Allisa Walker has an interesting profile with Geoff McFetridge over at Gizmodo on the interface designs in the film Her. McFetridge, an illustrator and designer known more for hand-drawn art, is a frequent collaborator with director Spike Jonze (I was a big fan of the type he did for Where the Wild Things Are) and had no interface design experience previous to the fictitious work he did in this film.
When it came time to start thinking about how the interfaces would work, McFetridge—who had zero experience designing graphical user interfaces—started with an idea rather than an aesthetic: That you could see evidence of the hand in the interface.
He began by building wood models: gluing cut paper and painted dowels into layers and photographing it. “It was way too crafty, but that is what I was creating, this idea—I like the idea that you feel the thing you’re looking at, someone made that, there’s some authorship to it.”
Interestingly enough, though the work is largely “flat”, McFetridge drew inspiration less from Apple and traditional UI and more from fine artists like Rothko and James Turrell:
Within this flat, colorful world, McFetridge began looking at the monitors of the future as a frame, and the interface within it as a work of art. He was inspired by glowing, jewel-like colors of James Turrell and eventually borrowed a technique from the paintings of Mark Rothko, turning the artist’s signature blurred bands of bright colors on their side, so they became vertical, “more like a city than a sunset,” he says. The columns of color then become a way to denote hierarchy, pushing the task at hand to the center of the screen. “You always return to the middle, in the middle is everything your computer knows about you.”
If you liked Her as much as I did, I bet a large part of it was the endearing nature of the operation system and a lot of that credit surely goes to Geoff McFetridge. It’s great to hear his insights into how he thought about the design of our near-future operation systems.
Adam Kirsch, writing for The New York Times on television’s golden age makes an interesting observation on comparing television to the novel:
Ironically, the comparison to Dickens, which is meant to suggest that TV has reached a new level of quality, harks back to the very beginning of modern filmmaking. Already in 1944, Sergei Eisenstein suggested in a landmark essay that the film grammar invented by D. W. Griffith was deeply indebted to Dickens’s narrative strategies. Dickens, he wrote, was the real inventor of montage. If today’s best TV feels Dickensian, that may be because the conventions of filmed storytelling themselves derive from Dickens — who in turn, Eisenstein points out, was influenced by the stage melodramas of his day.
Television shows like The Wire and The Sopranos have often been compared to Dickens’s storytelling techniques, as the popularizer of the serial format. What often goes unnoticed however, is that Dickens was actually inspired by stage plays—a format that probably feels closer to television or cinema than the novel. Inspiration is cyclical.
I’m really excited to release the latest component of Sway, the experimental design platform I edit with my friend Rory King—a new semi-regular podcast about what it means to be a designer. In the first episode, we question our design processes and how learning about the world makes a better designer:
In the first episode of the Sway Podcast, a discussion about design philosophies leads into how to think critically about your design process and then making your process a part of the design. By looking at design as a vessel that needs to be filled with content, we discuss the idea of design being a tool and a lens through which to explore the world and develop a point of view. This is all wrapped in some thoughts on design education and we talk about ideas of how to teach students to think about their work as more than strictly visual.
The first episode clocks in around 45 minutes—take a listen and I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to let us know any comments, suggestions, or questions you may have. Episode two is already on its way!
Pentagram has a great piece on the process for the logo they designed for The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. Combinding my love for design, late night talk shows, and infographics, it’s a great history of The Tonight Show brand and how Pentagram went about rethinking it’s visual identity for a new era. The whole piece is very insightful but I was especially drawn this infographic they put together in their research of the current landscape of late night television.
I really, really like the new logo (and am very excited for the show!) and loved seeing the thought that went into it.