Mar 20, 2012

See the Power of Invisible Design

There exists an argument in the world of design that rivals even the most aggressive political advisories. Moving ahead in the digital realm means one of two roads. Either we keep things functional and organic, or develop unique experiences by fostering invisible design. Ironically, sometimes having nothing can mean having it all. Interactive design is evolving constantly, but this great debate stands the test of time. Should we remain steadfast towards “old world” design, or move full steam ahead into invisible interfaces?

This is an inquiry that many digital agencies are facing in order to provide their clients with cutting edge technology and design. Who exactly are these contestants in the ring? In the red corner, covered in buttons and levers, we have functional design. This contestant implies function and use based on natural gestures and human tendencies–buttons compel a push, pages require a turn, and levers need a pull. In the blue corner, equipped with curiosity and super powers, we have invisible design. This contestant allows the user to have a truly unique experience by giving them the ability to do things not capable in the physical sense. As Amber Case presented to the Interactive Design Association, she called this “Super-Human Design.”

Case argues that data causes users unnecessary stress when it should make their lives easier. By creating designs that carry out functions that don’t exist in real life, you make the user more powerful than the data, therefore relieving their stress. For example, why would users want to flip a page on a tablet when they can just flip a page of a real book? As traditional design advocates may argue, if the functionality is not intuitive THAT will cause the user stress. How will a consumer know how to use this if it’s a completely new experience? So which one is best? As most marketing questions are answered - “it depends.” It depends what you’re creating and for whom. As present day helps to prove, structures of interactive design are disappearing in front of our eyes. Think about what a cell phone looked like and how it worked 10 years ago. Now look at your smartphone and see how many of those features have “disappeared.” More functions lay within a smaller, smarter device. This moving trend towards invisible design proves that what you see is not always what you get.