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