Realism Doesn’t Work

Lukas Mathis, for UX Magazine, recently wrote an interesting article: Realism in UI Design. It takes some of the ideas from Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics” (a book I remember making a big impact in the UI world when it first came out) — and looks at those concepts apply to UI design.

The examples he gives are fairly basic (home buttons, general button styles, and the role of icons) — but they’re fundamental to UI. The post is an invaluable reminder: only design enough to communicate what’s necessary, don’t detail things beyond that.

Vision films can be good, high-level, examples of this. Apple’s Knowledge Navigator (done in 1987) and Microsoft’s 2019 Future Vision (done in 2009) show just enough to communicate the big ideas without getting caught-up in details.

It’s not quite related, but the article also reminded me of one of my biggest (and geekiest) disappointments in the film 2010: Odyssey Two… the incredibly beautiful UI design from 2001: A Space Odyssey became literal. 2010’s HAL sprouted a keyboard! Blech!

A beautiful, and abstract, console in 2001.
A newly sprouted keyboard in 2010. Yikes!

I’d love to find a better image of the 2010 keyboard. Any suggestions?