Human-Computer Interaction: Ergonomics and User Interfaces - Vol. 1

By Hans-Jörg Bullinger; Jürgen Ziegler | Go to book overview
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You Don't Have to Be Jewish to Design, but it Helps... and Other Matters

Aaron Marcus, John Armitage, Volker Frank, and Edward Guttman
Aaron Marcus and Associates, Inc., 1144 65th Street, Suite F, Emeryville, CA
94608-1053 USA;Tel:+1-510-601-0994x19, Fax:+1-510-547-6125
Email:, Web:


The title of this paper intends to imply that user-interface and informationvisualization (UI+IV) designers need not be members of the user-group, but having subject-matter experts (SMEs) and/or user-representatives on the development team, significantly increases the chances for successful design. Several project experiences lead the authors to that conclusion. In 1978, at the East-West Center, Honolulu, HI, Marcus headed an international team of visual communicators to design a non-verbal, pictographic-ideographic narrative about global energy interdependence for a multi-cultural audience of decision-makers. The project proved a multi-cultural design team successfully could "debug" cultural biases ( Marcus 1981). In 1989-92, for Motorola, Aaron Marcus and Associates, Inc. (AM+A) designed UI+IV prototypes for an intelligent vehiclehighway navigation system to account for cognitive preference-differences among users evenly divided among those who preferred directions given by maps, arrow indicators, and words. After many reviews, an optimum design emerged that resolved most of the marketing and technical requirements. In 1994-97, for SABRE, a travel-agents' online-information system and one of the world's largest extranets, AM+A designed UI icons to account for racial and gender differences among international users. The UI+IV design was achieved with the significant participation of travel agents in the development process.

High-quality UI+IVs must be useful (easy access to data and functions that are easy to comprehend, remember, and use) and appealing. Their content and form depende on optimum visible language (e.g., typography, color, symbolism, layout, etc.) and effective interaction with controls to make users more productive and satisfied with products for work, home, and travel. Based on the above project experience, AM+A concludes that professional designers of specific cultures can design successfully for other cultures given significant


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