Iron Man’s HUD and interaction design

The current issue of Desktop has a snippet from my interview with Dav Mrozek Rauch from The Orphanage talking about their work on the HUD for Iron Man. If you click on video and then “Run Before You Can Walk” in the widget above, you’ll get a reasonable taster of it.

One of my favourite parts of chatting to him was hearing about the interaction design issues that came up in terms of the relationship between the suit known as Jarvis – the computer that Downey Jr.’s character, Tony Stark, interacts with – and Stark. For example, what should come first when his eyes look in a particular direction? Is he looking at something and then the HUD responds, or does the HUD show him something and he looks at it?

“We would just get these plates of him in front of a green screen and say, ‘Okay, now he’s looking to the left, what should he be looking at on the HUD? Put something cool in.’ But no matter how cool the thing you put in it’s not going to look right or seem real unless you know what story it should be telling.”

“I asked John Favreau and he said, ‘He’s having a conversation with Jarvis, it depends on who’s asking the question’,” says Rauch.

“If Tony asks a question then Jarvis responds, if Tony is flying and he’s hit then Jarvis throws up some information and Tony looks at it. Once I started looking at the shots like that it became so obvious. What was really interesting for myself and the team is that we weren’t just making visual effects, we weren’t just doing design, we were filmmaking and we were making stories and doing it in a very collaborative way.”

It’s an interesting set of interaction issues to deal with and they’re only a tiny bit in the future. We’ve all seen disastrous versions of this with Microsoft’s Clippy, after all.

I also found the discussions they had about interface colours and design approaches insightful:

“Amber is kind of the 80s and cyan is the 90s, what’s the colour of the future going to look like? What’s the next iPhone or Motorola going to look like? We really had to pull out all the stops for the Mark II and then think about how to make things more simple for the Mark III, because that’s how design usually works. It’s starts out complex and then gets more simplified.”

In midst of the searching for the perfect user-experience I think we forget how influenced we are by fashions and also how fashions and Hollywood movies affect audiences’ and users’ mental schemas of interfaces – think Minority Report and multi-touch, for example.

In a few months I’ll be able to post the whole interview here – Dav also chatted about some of The Orphanage’s commercial animation work and their experiments with a kind of 2D/3D hybrid.

But for the moment go and buy a copy of Desktop!

IMAP folder subscriptions with GMail and Apple Mail


If you’ve read 5ThirtyOne’s post about setting up Apple Mail with GMail’s IMAP you may be enjoying iPhone goodness and be all happy. But you may also be miserable about the fact that GMail’s implementation of IMAP fakes your IMAP folders based on your labels in GMail, which means you end up with duplicate messages in

Personally I think labels make much more sense as they’re more like smart mailboxes, where you don’t have a duplicate of the message, but rather a flag saying what it concerns. The problem is that if you like to locally cache your IMAP mail for offline viewing, you’ll end up with hundreds of duplicate mails in because thinks that a message in a label ‘folder’ on GMail is distinct to the version of it in GMail’s All Mail folder (your mail archive on GMail).

Some mail clients, like the powerful but ugly Thunderbird, seem to have more comprehensive settings to subscribe or unsubscribe to certain folders on IMAP servers (and I’m not sure how many people know you can do that in any case). So the solution would be to unsubscribe GMail’s All Mail folder and you’d be fine.

Alas, not only is the subscription/unsubscription is in a relatively obscure place in (highlight the mailbox and Get Info brings up the window with Quotas, Mailbox Behaviours and also the Subscription List) but also Apple’s IMAP subscription doesn’t seems to work on almost all IMAP servers, including GMail.

3M Interface – Reverse Multitouch


My brother, Matt, just e-mailed a link to this interface on the 3M website. Given the multitouch hype at the moment, it’s quite a clever little riff on the theme.

Basically it’s as if you are standing to the rear of a multitouch screen. Your mouse controls the finger movements of the person blurred out in the background and a selection does the old two-finger click-and-drag-larger movement that seems to have become a multitouch standard.

From the Archives: Interview with Daniel Brown

Daniel Brown – Flower Power

(In an earlier unpublished draft of this I so wanted to title it “Dan Brown – The Da Vinci Coder”, but good taste prevailed. Now I get the chance to share the awful pun with the world. I still prefer it to ‘Flower Power’ though. – AP)


Some of the most successful people seem to thrive between the cracks of definition. The lack of a clear pigeonhole allows for interesting combinations of skills that pique the interest of those in overlapping disciplines. Daniel Brown, winner of the London Design Museum’s coveted Designer of the Year Award in 2004 is one such chameleon. He won the award for his web design when, by his own admission, he’s not really a web designer and would be considered more of an artist by many.

There is a mix of genetics and good fortune at play in Brown’s past. His father, Paul Brown, produced Europe’s first piece of computer animation for television way back in 1981. Like many of us that have ended up experimenting with interactive media, he had a home computer (a Commodore Vic 20 with 3k of memory) when he was very young. Early Hypermedia pioneer and family friend, Roy Stringer, invited Brown to experiment on his office’s Apple Macintosh in 1991 (it was worth $10,000 back then).

Continue reading “From the Archives: Interview with Daniel Brown”

The Designers Review of Books (Nearly)


Playpen has been a little quiet recently because I’ve had my folks over from the UK and a heap of work on, one of which is The Designers Review of Books, a website/blog I’m putting together that will purely review design books – or rather books for designers. I know several design sites out there have the occasional book review, but there doesn’t appear to be a central place that I have found.

With some design help from Matt Willis (and the lovely Buffet Script from Sudtipos) the design is nearly there, but needs some WordPress integration, etc.

Once it’s up and running I’ll be announcing it properly and also looking for guest reviewers.

Core77 Broadcast interview with Troika

broadcasts_troika 1.jpg

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Sebastien and Eva from Troika, the studio behind the Cloud and All The Time In The World installations at new Terminal 5 at Heathrow. So, if you were one of the hundreds stuck at Terminal 5 when it opened, at least you had something decent to marvel at.

Troika are unusual in their combination of disciplines, I feel. It’s not so often that graphic and motion graphic design and this kind of interactive installation work come together – architecture is the more usual bedfellow.

I found it very interesting to hear them talk about the development of their creative palette and language of the objects they create as well as how some of the seemingly tiny technical issues can end up defining a massive part of the work.

You can have a listen to the interview on Core77.