Exploring the use of motion-related metaphor in user interface design

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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Master's Programme in Collaborative and Industrial Design
As a way of thinking, metaphor is a highly effective means of understanding the less familiar domain by using an object or idea from another more familiar domain. The study of metaphor has expanded beyond linguistics into many other fields, such as interaction design, advertising, and film. In these areas, designers use familiar features to build connections between the source and target domains. When metaphors are visual, most of the features that build connections are in static dimensions, such as shape, color, perspective, direction. However, few studies have discussed the possibilities of metaphor building from the perspective of movement features instead. With the widespread use of motion effects in user interfaces, the need to discuss motion-related metaphors is inevitable. This master's thesis is an attempt to address this need. The study aimed to answer the below questions. First, what is a motion-related metaphor in the user interface? Second, what roles do these metaphors play in the motion of user interfaces? Moreover, what should be noted when using metaphors? To figure out these questions, a literature review was conducted to understand the current research in visual metaphor and motion design. Besides, a qualitative data analysis was carried out, with 87 examples of motion design collected from three interaction domains (operating system, application, and website). The literature review demonstrated a general view of visual metaphor constructs and classifications. Based on this, the study extended the definitions applicable to motion-related metaphors, thus providing a demarcation reference for more subsequent research in this area. In the data analysis part, an affinity diagram analysis of 36 examples of motion design that are related to metaphor was conducted. The results exemplify four possible roles that motion-related metaphors can play in interaction design and reveal some notes when using metaphors in the motion of interaction. This study discovered that it is not uncommon to see designers use metaphors to motion effects in the interaction design field, either intentionally or unintentionally, and many of these metaphors play different practical roles in the user interface. However, very few of them have been studied systematically. This master's thesis hopes to draw the attention of researchers to the field of motion-related metaphor so that designers can actively bring metaphorical thinking into motion design. Furthermore, it is also essential for designers to understand the limitations of metaphors. Although metaphors are vital in the human thinking process, they are not panaceas. It is equally important to understand when not to use them or to use them more carefully.
Salovaara, Antti
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Salovaara, Antti
user interface, metaphor, visual metaphor, motion design, motion-related metaphor, motion
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