Monday, October 12, 2009

Experience Design Like Photography

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I love movies. So, let's talk movies for a little bit. Well, specifically, the role of the director of photography in a film. Great cinematographers - another way to call 'em DP's - are able to understand the stories they are trying to tell, adding to the material that already exists. They really work to understand the subject matter and language of the discourse, even when the language is far more complex than words can describe.

What's interesting is that often the discussion of good photography often removes itself from simple aesthetics completely, and instead, moves to the function of photography in engaging the audience. In many ways, a directory of photography is an experience designer. He has a deliverable (the shot). Passed to the implementation team (the camera man). But the exposition? You can't put that in words. You experience it. Like a beautiful, intangible expression.

My favorite example is the orchestration of the 10-minute hallway scene in Leon the Professional, photographed by Thierry Arbogast, accompanied with music done by Bjork (You can see it in Spanish here). What's the mind going through as we watch through this scene? Panic. Urgency. Fear. You don't need me to tell you that what we're experiencing is emotion. And for the most part, this is the hardest and most essential thing we're missing in modern day HCI.

But how do we gauge the emotional element? Is it that magical word, "context?" Perhaps. I'll say again, Context is king, baby! Because it's not just about fun, easy, or happy that equates to good experience design. It's more than that. Like a director of photography, we can craft the entire spectrum of human emotion. We need people to engage, both externally and internally; embrace eloquence and sensibility.

Thanks David for letting me use the photo above. And great talk by Jesse James Garrett from Adaptive Path for the inspiring talk that has led to this posting.


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