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The Role of Metaphor
    in Interaction Design


Dan Saffer   Information Architecture Summit
             March 6, 2005
A metaphor is “a device for
           seeing something in terms
           of something else. It brings
           out the thisness of that or
           the thatness of a this.”

           —Kenneth                                        Burke, 1945


Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
The Four Master Tropes
                                                 METONOMY: embodiment of the ethereal

                                                 SYNECDOCHE: the part for the whole

                                                 IRONY: two levels of meaning


           METAPHOR: perspective

           “To consider A from the point of view of B is, of course, to use
           B as a perspective upon A.” —Burke

Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
But, soft! what
           light through yonder
           window breaks?

           It is the east,
           and Juliet is the sun!

           —Romeo and Juliet, II.i

Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
“Our     conceptual system
           is fundamentally
           metaphoric in nature.”

        —George                                   Lakoff and Mark Johnson



Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
He spends his time wisely.
                                                                          Summer is just around the corner.
                There’s a hole in that theory.                                       She’s an old flame.

                                                 The class tried to keep up with the schedule.

She profited from the experience.                                                                He has a screw loose.

                                                                          My thoughts are scattered.

           She went back to sleep.
                                                                                     He cherishes that belief.

He exploded.
                                                I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

           His hair went gray.                                                       She has a great sense of humor.

Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
SOURCE                                         META
                                                                                     PHOR

                                                                                            TARGET




           Metaphor is not just about language;
           it’s really about thought. We conceive
           of things in terms of other things.

Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Affection is Warmth

                                                                                     My love for her still smolders.



                                                                          They gave me a warm welcome.


                       He’s a warm person.


                                                 It took a while to warm up to the topic.




Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
is




Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
TIME SPACE STATES ACTIONS CAUSATION




Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
TIME SPACE STATES ACTIONS CAUSATION




Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Interaction Design
                                                                                     Facilitating or instigating
                                                                                     interactions between humans
                                                                                     (or their agents) mediated
                                                                                     by products

                                                                                     Can also signify interactions
                                                                                     between humans and products

                                                                                     Interactions: mainly
                                                                                     communication, either
                                                                                     one-on-one , one-to-many,
                                                                                     or many-to-many.


Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
In the Design Process




                                                                                     Within Products




Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Metaphor in the Design Process


                                                                                     The problem
                                                                                     is that problems
                                                                                     are not fixed.




Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Metaphor in the Design Process


        “Things are selected for
         attention and named in
         such a way as to fit the
         frame constructed for the
         situation.”
        —Donald Schöen, 1979



Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Metaphor in the Design Process




Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Metaphor in the Design Process


                                                                                     Tea is Chemistry




Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Metaphor in the Design Process


                                                                                     New ideas are almost
                                                                                     always the product
                                                                                     of juxtaposition.




Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Metaphor in the Design Process




                       An important part of the design process is selling
                       ideas to those who will implement and fund them.

Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Metaphor in the Design Process




         Everything one                                                              Everything one
         says about God                                                              says about the computer
         is a metaphor.                                                              is a metaphor.
         —Paul Tillich                                                               —me

Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Metaphor in the Design Process




           No one addresses their computer without some metaphoric
           mediation. Metaphor provides us with the means to understand
           our complex digital devices.
Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Metaphor in the Design Process


                                                                                     The Design Process
                                                                                     is a Story




Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Metaphor in Products


        “Friction in Scheduling
         and Coordinating Lives
         in Families:”
         Friction is a Connector




Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Metaphor in Products


                                                                                     Ryukyu ALIVE:
                                                                                     Information Space
                                                                                     is a Galaxy




Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Metaphor in Products


                                                                                     Artifacts of the
                                                                                     Presence Era:
                                                                                     Data is Geology




Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Metaphor in Products


                                                                                     Without boundaries,
                                                                                     things are difficult
                                                                                     to comprehend and
                                                                                     reason about.




Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Metaphor in Products


                                                                                     Moving through
                                                                                     Space and Time




Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Metaphor in Products


                                                                                     Metaphors can
                                                                                     endow machines
                                                                                     and inanimate
                                                                                     objects with human-
                                                                                     like characteristics,
                                                                                     making them
                                                                                     more approachable
                                                                                     and usable.



Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Metaphor in Products


                                                                          Introducing New
                                                                          Concepts to Users




Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Criticism




Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Criticism of Metaphor in Design


                                              “Searching for a guiding
                                               metaphor is like searching
                                               for the correct steam engine
                                               to power your airplane.”
                                              —Alan Cooper




Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Criticism of Metaphor in Design


                                                                                     Metaphors are
                                                                                     misleading.

                                                                                     Metaphors do not
                                                                                     scale well.

           Microsoft’s BOB                                                           Metaphors degrade
                                                                                     over time.

                                                                                     Metaphors are
                                                                                     overused.
Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Criticism of Metaphor in Design


                                                                                     But...

                                                                                     You don’t throw away
                                                                                     a tool because it is
                                                                                     dangerous. You just
                                                                                     use it more carefully.




Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
We can’t help it.

                                                                                     Let users find their
                                                                                     own metaphors?

                                                                                     Limited ways to
                                                                                     change perspective.

                                                                                     Too powerful
                                                                                     to ignore.

Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Design is about
                                                                                     invention. Invention
                                                                                     is the product
                                                                                     of juxtaposition.
                                                                                     Metaphor is about
                                                                                     juxtaposition.

                                                                                     Therefore, it stands
                                                                                     to reason that design
                                                                                     is about metaphor.

Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Using Metaphor
                                                                                     Appropriately




Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Using Metaphor Appropriately


           Use metaphor to find the hidden
           characteristics of the content.

           Fit the metaphor to the content, not the
           other way around.

           Be aware of the cultural and contextual
           properties of metaphor.

           Choose metaphors that scale appropriately.

Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Using Metaphor Appropriately




          A Tool to Change Behavior
Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Using Metaphor Appropriately


           Metaphors We Live By
           by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson

           Metaphor and Thought
           edited by Andrew Ortony

        “Working with Interface Metaphors”
         by Thomas D. Erickson in The Art
         of Human-Computer Interface Design


Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
Thanks.

           Questions?




Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation

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The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design

  • 1. The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design Dan Saffer Information Architecture Summit March 6, 2005
  • 2. A metaphor is “a device for seeing something in terms of something else. It brings out the thisness of that or the thatness of a this.” —Kenneth Burke, 1945 Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 3. The Four Master Tropes METONOMY: embodiment of the ethereal SYNECDOCHE: the part for the whole IRONY: two levels of meaning METAPHOR: perspective “To consider A from the point of view of B is, of course, to use B as a perspective upon A.” —Burke Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 4. But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun! —Romeo and Juliet, II.i Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 5. “Our conceptual system is fundamentally metaphoric in nature.” —George Lakoff and Mark Johnson Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 6. He spends his time wisely. Summer is just around the corner. There’s a hole in that theory. She’s an old flame. The class tried to keep up with the schedule. She profited from the experience. He has a screw loose. My thoughts are scattered. She went back to sleep. He cherishes that belief. He exploded. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. His hair went gray. She has a great sense of humor. Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 7. SOURCE META PHOR TARGET Metaphor is not just about language; it’s really about thought. We conceive of things in terms of other things. Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 8. Affection is Warmth My love for her still smolders. They gave me a warm welcome. He’s a warm person. It took a while to warm up to the topic. Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 9. is Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 10. TIME SPACE STATES ACTIONS CAUSATION Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 11. TIME SPACE STATES ACTIONS CAUSATION Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 12. Interaction Design Facilitating or instigating interactions between humans (or their agents) mediated by products Can also signify interactions between humans and products Interactions: mainly communication, either one-on-one , one-to-many, or many-to-many. Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 13. In the Design Process Within Products Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 14. Metaphor in the Design Process The problem is that problems are not fixed. Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 15. Metaphor in the Design Process “Things are selected for attention and named in such a way as to fit the frame constructed for the situation.” —Donald Schöen, 1979 Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 16. Metaphor in the Design Process Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 17. Metaphor in the Design Process Tea is Chemistry Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 18. Metaphor in the Design Process New ideas are almost always the product of juxtaposition. Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 19. Metaphor in the Design Process An important part of the design process is selling ideas to those who will implement and fund them. Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 20. Metaphor in the Design Process Everything one Everything one says about God says about the computer is a metaphor. is a metaphor. —Paul Tillich —me Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 21. Metaphor in the Design Process No one addresses their computer without some metaphoric mediation. Metaphor provides us with the means to understand our complex digital devices. Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 22. Metaphor in the Design Process The Design Process is a Story Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 23. Metaphor in Products “Friction in Scheduling and Coordinating Lives in Families:” Friction is a Connector Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 24. Metaphor in Products Ryukyu ALIVE: Information Space is a Galaxy Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 25. Metaphor in Products Artifacts of the Presence Era: Data is Geology Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 26. Metaphor in Products Without boundaries, things are difficult to comprehend and reason about. Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 27. Metaphor in Products Moving through Space and Time Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 28. Metaphor in Products Metaphors can endow machines and inanimate objects with human- like characteristics, making them more approachable and usable. Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 29. Metaphor in Products Introducing New Concepts to Users Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 30. Criticism Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 31. Criticism of Metaphor in Design “Searching for a guiding metaphor is like searching for the correct steam engine to power your airplane.” —Alan Cooper Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 32. Criticism of Metaphor in Design Metaphors are misleading. Metaphors do not scale well. Microsoft’s BOB Metaphors degrade over time. Metaphors are overused. Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 33. Criticism of Metaphor in Design But... You don’t throw away a tool because it is dangerous. You just use it more carefully. Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 34. We can’t help it. Let users find their own metaphors? Limited ways to change perspective. Too powerful to ignore. Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 35. Design is about invention. Invention is the product of juxtaposition. Metaphor is about juxtaposition. Therefore, it stands to reason that design is about metaphor. Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 36. Using Metaphor Appropriately Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 37. Using Metaphor Appropriately Use metaphor to find the hidden characteristics of the content. Fit the metaphor to the content, not the other way around. Be aware of the cultural and contextual properties of metaphor. Choose metaphors that scale appropriately. Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 38. Using Metaphor Appropriately A Tool to Change Behavior Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 39. Using Metaphor Appropriately Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson Metaphor and Thought edited by Andrew Ortony “Working with Interface Metaphors” by Thomas D. Erickson in The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation
  • 40. Thanks. Questions? Dan Saffer :: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design :: IA Summit Presentation