Metaphors in Design

I came across ‘real’ use of Metaphors thanks to Jono when I was doing my research in Berkeley at Berkeley Institute of Design. Off late I read the Master’s thesis by Dan Saffer from CMU on “The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design“. In this post I am going to highlight specific points in the report. However, I would recommend you to it if you have a time. Its a quick and nice read.

Personally Metaphors I feel help in design. Help being more creative while designing a product. And also help people use something easily.

I am highlighting the key takeaways first – guidelines for Metaphor Usage:

  • Metaphors are cultural
  • Metaphors are contextual
  • Fit the Metaphor to the functionality, not the otherway around (obvious but difficult once you start using the metaphor)
  • Use metaphor to uncover otherwise hidden aspects of the material
  • Discard process metaphors when necessary
  • Don’t let metaphors ruin key features
  • Choose Metaphors that are appropriately scalable
  • Let your Metaphors degrade and die

Classic Example: Computer is a Desktop
I think this one has been really powerful and still applicable. I think its time we start looking at a metaphor for ‘ Mobiles / cellphone ‘. Any examples anyone can think of?
Mobile as a Remote? I think its good but not that scalable! Expect some comments here.

Use of Metaphor in Design Process:

  • Redifining “Problems”
  • As a Reasearch Tool
  • As Inspiration
  • As a Communication Device
  • In the process itself!

Metaphor in Products:

  • As a Conceptual Framework
  • Define Space and structure via Container Metaphors
  • To Orient (users)
  • Introduce New Concepts

Critique of use of Metaphors in Interaction Design:

  • Physicality of object being compared cannot be matched more by abstract subject
  • Abstract object has more properties than the correct object.
  • Metaphors don’t scale well
  • Metaphors degrade with time
  • Metaphors are overused as a design tool – hinder advanced users
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Published by: vinu

My life - BREESY! :-) :D Beautiful Random Enjoyable Eventful Simple Yellow Places I have lived (chronological): (country) (- state) (-- city) India - (Orissa) -- Cuttack (2yrs) -- Bhubaneshwar (3yrs) - (Maharastra) -- Bombay/Mumbai (8 + 1 yrs) - (TamilNadu) -- Madras/Chennai (6 yrs) - (Pondicherry) (1 yr) United States - (California) -- Berkeley (3 yrs) Education : IIT Madras 02, UC Berkeley 05 Work Experience: Mechanical Engineer at FORD Motor Company, India; Management Trainee at Datamatics Technologies Ltd.; Wireless Programmer at TeleCommunication Systems Inc. Passions (currently as of Dec 2005): Family, Media (visual / audio), Mobile Systems, Internet, Design Interests: Music, Movies, Photography, Enjoying nature, Playing Violin, Graphics, Business / Entrepreneurship / Managments, Spirituality, Design, Technology, Mobile / Wireless

Categories Blogosphere, design, mobile, technology, ui2 Comments

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