse into a TV remote. The inspiration came from my observation that TV is becoming more and more interactive. TV is in the bedroom, older audience (people who buy) are comfortable sitting in front of TV. They know how to use a mouse, and mouse is not going to go away for sure. So why can’t the same device be used. I don’t know if my attempt is going to be a usable design or not, but I think of it as a direction worth exploring. Below is an image of my prototype. The extension is intended to be a touchpad.

4. Experience of watching TV

I do not have a TV, and I do not intend to buy a TV in future too. Atleast until we have an elegant solution to that experience. I understand we are in a phase of transition, but that does not warrant a compromise on experience. Today most people have to use two remotes. One to switch channels, other to control TV on/off and everybody uses hacks for volume controls. Often, controlling it with just one of the remotes does not work well. So people use both. To me this is a big design fail. I know that set top boxes are manufactured by separate company than the TV. But there are finite number of manufacturers. Why don’t streaming products sync with TV manufacturers so that their remotes become the only remote? There might be several reasons for not getting this in place, but I fail to understand why companies don’t think of tapping this opportunity. Google fail, Apple fail, Boxee fail. Atleast in this regards.

5. URL

I came across a visual design attempt of Microsoft Windows 8 by a person outside Microsoft. Then, Tarun asked me a question couple of days back on Facebook group – Would eliminating the URL bar be the best idea for new users? Is search the only method that should be on by default?

This made me think a bit and then I realized the evil of URL. It’s true that today URL is the only way we jump, skip and hop on internet. But if you think deeply, we don’t really need URL in its current form because it has some inherent problems: We can never type a URL in the address bar unless its or You would realize that if you turn off autocomplete in browser. We essentially either click or copy-paste URL. Also, they look ugly and creates a mess everywhere they go. They also expire. We experience that often with news articles or with local sites. But no matter how ugly they might be, they serve two core purposes: link to information & reveal identity of source. Both of these aspects are crucial for sense making of the information we are presented with. I never try to read the entire URL, but my eyes are trained to ignore anything after .com and read everything before that. And I assume most people do that. That very interaction of ignoring the rest and reading the domain name deals with the issue of trust and if stated in philosophical terms, the smell of information. URL’s in their primitive ways serve to search engines, not to humans. We still do not have an elegant solution that would address both the essential requirements and hence are stuck with these today. But soon I believe they will give way to beautiful and elegant solutions. I have high hopes with the advances in holographic technologies. I guess the digital signatures fall into same category, but since not many people use them it is not as important to discuss I believe.

6. Softwares for professionals (in almost any IT company)

This is a classical paradox to me. Organizations crave for productivity. Their business relies on how efficient their employees are. Yet they are presented with the most horrible tools to work with. Often startups focus their heart and soul on solving user’s problems, but neglect their own problems. If they succeed on user’s side, they grow. As they grow they have often less time at hand to analyze their own productivity lags. They often make it up with hiring more people. And hence increasing the problem manifolds. And the chain continues. For big organizations, not only they suffer with productive tools, but also with lack of speed in decision making. Since the professionals get paid for using the pathetic softwares, the lack of focus on self is to an extent practically justifiable but not rational.

Taking an example, the HR department suffers in almost every organization with tools that were designed over a decade ago. Over last 5 years, their inability to cope with their own systems and the rise of cloud based social networks like LinkedIn and many industry specific job portals, the HRs have changed gears for good. But what about people who are any kind of analysts. The only software they rely on most of the time is an excel sheet spitted by the database coupled with few custom made templates they possess. Google docs is still very limited, Microsoft took a crack on cloud excel. Such tools might be their angel.

If small and agile organizations spent part of their time to develop custom tools that might help them cover up miles. One problem I see in this is that we interaction designers don’t often deal with complex UI (admin tools, CMS, document repository, etc.). One reason could be that most tricks we’ve learned in schools deals with focusing primarily on user. Often complex information flows, and information architecture takes a back seat. And this makes a lot of sense too since people can adapt to those situations if they have all their bases covered. But it requires a lot of extra efforts to deal with so called ‘complicated’ situations. I’ve experienced such situations many times and every time I figured out that it was just the perception of people which prevented them to investigate the problem space. The problem were actually very simple. But implementing the solution needed a lot of motivation, which is rare to find.

I know I deviated from original point, but these emerging thoughts also held some values.

7. Political system

This is the last example I’ll attempt tonight. I had few thoughts when I began and now I’m a bit lost. The political structure that we abide by, affects our lives on a daily basis. Although we don’t directly interact with the government, but our actions are a outcome of our understanding of those rules. As the rules change, we are made aware through media, newspapers, etc. and we start following new rules or we start expressing our concerns mutually to each other. In extreme cases we come out and Occupy. To me, there is an interaction here as well. I guess I’ll have a better time articulating it once we cover the socio-technical part of the class. I’m right now struggling to frame my convoluted thoughts and understanding their sense myself, so I better not confuse others.

