"This third method of user interface design solves the problems of both of the previous two. I call it idiomatic because it is based on the way we learn and use idioms, or figures of speech, like 'beat around the bush' or 'cool.' They are easily understood but not in the same way metaphors are. There is no bush and nobody is beating anything. We understand the idiom because we have learned it and because it is distinctive. Pretty simple, huh? This is where the human mind is really outstanding, mastering learning and remembering idioms very easily without having to depend on comparing them to known situations or understanding how they work. It has to, because most idioms don't have any metaphoric meaning at all. Most of the controls on a GUI interface are idioms. Splitters, winders, comboboxes and scrollbars are things we learn idiomatically rather than intuit metaphorically.
We tend to think that learning is hard because of the conditioning we have from the technology paradigm. Those old user interfaces were very hard to learn because you also had to understand how they worked. Most of what we know we learn without understanding; things like faces, social interactions, attitudes, the arrangement of rooms and furniture in our houses and offices. We don't 'understand' why someone's face is composed the way it is, but we 'know' their face. We recognize it because we have looked at it and memorized it, and it wasn't that difficult.
The familiar mouse is not metaphoric of anything but rather is learned idiomatically. That scene in Star Trek IV where Scotty returns to twentieth-century Earth and tries to speak into a mouse is one of the few parts of that movie that is not fiction. There is nothing about the mouse that indicates its purpose or use, nor is it comparable to anything else in our experience, so learning it is not intuitive. However, learning to point at things with a mouse is incredibly easy. Someone probably spent all of three seconds showing it to you your first time, and you mastered it from that instant on. We don't know or care how mice work and yet we can operate them just fine. That is idiomatic learning.
The key observation about idioms is that although they must be learned, good ones only need to be learned once. It is quite easy to learn idioms like 'cool' or 'politically correct' or 'kick the bucket' or 'the lights are on but nobody's home' or 'in a pickle' or 'inside the beltway' or 'take the red-eye' or 'grunge.' The human mind is capable of picking up an idiom like one of the above from a single hearing. It is similarly easy to learn idioms like checkboxes, radiobuttons, pushbuttons, close boxes, pulldown menus, buttcons, tabs, comboboxes, keyboards, mice and pens.
This idea of taking a simple action or symbol and imbuing it with meaning is familiar to marketing professionals. Synthesizing idioms is the essence of product branding, whereby a company takes a product or company name and imbues it with a desired meaning. Tylenol is a meaningless word, an idiom, but the McNeil company has spent millions to make you associate that word with safe, simple, trustworthy pain relief. Of course, idioms are visual, too. The golden arches of MacDonalds, the three diamonds of Mitsubishi, the five interlocking rings of the Olympics, even Microsoft's flying window are non-metaphoric idioms that are instantly recognizable and imbued with common meaning.
Ironically, much of the familiar GUI baggage often thought to be metaphoric is actually idiomatic. Such artifacts as window close boxes, resizable windows, infinitely nested file folders and clicking and dragging are non-metaphoric operations-they have no parallel in the real world. They derive their strength only from their easy idiomatic learnability."
(Alan Cooper, 1995)
Alan Cooper (1995). "The Myth of Metaphor", Visual Basic Programmer's Journal.
"Interface design has often been considered a subsection of interaction design (Moggridge, 2007; Löwgren & Stolterman, 2004; Bagnara & Crampton Smith, 2006). In the shift from designing objects to designing experiences, interaction design needs to investigate temporal as well as spatial form (Redström, 2001; Mazé & Redström, 2005), and to see computation as basic material.
