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Designing Interfaces – The Book Metaphor

When we design interfaces, ambulance we often rely on metaphors as a starting point and source of inspiration. If we are to choose a metaphor for reading, we quickly think about the most obvious of all: the book.

While the web isn’t exactly new, it’s certainly not old compared to print. Therefore it makes sense to borrow design decisions that have proven valuable for centuries and apply them to a digital counterpart. This very act of adaptation is often referred to as designing with metaphors.

In his popular post “What screens want”, designer Frank Chimero describes designing with metaphors this way: “In the case of software on a screen, the metaphors visually explain the functions of an interface, and provide a bridge from a familiar place to a less known area by suggesting a tool’s function and its relationship to others.”

If you put a trash bin on a screen, the person might not know what technical implications it has. But they already have a pretty clear picture on how it might work without having used it before. It’s understandable that designers feel inclined to use metaphors, but they don’t come without flaws.

Let’s have a look at the book. Compared to a magazine or any other printed material, a book is usually linear, has a one-column layout, barely any advertising, and a clearly understandable flow of information. But it goes beyond that.

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Posted on May 5, 2014, under Trends & News

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