Kicking things off bright and early on day two was Microsoft’s Creative Director for Windows Phone, Mike Kruzeniski, who was talking about the lessons learned from print design as interpreted digitally. This was the most populated talk I’ve seen so far, with the expansive Ballroom A packed out by a mix of graphic designers, interaction designers and general developers and tech managers.
The talk began by discussing the evolution of desktop computer interface design and the early efforts to duplicate physicality through interfaces - Microsoft’s infamous “Bob” was highlighted as an example of an interface attempting to recreate artifacts from everyday life, alongside some early GUIs intended to look like desks and bookcases.
A point about the gradual erosion of icons moving away from the things they represent (recycle bins for example) reminded me of the persistence of floppy disk icon standing for ‘Save’ despite the fact most modern desktops don’t even come fitted with floppy drives anymore.
Kruzeniski then made the point that the computer has itself surpassed the thing it was originally imitating, questioning the need to continue to attempt to duplicate its features. He highlighted a recent e-reader app whose interface resembled a ‘real’ bookshelf and books. If we’re giving up the tangibility and physicality of a book in order to take advantage of the benefits of digital texts, why attempt to duplicate the physicality of the other? To me this point made a lot of sense - digital products should stand proud of their own medium rather than aping the original source.
We then moved onto some of the benefits of print design when applied to the web - not just the grid system as pioneered by the Swiss school of design, but the advent of web typography and creativity in breaking with tradition. A really strong point for me was when Kruzeniski suggested that replicating the ‘feel’ of print design wasn’t about slapping on page curls and ‘flipping’ animations, but about using tools like photography and typography to tell a story and become interactive. Having previously had to talk friends working in print media out of providing a ‘website’ consisting of an animated PDF browser of the print edition, this point was particularly resonant for me.
Kruzeniski also highlighted his work on the Windows Phone platform which I recently saw a demo of. Although it’s a good step away from the blocky and icon-heavy predecessor, I personally found the Windows Phone design to be fairly brash - apps designed for the platform are encouraged to use the built-in design style which features enormous font sizes for headings, which overlap one another when the app has multiple screens. I found this quite ugly, although obviously personal tastes may vary. That aside, though, Kruzeniski’s closing point was key: whether or not print is dead, print design definitely isn’t. A salient talk with some clear tips on where interface design has been, shouldn’t have gone, and (hopefully) will go.
- Matt Andrews