Make It So

For years I’ve though about writing a book on interface design in science fiction movies. The idea always started as a big coffee table book full of great examples, but then the details started to get tricky: “how would the book be organized?”; “how would all the interconnected themes weave together in the examples?”; and “how would I get the time to watch enough movies to fill a book?” In the end it seemed so hard. Doing a blog would be easier 😉

But Nathan Shedroff and Christopher Noessel tackled the task and came up with the fantastic book “Make It So.” Their approach? Look at it from the perspective of interaction design.

I’ve always wondered why there wasn’t a more serious appreciation for science fiction interfaces. They’re influenced by current technology and trends, but they’re equally a place to explore fantastical design futures. In the book’s forward, Bruce Sterling gives a good insight into their tension with design:

Science fiction and design have a relationship: it’s generally cordial, yet remote. Design cannot realize the fantasies of science fiction. Science fiction can’t help design with all its many realistic problems.

This book makes a good case for improving that relationship. It’s full of fantastic instances. familiar and unexpected, of interfaces in science fiction. It analyzes them and then draws insightful lessons for designers to use. It would make a cool textbook in an interactive design class.

The book also has some analyses of things you might not have though to consider. For example, in an analysis of the use of color in sci-fi interfaces from 1968 to 2011 the lesson is: “future screens are mostly blue.” But the detailed notes explain this may have to do more with film production issues and trends. But in any case the book’s discussion is interesting and lively.

Fig 3.12

There’s an accompanying website which has an ongoing collection of UI examples. The latest post is of “wave over” switches in Forbidden Planet.

Forbidden Planet
Sample spread: Augmented Reality
Sample spread: Volumetric Projection