Digital & Tangible UI design

My Vision on Digital & Tangible UI Design

While there’s still a large portion of interfaces that remain tangible, the majority of our UI’s are moving towards the digital realm. As an interaction designer, I’ve worked on both digital and the physical UI’s, and I would like to share my vision on what divides and what connects them. 

Cognition Based Interfaces
Most of our current (digital) interfaces are build on the idea that we only need our minds to interact with our digital devices..  Because of this, our current UI’s focus mostly on our cognitive abilities. Think of evaluation, memory, decision making and the high focus on the visual sense. However, this might not the only way we can interact with them. 

Following the ideas of embodied cognition, the way we perceive and interact with our world is not just through our minds, but also our bodies. Our cognition is  influenced and/or determined by our physical experiences. I believe this idea can still be further explored in improving the usability in digital UI’s. 

Tangible and Embodied Interactions
For example, moving away from (touch) screens, it becomes a bit easier to design for usability. Material, size, form, colour all already have inherent affordances that tell us what we can and can’t do and how to interact with them. The idea of embodiment already becomes apparent in some physical interfaces.  Think of mastering an instrument, or even playing a game with a well-designed controller. These inherent qualities are not yet as much available in digital UI’s. 

My goal as an UI designer is to approach digital interactions and interfaces in such a way that it respects both our cognitive and embodied skills. I believe that if we can take inspirations from physical experiences and affordances, and translate them into the digital realm though the use of new technologies, such as personal computing, AR/VR and AI, we’ll eventually be able to build new and rich interactions that greatly improve the users experience. 


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