An investigation into communication studies to improve the designer's understanding of the virtues and constraints of the three dimensional graphical user interface

Cooper, Andrea (2005) An investigation into communication studies to improve the designer's understanding of the virtues and constraints of the three dimensional graphical user interface. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

PDF (PhD thesis)

Download (34MB) | Preview


This research set out to understand the role of design in Virtual Reality (VR) interfaces. The hypothesis was that: Virtual Reality is an emerging medium and does not currently fulfil its full design potential as a medium for communication. Existing research and practice in VR is dominated by Human-Computer Interface (HCI) developers and typically lacks a design approach. The result of this is that many VR projects are developed to mirror reality (mimesis) without considering the potential for the medium to portray ideas in novel or user-led ways. Many designers working in this field take an empirical approach without reference to guidelines or theory, relying on previous experience with other media. The proposition of this research was that there may be more value in a theoretical and holistic approach that combines knowledge from different disciplines to reveal new insights. The research therefore used a qualitative approach to understand the contribution designers, and the design process, could make to this subject. Information was gathered through a two stage series of case studies and semi-structured expert interviews. This research documented in detail a design approach to the development of VR undertaken at BT and in design consultancy. In particular, the investigation looked at the design characteristics of state-of-the-art Virtual Reality projects, highlighting the different attributes (virtues and constraints) of the Virtual Reality medium. These virtues were found to be: interactive, fun and intuitive, illustrates relationships, spatial arrangement of data, navigation and landmarks, use of scale, multiple viewpoints and visualisation of complex information. The constraints were found particularly to affect representational issues (choice of sign) and technological determinism. Although technological determinism was not found to play a significant role, it did impact on the presentation of ideas due to inconsistent interfaces and poorly designed VR software tools. However, the research concluded that.until sufficient examples of practice broaden the subject matter, the generalisation of virtues and constraints of VR offers limited insight beyond the immediate context. In order to improve the practice of VR design, a strategic approach was felt to be necessary to align VR projects to users' communication needs. The primary output of this research has been the mapping of the relationship between the more widely employed iconic (mimetic) interface and the symbolic (abstract) interface in relation to different dimensionality (2D/3D/VR). This matrix was formulated from issues identified in the literature review and refined through expert panels relating to communication theories. The framework demonstrates different representations, virtues and constraints, as well as the relationship between different media types. The benefit of this framework is that it links communication theory with the pragmatics of the designer, thereby integrating broader communication concepts through a visual mapping process. This integration of theory and practice was critical to testing the model with real examples, as well as to presenting the findings to design practitioners. Additionally, this matrix provides a framework to identify future design opportunities. A further output of the research has been the development of two models to illustrate alternative approaches to the design of VR environments by understanding the process of deconstruction and construction of signs. One outcome of the case studies was the discovery that the design approach undertaken at BT allowed the development of representations which were not merely transposed to VR but rather designed for the purpose and for users. It was recommended that for the design of Virtual Environments, signs be deconstructed and transformed to enable creative solutions to be developed. This was felt to add significant benefits over transposing signs, as is typically the approa...

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: W200 Design studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Design
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Related URLs:
Depositing User: EPrint Services
Date Deposited: 26 Apr 2010 11:52
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2023 11:15

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics