John Pavlus has an interesting post at io9 about Mark Coleran who has come up with quite a few of the most recognizable fantasy user interfaces seen on film in recent years. More often than not, tech enthusiasts find Hollywood’s imaginings of futuristic computers to be groan inducingly bad. Coleran’s work, however, is grounded in real design principles.
“[The FUIs] look fantastic when you see them in the theater, but a lot of that is actually grounded in reality — stuff that’s not mainstream yet, that I’ve been researching and experimenting with.” Case in point: Coleran’s design for a near-future music player in Children of Men looks uncannily similar to iTunes’s “Coverflow” interface, which came out nine months later.
As it turns out, his experience includes both real world design as well as the more fantastical work that has appeared on screen. That mixture of the visionary with the practical no doubt factored into his being hired by Bonfire Labs.
But he says Bonfire hired him to be more of a “visual concept designer” for their interactive and advertising clients — sort of a Syd Mead for UIs, “looking at the bigger picture rather than the detail of individual buttons,” says Coleran. “My background from the film work, plus my experience in engineering, electronics, and graphic design, sort of fits with these interactive projects. There’s an element of futurism, where you can play the ‘what ifs’ out to their logical conclusions. Not just for the sake of it, but if you know the rules, you can break them to get something better.”
Read on for his thoughts on the distinct challenges presented by movie UIs and ones, no matter how speculative, that are intended for the real world. If only Canonical or RedHat had snapped him up. Can you imagine what a “Syd Mead for UIs” could do to revolutionize Linux on all kinds of devices?