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Make It So

Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction 

Published: September 2012 Paperback: 348 pages, ISBN 1-933820-98-5 Digital: ISBN 1-933820-76-4

by Nathan Shedroff & Christopher Noessel

Make It So

Designers who love science fiction (and don't we all?) will go bananas over Shedroff and Noessel's delightful and informative book on how interaction design in sci-fi movies informs interaction design in the real world. Many movie interfaces are remarkably creative, effective, and useful, and the authors analyze and deconstruct more than a century of cinema to find the best. With dozens of familiar examples, they illuminate some of the trickier aspects of designing how complex future systems interface with humans. You will find it as useful as any design textbook, but a whole lot more fun."

—Alan Cooper, President of pioneering interaction design company Cooper,

Many designers enjoy the interfaces seen in science fiction films and television shows. Freed from the rigorous constraints of designing for real users, sci-fi production designers develop blue-sky interfaces that are inspiring, humorous, and even instructive. By carefully studying these "outsider" user interfaces, designers can derive lessons that make their real-world designs more cutting edge and successful.

Make It So shows:

  • Sci-fi interfaces have been there (almost) from the beginning
  • Sci-fi creates a shared design language that sets audience expectations
  • If an interface works for an audience, there's something there that will work for users
  • Bad sci-fi interfaces can sometimes be the most inspiring
  • There are ten "meta-lessons" spread across hundreds of examples
  • You can use—and not just enjoy—sci-fi in your design work
  • Over 150 lessons and 10 “meta“ lessons that developers can use to enhance their realworld interfaces

“Make It So” Blog

From Sci-fi interfaces

Collision Alarm

Holy dreck this fuigetry. After letting Captain Deladier know what’s up with the giant asteroid looming spinning ever closer, Barcalow’s attention is grabbed by a screen immediately before him. It’s the collision alarm. Prepare your eyes. This is the interface equivalent of running around screaming in an Ed Wynn voice while flailing your arms over … Continue reading

Red Phone

After the gravitic distortion is discovered, Barcalow flips a toggle switch upwards with his thumb. As Ibanez confirms that “Gravity is 225 and rising,” the light on the bridge turns red, and Barcalow turns to a monitor. The monitor (seen above) features a video window in the top center. Along the left side of the … Continue reading

Gravitic distortion

As Ibanez and Barcalow are juuuuuust about to start a slurpy on-duty make out session, their attention is drawn by the coffee mug whose content is listing in the glass. Ibanez explains helpfully, “There’s a gravity field out there.” Barcalow orders her to “Run a scan!” She turns to a screen and does something to … Continue reading

Course Optimal (for IXD)

In the prior post, I spoke about how the COURSE OPTIMAL betrays the writer of Starship Trooper’s mental model of technology as a “stoic guru” and implored writers to shift that model to one of an “active academy.” It’s a good post (if I do say so myself). Check it out if you haven’t yet. … Continue reading

Course optimal

After Ibanez explains that the new course she plotted for the Rodger Young (without oversight, explicit approval, or notification to superiors) is “more efficient this way,” Barcalow walks to the navigator’s chair, presses a few buttons, and the computer responds with a blinking-red Big Text Label reading “COURSE OPTIMAL” and a spinning graphic of two … Continue reading