“I worry about Interfaces”.. I guess I could say this after being for a while in a state of utter discomfort with narrower definitions of Interfaces. Such a state has often brought me to say that “I’m not going to do UI design at all”.
But now I’ve come to believing that the definition or rather an understanding of User Interface is a problem. Most of the UI designers deal with Interface design at levels of digital interfaces, Web applications, Mobile and Tablet apps. What they deliver is a set of Wire-frames and UI screens depicting task flows and user interactions. And perhaps that’s where the idea of User Interface design seems to cease. This cease of imagination is often coupled with a bit of bitterness of doing the same job again and again. It is precisely here that the industry and the UI designers need to expand the understanding of User Interfaces. Probably with an expansion of the definition industry will be able to find diverse clients and could discover newer sectors. On the other hand it would for sure bring some satisfaction to a UI designer’s job.
So what this expanded notion of User Interface is? I would introduce you to Bruce Balentine here. I’m bringing him in this discussion not because what he explains as Interface is music to ears but more because it encompasses a larger picture of Interfaces. He says that interfaces can be thought of a layer sandwiched between two different and incoherent systems. These systems are incoherent to the extent that it would be unimaginable for these systems to communicate without the presence of an Interface layer. Thus, in a sense, an interface layer is a double sided tape that sticks to one system at one side and to the other system at another side. It exists on the condition that it can facilitate better communication between the systems at either sides. It ought to have connections for each system. Maintaining this differential while supporting communication between two incoherent systems at either sides is the primary function of the Interface. This is quite insightful indeed. Imagine a washing machine where at one end is a complex circuitry of electric motor, driving belts, washer and drier and at other end is a human agent. In an absence of Interface i.e. a series of buttons, knobs, scales and readers; it would be almost impossible for a human agent to operate a washing machine. The interface layer carefully hides one system from another but assists communication between them. With such a lucid but flexible idea of Interfaces one can say that we have always been designing interfaces if not the products. Most of the things that we see around now, ranging from transportation, household appliances, safety appliances to numerous other discrete products are simply Interfaces in one way or the other. Isn’t it?
For days and days it has been occurring to me to reflect back on my school days and on the education I had. The curriculum included natural sciences and languages along with slighter glimpses of other subjects, resigned to be termed as extracurricular. One can look at the curriculum and can be best assured to say that everything ought to be known is well there. But I guess the larger question is how to approach this knowledge. As I have come to believing that approach to know changes or alters the knowledge itself. My teachers were competitive and interesting, and they perhaps had tried telling us what all they knew. However I feel that few factors were always acting in opposition to the entire process of knowledge acquisition.
First, it seems that the entire process of acquiring knowledge is somewhere inflicted with a flawed notion of timing. The fact that there is a course to be finished by a particular deadline doesn’t allow much room both for students as well as teachers. Teacher wants to finish the course on time and then moves on to setting a paper for students to attempt. How rubbish! Can’t the process of knowledge acquisition be more fluid and continuous. Can’t be free from parametric identifiers of percentage and rankings? Having time bound milestones often results in an environment which is competitive for no reasons. To make things worse, it’s not just the timing rather the valorization of being on time that kills individuals at the end. There is so much of shame associated with not being on time that it doesn’t even allow many to say NO.
Second, it seems that the teachers themselves work under a huge pressure of abiding to a particular syllabus. Any aberration from a prescribed syllabus is hugely suppressed and demotivated. The position a teacher holds, not only in the society but even with in the education system itself, doesn’t give him much power to defer to the popular notion of syllabus and prescription. There is so much of onus bestowed on people who set the syllabus rather than on those who teach the syllabus. I have seen and met few people who work as advisory members to curriculum committees and not all the time are they correct. But any communication which suggests so is seen as a wild act, often intolerable.
I am raising these questions as I still sense same forces at work. What do you guys say?
This morning I got to know about the Start Up revolution in Israel. A dear professor and also an experienced designer, Iko Avital, told me that Israel has fastest growing Start Ups in the world. After googling for few, I came across this awesome start up called Wibbitz. They convert text into videos and kind of believe that they could turn readers into viewers. An amazing idea indeed. I tried the same for my blog and voila!! It worked and my blog posts are now appearing as news headline in a video. It’s really an experience.
For some reasons it seems that embedding the video isn’t yet working with wordpress. So my readers have to wait to see that. But DO TRY Wibbitz.
There are always few who deserves a mention more than by just Google in this digital age. We often call them one’s favorite or inspiration or a better adjective always. Today it is Gustav Klimt’s birth day. No wonder Google has one of his paintings on its search engine. When it comes to Gustav I am not so fortunate. I came to know about Gustav and his excellence as an artist quite recently. It is somewhere in Jan 2008 when I was wandering in a book store and had put my hand on one of the table top books with paintings of different artists. I went through the book, turning it page-by-page glancing through all different paintings, giving almost equal time to every painting. This continued till I came to a page where I saw this beautiful nude women, well painted with bright colors, though quite an unusual combination of colors with golden shades here-n-there. I had to halt. I had to stop. It was Gustav Klimt. It was him. That’s was my first meeting with dear Gustav.
Gustav seems to be a musician and a painter at the same time. He seems to infuse his work with a strong sense of performance. A performance of the kind which is lucid, breath taking and yet carried out with patience. The layers of robes of Gustav’s women unfold before you almost with an elegance and charm of the superior kind. Gold showers as it would have showered in the heaven. His themes seem to be divine and mortal at the same time. It is in his paintings that these two extreme ends of divinity and mortality meets. Gustav’s “Zeus came to Danae in a shower of gold”, is an marvelous work where he does the same. I can’t attest any further how much I like this painting. I don’t know Gustav much but he is the one who welcomes me to know him more. Happy Birth Day Gustav!