User Interface Design at the Movies

In everyday life, people regularly utilize graphic interfaces.  Whether you’re using your smartphone to check the weather or checking the user interface on a medical device, the world has become increasingly comfortable with the interaction between technology and humans.  In filmmaking, however, designers are faced with unique challenges that one might not expect. The Vital…

In everyday life, people regularly utilize graphic interfaces.  Whether you’re using your smartphone to check the weather or checking the user interface on a medical device, the world has become increasingly comfortable with the interaction between technology and humans.  In filmmaking, however, designers are faced with unique challenges that one might not expect.

The Vital Part of Filmmaking You (Hopefully) Don’t Notice

User interface design often places a very important role in moving the narrative forward in a movie.  Whether you need to show that two characters are communicating or wordlessly displaying a warning on a monitor, messages clearly need to be conveyed to the audience.  However, there are additional challenges that filmmakers face as well.

A Display for Many Eyes

In most instances, a user interface is designed to appeal to a specific audience.  Interfaces for medical equipment are made for doctors.  Those designed for nuclear plants are made for engineers.  Viewers, however, may not be experts in the field they’re watching, however.  For instance, in the recent movie The Martian, several graphical displays are seen that are supposed to represent those that might be used by NASA in the near future.  Since very few viewers are going to be astronauts, it wouldn’t be reasonable to have displays that are designed specifically for that audience.  The people watching the movie have to be able to know what’s going on.  On the other hand, if the displays seem to be too patronizing or unprofessional, it may take viewers out of the movie because they become aware that it’s not realistic.

Same Process; Different Goal

For these reasons, filmmakers often use the same people who make real graphic designs, and they have to consider the same factors just from a different angle.  They have to ensure consistency and functionality while still making the display appear reasonable and believable.

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