If you are reading this, than thanks a lot for your patience. I hope you might want to critique back few things. Please do that in comments. And if you have more examples, please talk about them too.

Short Conclusion

I can go buy a new lock or tap and change it instantly, still I don’t. I can’t change the political system around me instantly, still I crib. So moral of the story – users keep cribbing for all sorts of things and often don’t do things they soooo want to do. So I think as designers, it becomes very critical to not just critique designs, objects, etc. but also to critique the findings we get from our user studies. My two cents, after a looong post 😛

I found this TED talk video very interesting and initially posted on facebook group. Then Leo reminded me to post in on IxCulture (love the name) blog. And that reminded me of the famous quote we heard recently. So I thought posting it here would be particularly interesting.

Shilo Shiv Suleman: Using tech to enable dreaming

There are couple of reasons why I find this video interesting. Shilo dreams of magic and technology and then combines her dreams to create fresh interactions (not novel by design, but by usage in given context). She goes on to exploit existing technology to create beautiful stories that not only include animation, personalization but also has some aspects of social (although not very great) and a drive to make kids interact with real world too.

Second reason I liked this video a lot is because of the way she looks super excited all the while she was presenting. I feel inspired and would try to learn a lot of her presentation traits. In the process I will make a lot of mistakes for sure, but I can count on all of you to help me on that.


Also, this video by Joe Sabia: The technology of storytelling is also very fascinating particularly because of the choice of interactive medium (iPad) in this case. Although I think the current way he presented was not ‘beautiful’ but I really liked that he was switching the  modes while telling the story. Using the tool to the best of its capability in the given context. I feel very soon we will have a solution that allows you to switch between multiple contexts within a session, so you don’t end up putting links inside the ppt, but create collections like on Pinterest and arrange things in order you want to present.


This post is not a critique from visual culture stand point, I need to do that as well but I’ll do that later. Let me know what you think.


While watching this video from Dan Saffer on “How to lie with Design Research”, a thought just crossed my mind. On the face of it, people might start kicking me. But I have to ask this question anyways. While we are researching for our school projects, aren’t we lying to our peers when we present our arguments? I say this because for most projects we do not get time to do any field research. And we rarely ever do involve actual users in our design process. Mostly that is because we are super constrained by time. So if we believe Dan Saffer’s arguments in the video, we are actually lying with our research. Because we conceive an idea early in the design process and then go out on internet sitting on a chair in our comfy apartments, trying to find data, arguments, media that supports our hypothesis. The more convincing data we find, the more we start feeling confident that we are on the right track. But who is out there to validate? That’s why I believe the capstone presentations this week were an awesome tool to ensure we get grounded early on if we had started flying in our own worlds.

This video also made me think that when I go out of the school, I would have to ensure multiple validation points within the time constraints. Involve as many people as you can, get their opinion and use your judgement. During my internship I had huge success doing the same. I was not consciously aware of it at that time, but I now know it as a design tool. In my design process I worked very closely with my mentor Tamara. When we were confident enough that certain idea is atleast explainable, we would approach our team lead Sam. He would give us perspectives we didn’t even knew existed. Fortunately we had researchers in our team who would go out and validate our hypothesis regularly. And then we validated it by talking to a lot of stakeholders within the organization. These multiple validation points ensured that when we presented our raw ideas to the engineering team, they were very excited although being critical of the radical shift we suggested.

I know there is nothing new in my story above, but I was just trying to externalize my thoughts. And, I know that we don’t lie intentionally, however I feel subconsciously we are lying until our arguments have been validated somehow. In that sense even I lie with my research.  How one looks at ‘validation’ is also very subjective and brings in the designer’s personal beliefs and ethics.



I know that beautiful details in design play an important role in establishing trust and also engage the audience into an experience. Both these are integral to persuade a thinking human brain.  Today’s Murch reading gave me a much deeper insight into the importance of those beautiful details in design. In his reading he says:

Not only is the rate of blinking significant, but so is the actual instant of the blink itself. Start a conversation with somebody and watch when they blink. I believe you will find that your listener will blink at the precise moment he or she “gets” the idea of what you are saying, not an instant earlier or later.


This phrase from Murch speaks volumes about the nature of interaction design and the role of the “interaction” itself. Basically, according to his argument you would not blink when your brain is actively “engaged in the moment”, or when your brain is anxious. When you interact with machines via interfaces, there is an uncertainty of what will happen. Specially when trying out something relatively new. So if we hold Murch’s argument true for a moment, what it means is that at the precise moment of the interaction – when we look for the button, when we click on the button, when new screen appears, etc. All those instantaneous almost-invisible moments are the precise moments when we won’t blink. We will however blink as the interaction completes, because now our eyes have seen what just happened and our brains have signaled the body that your world is a better place now. So at some level an anxiety is over at that precise moment, and that is the moment of the cut.

