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!

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).

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From the Archives: Jonathan Harris – Man of the Hour

I have been promising that I would like to upload all of the articles I have written over the years so that they might be of use for people rather than them languishing on my hard drive, but I’ve been a bit slack at actually doing so because converting them to decent HTML and fixing it all up takes a bit of time.

But Regine’s post on Visualizing: tracing an aesthetics of data inspired me to find the article on Jonathan Harris that I wrote a while back in 2004.

So, the plan from here on in is to upload one article from the archives per week (which would mean about two year’s worth of posts!).

Man of the Hour – Jonathan Harris

If recent world events have taught us anything about the media it must surely be that it is relentless organism. We have seen live videophone feeds from the frontline in Iraq, the explosion of blogging and RSS (Really Simple Syndication) news feeds and recently mobile phone camera images on the front pages of newspapers. Use any RSS news reader and you will see stories being updated 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With all this information flying around the Web, how can we make sense of it all and what would an hourly snapshot look like? That is exactly the question Jonathan Harris set out to answer with his 10×10 project. In an ironic twist the site held the number one slot on Blogdex for several days as news of its representation of news spread around the Web.

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Desktop 2007 Create Awards

Desktop Create Awards

A quick plug for Desktop Magazine (the home of much of my writing) as their 2007 Create Awards are awaiting entries. So, if you were one of my ex-students or a regular reader and reckon you have the chops to win, throw your hat (or your work at least) in the ring:

As a category winner, you’ll receive a Desktop Create: Award for your category, plus a prize to the value of $3000 from each sponsor in that category.

As the Desktop Create: Awards Jupiterimages Designer of the Year (chosen from the pool of winners in each individual category) you will receive an additional cash prize of $5000!

The very final deadline is 5pm June 1st, 2007. But they’ll be listing the short-listed entries from May onwards.