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Designing Visual Interfaces: Communication Oriented Techniques [Paperback]

Kevin Mullet , Darrell Sano
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 5 1994 0133033899 978-0133033892 1

Ironically, many designers of graphical user interfaces are not always aware of the fundamental design rules and techniques that are applied routinely by other practitioners of communication-oriented visual design -- techniques that can be used to enhance the visual quality of GUIs, data displays, and multimedia documents. This volume focuses on design rules and techniques that are drawn from the rational, functionalist design aesthetic seen in modern graphic design, industrial design, interior design, and architecture -- and applies them to various graphical user interface problems experienced in commercial software development. Describes the basic design principles (the what and why), common errors, and practical step-by-step techniques (the how) in each of six major areas: elegance and simplicity; scale, contrast, and proportion; organization and visual structure; module and program; image and representation; and style. Focuses on techniques that will not only improve the aesthetics of the visual display, but, because they promote visual organization, clarity, and conciseness, will also enhance the usability of the product. Includes a catalog of common errors drawn from existing GUI applications and environments to illustrate practices that should be avoided in developing applications. For anyone responsible for designing, specifying, implementing, documenting, or managing the visual appearance of computer-based information displays.


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From Amazon

An excellent introduction to the design theories involved in the creation of user interfaces. Instead of the usual examples and pictures of computer screens and application menus, Mullet approaches the concept of UI from its "outside world" roots. With examples ranging from street signs to corporate logos to the map of the London Underground, each section attacks the issues of interface design from the ground up, appealing first to the eye and then to the mind. Task menus are compared with concert programs and street signs are equated with icons.

This is not a technical book, so advanced developers might want to supplement it with a platform-specific how-to. For aesthetic advice and sheer enjoyment, anyone involved with or interested in interface design should pick it up.

From the Publisher

Ironically, many designers of graphical user interfaces are not always aware of the fundamental techniques that are applied to communication-oriented visual design -- techniques that can be used to enhance the visual quality of GUIs, data displays, and multimedia documents. This book describes some of the most important design rules and techniques that are drawn from the rational, functionalist design aesthetic seen in modern graphic design, industrial design, interior design, and architecture -- and applies them to various graphical user interface problems experienced in commercial software development.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good information, flawed by presentation Aug. 31 2001
Format:Paperback
This book has a lot of great information, and the layout (of the information) is actually pretty good. Unfortunately, the density and otherwise poor quality of the prose and editing obscure this. I can't believe a book that costs this much, and whose focus is presentation, would have such glaringly obvious errors. I've never seen a book with so many typos. It also uses the incredibly wordy and verbose style often found in the art world, a technique that does not exactly help in demystification of a topic that surely needs it. The good news is that I was preparing a technical writing class as I was reading the book and it provided a ready source for exercises.
A good rewrite of this book, with up to date examples, is overdue. In the mean time, if you can wade through the prose, the information is definitely there.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very basic, nothing inspiring. Aug. 28 2001
Format:Paperback
If you are looking for a basic introduction to the priciple's involved with UI design they are all here. If you are looking to be inspired or taken to another level, don't look here.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Has 2 good chapters. Feb. 5 2000
Format:Paperback
Most of the stuff is unusable. However the discussion of perception, grouping etc is excellent. Pretty steep price for 2 good chapters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good information but bad presentation July 30 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The book has very good information, instructions and guidelines about user interface design. However, it is written and edited poorly. They use way too many words and complex sentences to explain their concepts.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, graphics oriented treatment Aug. 19 2002
By ws__
Format:Paperback
This book should certainly not be your first book on GUI design. You might want to check out Alan Cooper "About Face", Johnson "GUI Bloopers" or a similar one which focuses in a broad way specifically on GUIs. If you are interested in Web design you might prefer the excellent "Don't make me thing" from Steve Krug. Even if you want to look at GUI design with a strong graphics bias you might first want to read the beautiful books of Tufte.
Having said that and you still make it to this book. You get an excellent treatment of the graphic aspects of design in general and at many places with special applications to GUIs. Examples are posters, maps, public transportation information, different GUIs including the NextStep. If you like Piet Mondrian, the Bauhaus ... then you enjoy the positive examples a lot. The book gives some theoretical background and tries to help build our taste by showing good and bad solutions to design problems.
The pictures are well reproduced (mostly black and white) and of good quality. The cover of the book is somewhat horrid (on line order saved me here from not buying it). Also it is extremely soft cover - way too soft for such a valuable book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Design (with a capital D) for programmers March 30 2001
Format:Paperback
Does everybody criticize your user interfaces but nobody seems to have any useful suggestions? This book is for you! Have you been expected to make user-friendly interfaces, but you have absolutely no background in design? This book is for you!
"Designing visual interfaces" provides an introduction to visual design that is very accessible to engineer types (like myself). Although people's reactions to various designs are "touchy-feely", the process to creating a good design is surprisingly scientific. You don't have to be an especially creative type of person to avoid the common pitfalls.
The book covers two or three related aspects of design in each chapter (such as Scale, Contrast, and Proportion). The first section of each chapter describes the principal variables that control those aspects. The simplest possible examples are presented first, typically black and white line drawings, then examples from industrial design and finally some examples from actual user interfaces. Then a "common errors" section shows examples of graphical user interfaces where these aspects of design are out of balance. Finally a "techniques" section gives handbook/cookbook approaches to avoiding the common errors. This section includes before and after screenshots.
The presentation is wonderfully uniform and consistent. Rather than using contrived examples, the authors have found real-life examples (many of which you will recognize) for all of the common errors.
This book does not cover how to map a problem domain to a user interface. It is assumed that you already understand the problem domain. It is not a style book for a particular operating system (the authors advocate using the vendor's guidebooks).
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Format:Paperback
This is not a list of rules; it's a look at the underlying principles of interface design. Mullet and Sano take a point-by-point tour of the basic principles of visual design, bringing in good examples from a wide range of real-world products. Their examples range from computer interfaces to street signs. The authors do a fantastic job of illustrating these basic ideas; even the layout of the book is its own example. By itself, this book won't give you the recipe to program a good UI, but it will give you a starting point from which to build *great* UIs. Everyone involved in programming and designing software should read this book several times.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional Sept. 21 2000
Format:Paperback
A wonderful (if rather dense) book. In some ways similar to the superb Tufte trio, this work rounds up example of good and bad interface design, provides a (very) complete analysis and finishes off with practical suggestions based on that analysis (something Tufte doesn't do). How much use it would be as a hands-on design aid is unclear but as a source of inspiration it's a great success. On the downside, it's a tad wordy (scale and contrast are described as "capricious" - eh?) and the writing style is dense enough to demand being consumed in small sips, but so what? The effort demanded is repaid many times over. In fact this book is so rich in information and ideas I feel I need to re-read it immediately, and that can't be bad.
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