From a social, cultural and humanistic perspective, studies of the design of interactions and their contexts of use can be understood in terms of mediated communication and the historical, social, playful and aesthetic in digital design (Blythe, Overbeeke, Monk, & Wright, 2003; Lunenfeld, 1999). This approach has been framed as Communication Design (Morrison et al., in press). This mediational perspective of digital communication is informed by studies in new media, social semiotics, socio-cultural studies of learning and work, and practice-based research into multimodal composition in which mediated discourse itself undergoes change through active use (Jones & Norris, 2005; Morrison, in press). This view is distinct from the structuralist and directional or 'transmission' models of communication (e.g., Crilly, Maier, & Clarkson, 2008) that are not rooted in cultural and mediational theory. From a Communication Design perspective, the interface itself mediates; it is understood as socially and culturally constructed and situated. Such a perspective is not very widely articulated in discussions of the interface in design research. Further, few studies exist of dynamic, digital interfaces and their multimodal characteristics from a specifically media and Communication Design view (e.g., Skjulstad, 2007).
In their design activity, interaction designers invest heavily in the shaping of interfaces as symbolic and cultural texts. Alongside this attention to design, and with reference to user-driven studies, we also need to unpack the features and possible functions of these emerging forms of mediated communication. The proliferation of 'movement in the interface' demands that we pay attention to a variety of media types, genre conventions and earlier media, and to the ways that elements of these are combined in different configurations. Social semiotics provides some means for relating the various graphical, animational and kinetic aspects of dynamic interfaces within a wider communicative perspective.3"
(Jon Olav H. Eikenes and Andrew Morrison, 2010)
Jon Olav H. Eikenes and Andrew Morrison (2010). "Navimation: Exploring Time, Space & Motion in the Design of Screen-based Interfaces", International Journal of Design Vol 4, No 1.
"The Knight Ridder Information Design Lab is developing a newspaper interface for the tablet device. The tablet newspaper draws on the strengths of print and on the strengths of electronic forms. It is both browsable and searchable, both broad-reaching and customizable. It offers pages with story abstracts linked to more detailed stories, background material, photos, sound, and video. People can ran read as deeply or as casually as they want. Stories are no longer limited to 'news hole,' the space allotted to editorial content after press configurations and advertising have been considered.
The tablet newspaper includes editorial content and advertising, both important components of a local information package. Like editorial content, advertising can have many layers, and can be searched and sorted, as well as browsed. Additionally, ads can have transaction hooks, so that readers can make reservations or purchases."
(Teresa Martin, 1995, CHI Conference Proceedings [http://www.sigchi.org/chi95/])
SEVENTH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON DESIGN PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES, Japan
Proposals for In-Person Presentations Due: 6 December 2012
"The International Conference on Design Principles and Practices, its associated design journals, the On Design Book Series and the Design News Blog are sites of discussion which explore the meaning and purpose of design. Participants in these forums also speaking in grounded ways about the task of design and the use of designed artifacts and processes. The Conference, Journal, Book Imprint and News Blog support a cross-disciplinary knowledge community, bringing together researchers, teachers and practitioners to discuss the nature and future of design. The resulting conversations weave between the theoretical and the empirical, research and application, market pragmatics and social idealism.
In professional and disciplinary terms, the conference, journals, book series and online media traverse a broad sweep to construct a transdisciplinary dialogue which encompasses the perspectives and practices of: anthropology, architecture, art, artificial intelligence, business, cognitive science, communication studies, computer science, cultural studies, design studies, education, e-learning, engineering, ergonomics, fashion, graphic design, history, information systems, industrial design, industrial engineering, instructional design, interior design, interaction design, interface design, journalism, landscape architecture, law, linguistics and semiotics, management, media and entertainment, psychology, sociology, software engineering, technical communication, telecommunications, urban planning and visual design – to name some of the design disciplines."
"The International Journal of Design is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal devoted to publishing research papers in all fields of design, including industrial design, visual communication design, interface design, animation and game design, architectural design, urban design, and other design related fields. It aims to provide an international forum for the exchange of ideas and findings from researchers across different cultures and encourages research on the impact of cultural factors on design theory and practice. It also seeks to promote the transfer of knowledge between professionals in academia and industry by emphasizing research in which results are of interest or applicable to design practices."
(International Journal of Design)