Since we won’t blink at the precise moments of during-the-interaction, and since our mind is completely engaged in the activity at that precise moment, the beauty of that very activity is what is going to influence our mind, body and soul. The experience delivered during these moments will probably make a huge difference in overall success of the product. This is not only true for interactive products, but also otherwise I believe. The joy we get wearing a Nike probably has to do with the moments we spend with the shoe not blinking.

I assume Steve Jobs knew this (among many more reasons) and hence used to dictate immaculate interactions in all the products released under his flagship. Success of Flipboard and Instagram can also be explained thus. And I guess this might be a strong reason for why there is an emphasis on instant-boot devices (one of the three main design criteria, second being the battery life) for computing devices of future. More that the beauty of the interface, task flows, etc. it is the transitions that will make you blink.


My two cents. Eager to know your thoughts.

Both the reading for today’s class were interesting reads and made me think a lot. There are some things in particular that intrigued me most. These are just my observations and I hope these might give some additional conversational points in class.

First is to do with the Julian Bell’s painting in terms of expression. In the book Approaches to understanding visual culture by Malcom Barnard, he is quoted as:

[1] One must understand the artist’s invisible states of mins, his or her emotions and feelings. One must translate, or transmute the shapes, lines, textures and colors of paintings into emotions and feelings, in order to understand those paintings. It seems that the artist translates or transmutes thoughts and feelings into physical objects and then the spectator translates or transmutes the lines, colors and other formal properties of the objects back into thoughts and feelings.

So basically the author is pointing to a triangular relationship between the object, the user and it’s interpretations. The artist puts efforts to ensure that the interpretation is as transparent as possible. And users (sometimes) put deliberate efforts to interpret them based on the rule that have been learned by them with experience. The ‘expression’ is the subjective interpretation that involves both the object and the user. One may state that the craftsmanship showcased by the artist results in a transparency of this expression than may deliver an aesthetic experience.

No the following analogy might be very obvious, but it was not very obvious to me before reading the article so I want to spend some time trying to construct it. The quote above points to relationships that are in many ways integral to ‘human’-‘computer’-‘interaction’ design. Coincidentally while researching for my capstone I stumbled upon an article from Hutchins, Hollan and Norman about Direct Manipulation Interfaces published in 1985. The article discusses lot of crucial aspects integral to designing input/output paradigms. Two aspects of ‘Directness’ discussed are ‘Distance’ and ‘Direct Engagement’.

[2] The term directness refers to feeling that results from interaction with the interface. The term distance will be used to describe factors which underlie the generation of the feeling of directness.

The second aspect of directness concerns the qualitative feeling of engagement, the feeling that one is directly manipulating the objects of interest. There are two major metaphors for the nature of human-computer interaction,
a conversation metaphor and a model-world metaphor. In a system built on the conversation metaphor, the interface is a language medium in which the user and system have a conversation about an assumed, but not explicitly represented
world. In this case, the interface is an implied intermediary between the user and the world about which things are said. In a system built on the model-world metaphor, the interface is itself a world where the user can act, and which changes state in response to user actions. The world of interest is explicitly represented and there is no intermediary between user and world. Appropriate use of the model-world metaphor can create the sensation in the user of acting upon the objects of the task domain themselves. We call this aspect of directness direct engagement.

Hutchins et. al. then go on to discuss aspects of directness and direct engagement and in the process of discussion, map out relationship between physical system, user goals and the distance between them which they term as gulf of execution (execution bridge) or gulf of evaluation (evaluation bridge).

The understanding of the diagram below by researchers laid foundation for design of interactions, methodologies and design processes that we are familiar with today. I believe that the execution bridge & the evaluation bridge combined, constitutes the expression & interpretation that is analogical to the ‘expression’ discussed by Julian Bell in the reading.


Figure 1 taken from Direct Manipulation and Other Lessons by HP Labs.

A more modern version of the same diagram can be found at

Text quoted from:

[1] Approaches to understanding visual culture by Malcom Barnard, pg 64-88.

[2] Direct Manipulation Interfaces by Hutchins, Hollins, Norman.

There is one more analogy that intrigued me a lot. This has to do with the Auteur Theory. Auteur Theory is scoped within the domain of films. It states three characteristics that differentiates an auteur. Now the question that intrigues me is: since we have started integrating cultural epistemology into HCI can we use the theory to define people like Steve Jobs as an auteur. This point is not particularly very important, but I just wanted to share the idea.