PhD Thesis by Morten Lund

PhD Thesis by Morten Lund

The objective of this dissertation is to establish “Functional animation” as the concept for the use of movement as a component in the design of user interfaces for interactive digital systems. The research is grounded in an understanding of interaction design as an interdisciplinary activity that encompasses animation as the skill to control motion as an expressive phenomenon.

Photo: ‘Slide to Unlock’, Evan Roth, 2013.

Ph D Thesis by Morten Lund: Functional Animation Interactive Animation in Digital Artifacts

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This dissertation concern the use of movement as a component in the design of interactive digital systems. The research establish how movement as an independent meaningful phenomenon contribute to the usefulness, aesthetic experience and interactivity of interactive digital systems. Animation is the practical and scholarly discipline that concern the creative control and manipulation of movement. Interaction design is the practical and scholarly discipline that concern the design of human relation to interactive digital systems. A literature review establish that neither Animation nor Interaction design has a particular concept for movement in the context of interactive digital systems. The term functional animation is proposed as conceptual frame for the overlapping area between Animation and Interaction design. Eight research activites are performed to establish functional animation as an independent area of research and practice that inform and is informed by both Animation and Interaction design.

A historical account of the integration of movement in Interaction design illustrate how movement has been part of interaction design since Donald Sutherland’s Sketchpad system and that animation was first conciously integrated into interaction design activities by Alan Kay via Ronald Baecker and animator Eric Martin for the development of the Xerox PARC Smalltalk system in 1973. Movement has been an integrated part of the WIMP GUI paradigm since conception. The historic account also demonstrate how the use of animation within the practical setting of a tool is a novel use of animation expressiveness. Animation studies is researched to position functional animation in relation to other uses of animation. This leads to a model of animation usages that allow mapping in relation to animation type (T) and purpose (P), and field (F) and discipline (D). This TPFD-model includes a distinction between linear and interactive animation. An investigation into the definition of animation leads to a definition of interactive animation and the specific use represented by functional animation: Functional animation is the control in creation, production, execution, and consumption of motion, as an expressive component, to convey meaning, in a visual, interactive, user interface environment. The rationales for viewing ’the illusion of life’ as the essence of animation are established. These invetigations into animation and the presence of functional animation as a particular use of animation are supplemented by the proposal of a set of principles for the design of functional animation that position the communicative purposes as subordiante to existing principles of Interaction design: Transition, Transformation, Progress, Acknowledgement, Hint, Attention and Illustration. This is followed by the proposal of a framework for practical application of these principles in relation to development of concrete motion patterns that build on the relational ’action – re-action’ character of functional animation.

The theoretical research activites are supported by an empirical study that explores the meaning of motion as an independent phenomenon within an interactive digital system. The study collects quantitative responses from 188 people on their experience of difference among five visually identical, but motionally different objects. The study is performed via an Apple iPad app that integrates the survey and the practical exercise. The study show that people are capable of discerning among the objects based only on their motional difference and thus that movement as the primary associative stimulant is meaningful. The study also show that respondents are not in agreement when evaluating the difference in terms of material and character. The abstract de-contextualised environment represented by the study exercise offer no references to known contexts and thus the study show the importance and influence of context when performing tests. The study therefore establish an empirical foundation for exisiting and future contextual studies of functional animation.

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