ORGANIC USER INTERFACES:
DESIGNING COMPUTERS IN ANY WAY,
SHAPE, OR FORM
Displays on real-world objects allow more realistic user interfaces.
BY DAVID HOLMAN AND ROEL VERTEGAAL
Today’s computers can process information at incredible speeds, and have
the flexibility to store and display data in many different forms. But when
we compare the things we can do with the actual shape of these computers with the things we can do with that of other real-world tools, it seems
a lot is lost. For example, a simple piece of paper, while holding graphical or written information, can be folded into most any shape, wrapped around
products, or torn into bits and recycled entirely. Try doing that with your Blackberry.
The chief reason for the limitations of today’s computer shape is the rigid planar
structure of its LCD screen. The requirement to fit and protect the LCD, keyboard,
and electronics causes the laptop computer to be rigid too. In this article, we argue
that this planar rigidity in interface design generally limits the usability of our computers, in terms of their possible affordances.
A world of design around us is filled with “blobjects” [ 7]: tools with curved forms.
Organic shapes are employed by the likes of Karim Rashid and Frank Gehry, who
aptly apply materials like rubber, plastics, and even curved sheet metal in their designs.
The first property that appears missing in computer displays, then, is the ability to