Blog Category: Living

Technology Transhumanized: Future-Proofing the Save Icon

By Erika Goering,

In an abridged history of human life, we went from engaging in daily face-to-face contact, where people looked each other in the eyes and relished in the subtleties of communication, to inventing computers and sitting hunched over an 8-bit screen of code, to looking down into our palms for the lastest news on our friends’ so-called lives. Well, it’s time to look up. We desperately need to look straight into each others’ eyes again and see through technology. Gone are the days when technology required our assistance. Now it’s our turn. Technology is here to assist us. But it doesn’t need to be in our way.

Twenty years ago, when the vast majority of users were first becoming acquainted with personal computers and their GUIs, the desktop metaphor had its place. It provided a comfortable transition between what users already knew and what they were starting to learn. However, the UI metaphors we all have been accustomed to are becoming increasingly irrelevant to contemporary life. The desktop, files, and folders of yesteryear’s computer operating systems are more reminiscent of a secretary’s office than the pile of bits and bytes they really are. While skeuomorphic design gave us a window into our computers by way of well-known and comfortable faux textures and materials to create a tactile experience beneath a glossy surface, the flat design movement uses the same concept but different execution to bring technology closer to the senses, closer to humanity, in a very transhumanist kind of way.

Now that we have been users for at least a generation (with today’s pre-teens never knowing anything other than an internet-connected, hi-res, pocket-sized life), skeuomorphic design is no longer needed. We no longer need to fake real life. Technology doesn’t need to hide behind leather-bound pixels anymore. We are no longer scared of code or error messages. We know what we’re doing. It’s second nature.

We need to strip information architecture down to the raw information we seek to communicate. We don’t need buttresses on our data. It stands perfectly fine on its own. We’re not afraid of being informed. We don’t need falsely ornate façades on it. Information should be beautiful for what it is; not what’s painted on top of it.

As a result of all this pondering and subsequent rambling, I’ve challenged myself with solving a problem that has bothered me for years–the ubiquitous floppy disk save icon. The problem is that the floppy disk in particular is so obsolete and so irrelevant that it shouldn’t be a standard representation of saving a file to a disk. Even the act of saving to a disk is becoming increasingly obsolete. Physical media is dissolving, paving the way for cloud storage and high-tech magic.

So, how do you design for that? How do you redefine the save icon? How do you future-proof what the act of saving a file looks like? How do you make a dent in the current obsolete conventions?

You think forward. You think at the absolute boundary of reality, and then you multiply it. You go Google on that motherfucker. You think so far ahead, no one sees it coming. You pull an Apple and become ubiquitous with a simple solution to a problem you didn’t realize you had until it was already solved.

I think a good start to my app designopment business will be to come up with our own forward-thinking standards. Maybe we don’t need metaphors to represent common computer actions at all.

But if not that, then what?

That’s what I’m going to find out.

  Filed under: Living, Working
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“Design” vs. Design

By Erika Goering,

I recently read an article on TechCrunch about user experience and what it takes to succeed in the competitive world of tailored/targeted apps. While the article specifically talks about the digital/interactive realm, this same thinking can be applied to other design problems.

Jamie described this issue last year as “skeleton vs. skin,” where the skeleton is the structural, functional side of a project, and the skin is the styling and aesthetics (and content is the guts that make it all viable in the first place). A skeleton can stand on its own if it needs to, but a pile of skin is an empty, shallow, lump. (However, a bare-bones [pun intended] design can get boring and feel naked or unfinished if left skinless.) Structure gives design a way to cater to a user’s needs without collapsing under the pressure of user interaction. A “pile of skin” may be well-groomed and sexy, but no skeleton means a lifeless experience. A skeleton and skin together provide a beautiful balance of structure and beauty, where a user can enjoy a smooth experience while having something sexy to look at.

So, let’s break it down… … Continue reading

  Filed under: Find&Share, Information Architecture, KCAI, Learning, Living, Read&Respond, User Experience
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