3. the interaction

EXERCISE 3.10 [extra - not in book]

The aim of this project is to encourage you to think about some of the problems involved in providing clear, unambiguous interfaces, even to familiar applications. It also helps you to begin to evaluate designs critically. You should draw on your knowledge of human cognition and of interaction styles, but you do not need to use any particular modelling or evaluation techniques.

The design brief
You are part of a development team charged with producing a new drawing package. You have to develop the full set of icons. This is a new product and so there is no set house style. It is to appear on a new platform and so does not have to follow any particular set of user interface style guidelines. The platform usually supports colour on a high-resolution bitmapped monitor, but icons must be suitable for use on black and white as well as colour screens - design in black and white first, then add colour. Text can be used if required. Each icon needs an unselected and a selected state.

The following is a list of all the functionality required: you may choose a form other than an icon to provide the function but you should justify your choice.

  • freehand draw with pencil
  • freehand draw with paintbrush
  • smoothed freehand drawing
  • draw rectangular box
  • draw round-edged box
  • draw ellipse
  • fill or shade items
  • move or resize item
  • write text
  • draw irregular polygon
  • draw straight lines
  • draw arc
  • scale object
  • rotate object
  • edit shape

First, think about the problem, and possible solutions. You can choose to draw on your experience of other systems if you wish, (but remember that the developers of the new package do not wish to become engaged in law suits over copied designs!).
Next, sketch your designs as clearly as possible. Using graph paper for this part will make it easier. The icons should be designed on 64x64 grids. Use colour if required.

At this stage, ask someone else to assess your designs (fairly and honestly). (Mark them clearly with their associated functionality.) Look critically at your work yourself and try to identify what you think are good designs, and, most importantly, why. Use the following questions to help you:

  • is the meaning of the icon clear?
  • is colour used sensibly and consistently?
  • will the icon's meaning still be clear in black and white?
  • what is the overall effect of the icons when viewed together?
  • how original are the designs and is the originality effective or simply novelty for novelty's sake?

Make any adjustments you think necessary to your designs.

answer available for tutors only


Other exercises in this chapter

ex.3.1 (ans), ex.3.2 (ans), ex.3.3 (ans), ex.3.4 (open), ex.3.5 (open), ex.3.6 (tut), ex.3.7 (tut), ex.3.8 (open), ex.3.9 (tut), ex.3.10 (open), ex.3.11 (tut), ex.3.12 (tut)

all exercises for this chapter