"Even though interfaces, devices, and controls in movies and TV shows are often visible just long enough to drive the story forward, many have achieved pop culture immortality, ranging from Star Trek's communicator and the WarGamesWOPR computer to the Terminator HUD, and of course, HAL. Nathan Shedroff and Christopher Noessel argue that we can draw practical design lessons from these interfaces.
Last year the pair published Make It So: Interface Design Lessons From Sci-Fi, and followed it up with a design blog, regularly cataloging sci-fi design concepts in everything from The Fifth Element and Metropolis to classics likeForbidden Planet and Barbarella. They took some time to talk about their background, what makes a great sci-fi interface, and the relationship between what we use everyday and the concepts we see on screen.
What makes a great sci-fi interface?
Christopher Noessel: There are a couple of ways to answer this. For the characters it's an interface that lets them accomplish their goals as effectively as possible. For the audience it's an interface that is engaging, inspiring, and makes them want to say, "That was awesome!" And many times, "I wish I could play with that!" For the sci-fi makers it's something that elegantly tells the story without burdening the narrative, and sometimes, that makes us think about the directions technology is taking, and what we can do about it. For me personally it's either the rare elegant and just-a-little-futuristic solution or the giant, campy mistake...."