Sunday, February 8, 2009
UI as a Craft
It looks like advanced product interfaces have extended beyond the Apple campus. B&O launched the BeoSound 5 System and it really holds up the interface on a pedestal. Not only the digital UI but the physical controls as well. A metal wheel eats into the screen real estate as if to say, I'm rich enough to loose those pixels. It may sound funny, but no other products sacrifice pixels for style.
The thing that really caught attention is the quality of the interface, I feel that it actually meets the quality and design of B&O products. It's not frequent that you see this happen. If you look at nav systems in luxury cars, they never match up to quality of the leather upholstery. The Nissan GT-R may be the one exception. They actually pulled in some video game designers to help them design the car's interface. The result is an immersive, gear-head (what's the tuner version of a gear head?) experience.
The things that these two companies have done effectively is pay for the craft of the UI. It is well understood that a product has to pay for real metal parts or fine leather work, but it is not yet understood what fine UI work is. There aren't very many examples out there to refer to for starts. Secondly, there is miss understanding that glossy graphics will accomplish this. Craft goes beyond appearance, it is engrained in the material and gives the perception of extreme effort and skill.
The business needs to want and be ready to pay for craft and the designer has to remember how to produce craft. Aside from the usual "breaking the mold" and "blood, sweat and tears" bit, craft is a team effort, a skilled craftsmen effort. It cannot be handed over to some guy to complete, only the most trusted engineers can carry through with you vision. The whole team needs to be truly onboard with the desire to produce craft.