Media continues to migrate to whatever screens are placed in front of us. By now, all manner of pundits will have weighed in with opinions on the much-hyped Apple iPad after its April launch. And as we look forward to seeing what these new tablet media experiences will be, I cast my vote for those that are increasingly "rich" in the sense that they will be dynamic, layered, and interactive. The audience wants richness. It's in our blood. We are the TV generation. Look at what happened to the evolutionary history of Web sites. It didn't take long to see motion, video, and other telling signs of richness making their way into the computer screen Web experience. The same thing happened to mobile phones. The iPhone was profound in that it gave us a screen. A screen that came to life and made the experience of consumption and navigation fun. In a way, you might say that all media, because of the gravitational pull of TV, moves in the direction of richness to satisfy the visual expectations of the audience. This idea of richness includes:
THE NOTION OF A SINGLE SPACE
Screens are flat. The content is not.
I see screens as windows that frame (define) specific views into spaces. Media events occur in these spaces. Words, images, graphics, video, and sound, as the basic components of media, combine to create meaning. These spaces are the new frontiers of media, something like virtual versions of landscapes or cityscapes that combine way-finding, branding and content in an environment.
As we, the TV generation, became the Internet generation, our expectations grew to include interactivity as well as richness. I've described this as the desire to have media experiences look like broadcast TV and also be interactive. That means that the motion and dynamics we see in the media are for a purpose. They move us from state to state: we pull back to get context, we push in for detail, we click an item and something new expands. The rich TV spaces are alive and respond to our poking. It's as if we have now conceptually moved our hands through the screen to move things around at will.
Layers & scale
These environments tell stories by guiding us with placement of graphics and information front to back in the space. The traditional print approach lays things out on a flat surface, but the rich TV approach places some contextual elements in the background, utilizing Z space. Today's sports coverage on Television presents a great deal of information in a layer in front of the action. With new connected tablet and mobile screens we will be able to pull that information closer to us and interact with this content.
There are two ways to look at scale in media:
1. The scaling of experiences to accommodate various screen sizes (small mobile, bigger tablet, bigger TV) and modes of interaction. I believe that small screen mobile experiences are close relatives to interaction on TV. With TV and mobile we mostly expect to snack and keep it simple.
2. Scale can also help us consume more efficiently. By scaling key elements we can more easily scan content, and either stay top-level or dive deep. The best new designs will use scale to allow for this new consumption.
Application thinking. Transitions are the key. A single, dynamic space for experiencing content.
So then, about this issue
I've taken a stab at trying to imagine parts of this magazine issue as spaces. Pulling the elements apart. Pushing photos and some elements into the background, and pushing the page back to declare a sense of this space. I can't make the elements move on paper, but use your imagination for now. Maybe a digital screen version of these ideas will be available later?
My thanks to Joe Mandese for his invitation to me to roll up my sleeves as a guest editor. I'm sure the art department at MEDIA will be happy to see things get back to normal in laying out pages for the next edition. I've certainly enjoyed pulling them apart for this issue.