Tag Archives: comics

Realism and Abstraction in User Interface Design

User interface designers (and particularly icon designers) could learn a lot from comics and the theory behind them.

Taking his cue from Scott McCloud’s excellent Understanding Comics, Lukas Mathis looks at how for optimum recognition and in order to aid understanding, user interface elements must find the sweet spot between universality and realism. Like when drawing certain comics, it’s about finding the optimum comprimise between too little detail and too much.

People are confused by symbols if they have too many or too few details. They will recognize UI elements which are somewhere in the middle.

The trick is to figure out which details help users identify the UI element, and which details distract from its intended meaning. Some details help users figure out what they’re looking at and how they can interact with it; other details distract from the idea you’re trying to convey. They turn your interface element from a concept into a specific thing. Thus, if an interface element is too distinct from its real-life counterpart, it becomes too hard to recognize. On the other hand, if it is too realistic, people are unable to figure out that you’re trying to communicate an idea, and what idea that might be.

The Purity Scale of Science (xkcd)

xkcd - Purity ScaleThis is for those of you who aren’t subscribers to my favourite comic, xkcd – a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.

Today’s episode deals with different branches of science and their purity; that is, can they be distilled down to a ‘more pure’ science.

Maths is classed as the purest of sciences – of course – but where does computing lie? I’d like to think it lies alongside physics, but in reality I imagine it is along a different branch involving applied electronics (itself, applied physics).

Don’t forget, each xkcd comic has image ‘alt’ text… essentially a bonus joke on those tiresome Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays! (Today’s is especially good.)

Creating Indexed Users

When it was live, I used to look forward to the next instalment of Creating Passionate Users; a blog on doing business in the IT sector where the writers were “all passionate about the brain and meta-cognition”. The entries were comical and the accompanying graphs were simple, elegant, and really were worth a thousand words.

Under regrettable circumstances it was closed indefinitely in April 2007, but luckily it’s still ‘up’, and for a good overview check out the last post which is a collection of all the greats.

It reminds me a lot of Indexed.

Pavlov’s Musical Dog

Back in early December 2007, I submitted one of my favourite Psychology jokes to Mind Hacks. The comic strip I sent in was duly posted along with some other interesting links:

Ivan Pavlov and Brian Wilson – together at last! This rather unlikely combination seemed to spark a bit of interest, so here is a brief collection of your contributions.