Welcome to the “Interface” themed issue of your free Digital Art Live magazine!
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Welcome to the latest issue of our free magazine! It’s a risky business, changing your interface. Facebook recently managed it with success, as we’ve all seen — albeit by pillaging the class-leading design look of rival service Gab. How quickly the new Facebook interface felt comfy and a relatively pleasant place to be. Or at least, it did after my uBlock Origin had its wicked way with it. I urge all readers to discover the handy free browser add-on uBlock Origin, and its dinky little ’pipette tool’ that can rapidly select page elements for perma-blocking. Don’t like that noisy clickbait-filled sidebar on a news website? It’s gone in just a few clicks, and will never return on your future visits.
Such customisation is not always an option with our desktop software, though many makers have freed up their UIs with configurable ’tear off and stick’ panels and tabs. Others go further and allow their users to create and distribute preset ’skins’. Such things are to be welcomed and we’ll hopefully see more of such enabling makeovers in the future, rather than foisting new fixed UIs on unwilling user-bases.
Many of our readers will have grown up and come of age in a world of very few interfaces. Those who avoided the early home computers, and the early Teletext service on TVs, will likely only have come to a computer circa the end of 1995, with Windows 95. Just 25 years ago. How far we’ve come, in so short a time. And how far we’ll likely go in interfaces, with AR that’s easy on the eyes, voice-activation, automation scripts, and seamless AI-driven assistants.
Michael and Denise Okuda are acclaimed graphic design consultants and technical experts for the Star Trek universe.
UI DESIGN FOR TV & FILM
“… at that point in film-making history, in this corner of the television universe … graphics weren’t considered to be particularly important. … as a kid who grew up loving science fiction, I had a great time because they pretty much let me do what I wanted”.
In Switerland, Spiraliso takes inspiration from nature and classical geometry, to produce amazing new wallpapers.
PHOTOSHOP | FRACTALS
“Ancient peoples from the beginning of time were obsessed with numbers and the beautiful geometry they saw in the cosmos … Personally I have always been obsessed with the ’spiral’ shape and its mathematical sequence as discovered by Fibonacci.”
Stefan is the developer of the real-time landscape software World Creator, and his next user-interface is very futuristic!
SOFTWARE | UI DESIGN
“… once the final version [of World Creation 3] is out, there will be a “Sci-fi UI Layout” available to the user that will look similar to those typical Hollywood sci-fi movies. [But the user can also] completely — 100% — change the entire look and feel of the new UI.”
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BACK ISSUE INDEX
Excerpt from our interview with Michael Okuda
See the full interview in issue 52
DAL: First of all, thank you for your time today. I know you’re busy shooting in some kind of schedule, a film, and good luck with that project.
Michael: Thank you.
DAL: I hope that runs okay. I know it’s a bit…
Michael: Well, we’ve been mostly working from home. Denise and I are tech advisors on an Apple TV Plus series called “For All Mankind”. And we are the resident ’space geeks’. So, our job is, during tech-heavy scenes, we sit on stage and we watch, make sure that the procedures and the actions and the buttons you hit are plausible from a technical point of view. And with the COVID virus, we’ve been mostly working virtually, which has been a real challenge — because it means you have to do a lot more homework in advance because you have to prepare charts and diagrams. Because you can’t be there to say, “Push that button.”
DAL: So, you’ve had to learn and understand, because this is set in the 60s, in a scenario where the Russians actually won the Space Race. So, you have to understand, I suppose, the Soyuz-type technology or something fairly similar to that but more advanced…
Michael: We actually haven’t, at least not yet, had an opportunity to recreate the Soyuz. But they’ve done these amazing recreations of the Apollo spacecraft, the command module, the lunar module. They’ve done a great, magnificent job of recreating historic Apollo mission control and just sitting on those sets is fun.
DAL: That must be magical. I was one year old when man landed on the moon, but apparently, I watched it, but I just can’t remember it. What got you interested in graphic design to start with? Were there any important personalities or media influences in your childhood that pointed you towards graphic design?
Michael: I’ve always been fascinated by symbols and logos and the way that they create, they evoke an emotional response from the viewer and how they helped define an organization. And so, in that sense, as far as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of the great [screen designer] Saul Bass, who understood that it’s not merely trying to come up with something pretty looking. But the graphic is a tool to evoke a specific response to accomplish something specific. So, to approach graphic design as problem-solving rather than simply expression.
DAL: Yes. And, I think…when did that kind of artwork start? Because I suppose, back in history, you’re ending up with something that’s fairly functional. And the graphic design back then wasn’t…how shall I put it? Corporate thinking, you know… they were necessarily thinking about the corporation and efficiency. They just wanted to sell stuff to customers or to get the function done.
Michael: I would go back considerably further than that, I would go back to national flags and heraldry and even the emblems for the great religions of the world. The Christian cross, the Star of David, symbols of Islam, all of which are very powerful tools to unite a group of people and evoke a sense of emotion. So, corporate identity as we know now it sort of coalesced around the early 1960s. It existed certainly to some degree or another, but the discipline as we know it started then.
DAL: And did Saul Bass… when you first came across him, what kind of artwork or styles stood out for you when you first saw some of his designs?
Michael: Alcoa, Aluminum, AT&T, the work he did… the United Way, all of which communicated very different things about those organizations and did so with such elegance and clarity. And, at the end of the day, with such great thought behind it that it made those very powerful symbols.
DAL: And I imagine it helped unify the people in those companies. It helped give them a sense of purpose. It gave them a sense of emotion, like you say.
Michael: Well, Bass ’told the story’. It was very fun ’telling the story’ about… for instance, he did the identity system for United Airlines. He said that when he was first approached by United, he went in, he did a survey of the symbols and logos throughout. And he said he counted like a dozen different logos for that company that were in concurrent use. And without passing judgement on which ones did or didn’t work, he said, “Just having a dozen logos doesn’t really communicate the sense of “Here’s an organization that knows what it’s doing.” And so, one of the things that he did is simply unify it. Again, whether or not it was a good or a bad that symbol, the fact that suddenly you have a system that does help you have a sense of, “Oh, I trust these people to maintain and fly this airplane safely.” He told he told a similar story about AT&T, which at the time was battling the Department of Justice antitrust suits. Again, without passing judgement on whether or not this was a good thing or a bad thing, AT&T and Bass realized it was a good thing for the company to communicate that having all these branches and divisions as a single unit, as a single organization, was beneficial to the consumer, because you had all these divisions work together. It was an ingenious strategy, and it shows the power of well-managed corporate identity.