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'Tackle problems if you want to reduce or eliminate UI'

Golden Krishna, Senior Designer at Samsung Design America, had the world talking when he suggested that the best user interface was a no interface. Excerpts from a web interview with Nandagopal Rajan on the future of user interfaces and technology in general.

Nandagopal Rajan        Last Updated: June 28, 2013  | 15:54 IST

Golden Krishna, Senior Designer at Samsung Design America, had the world talking when he suggested that the best user interface was a no interface. Excerpts from a web interview with Nandagopal Rajan on the future of user interfaces and technology in general.
 
Q: Why are we still stuck to the grid-based or button-based UIs?

A: Well, there's nothing wrong with a grid. Plotting a way to align objects has been used in art - architecture to books - for hundreds of years with a variety of mediums. Grids can create visual harmony and they can enhance discoverability when common elements are grouped. (Though sadly, they're rarely used correctly by digital designers.)

But if you're wondering why so many touch systems look so similar, there are much larger reasons why that could be the case. One might be fear. While the tech world talks about disruption upon launch, it can be really challenging to evolve. If there's a formula that has worked, why change it? It's risky: you're breaking apart existing ecosystems and common patterns of use. If you truly want to shake things up you need leaders who aren't afraid of change… teams that are willing to fail. And you need to understand your audience so that your new thinking works.
 
Q: What is the future of user interfaces in your opinion? How do you think UI designs will change in the near future?

A: There is an obsession with drawing wireframes to solve problems instead of thinking of how technology can really solve our needs. We have an ability to make use of so much incredible technology out there. Screens have their place, but there's so much more we can do to make people's lives easier. A while back I started a call to action by saying "the best interface is no interface." And it's exciting to see some major influencers finally start to join the movement towards a better technological future. For example, at Google's annual IO conference this year they called the future of search "No Interface."
 
Q: When you talk about 'No UI' does it mean all gadgets will have to be intelligent and do stuff for their masters instead of the other way around?


A: Ideally. Certainly, not all gadgets have to be intelligent. As I pointed out in my talk at SXSW, we probably don't need "smart" toilets. Or "smart" underwear. And there are things some people love to do, like cooking, which they would never want a machine to do for them. But there are lots of places where a little intelligence can go a long ways towards making better experiences.
 
Q: What is the natural thing for us do? What are present UIs doing wrong?

A: Sometimes when I talk about the ideas behind "No Interface" people ask how I would rethink popular programs like Photoshop. I think that's the wrong way of approaching the situation. You should try to tackle things from observation if you want to reduce or eliminate UI… from problems. It is much better than looking at existing solutions and wonder how to tinker them.
 
Q: Do you think UIs of the future will bank on augmented reality to make informed, intelligent choices?

A: Augmented reality could easily be awful, distracting and annoying. To monetise the experience, things like sale prices and promotions could be thrown in your face at times when you have no interest in them at all. But with a lot of intelligence, small, simple and very selective choices can make for convenient experiences.
 
Q: Can you tell a bit about yourself?
A: I have degrees from Pitzer College (part of The Claremont Colleges) and The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). Both schools hugely emphasized critical thought. At CalArts, one of the top graphic design programs in the world, I was constantly pushed to be new, fresh, innovative and thoughtful (all while never sleeping). In my career so far, I've been blessed to work with some of the smartest minds - AIGA President Sean Adams at AdamsMorioka, at Ogilvy & Mather, alongside Interaction Design pioneer Alan Cooper.

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