Conceptual Design Steps

Conceptual Design Steps

Yingxin Lyu

In Lev Manovich ‘s article1, the author describes Kay’s design principles. Alan Kay first defined computers as “remediation machines,” which means that software functions of computers can continuously be remediated by people and become more and more powerful. After trying to transfer various media into software and let them function on computers, computers become “personal dynamic media.” The reason why Kay wanted to turn computers, which were calculation machines, into metamedia functional machines was that he hoped that people could use them for learning, discovery, and artisan creation. It is a huge step from a calculation machine to a “personal dynamic media.” People always found it hard to leap out the established fact, but many Kay and his team created new ideas and ways to remediated computers, which transferred a computer as a tool used by people when inputting orders into an involver that involved in a two-way conversation between the user and computer.

With the remediation of media software in the computer, people become more and more creative and productive, and only people who are specified in some media field, but ordinary people can use these media software to create and produce. Before, people can only view paintings, listening to music, watching videos on computers. Now, they can use Photoshop to create their works or with a pencil and graphics tablet, they can draw in digital way, use Audition and other software to produce their music work, and use Premiere to create their videos. In the nearly future, different media system will combine and generate new media tools and new types of media2. Now, virtual reality technology is an example of combination of video, music, game and so on, and there will be more.

The second design step is Kay’s “simulation” in media3. In order to let media easy to be learned and controlled by people, simulation is an important step, and it bring more possibilities to more media to be invented and developed and made them more universal. That is, making an e-book looks much alike a real book, and let people feel accustomed when seeing it. It makes me recall the design principle affordance, or signifier. Until now, making the functions of how a new designed artifact works transparent to users is still so important. Notability, an application in apple store worked as note-taking software, is still working hard in order to design the interface more and more look like a real notebook paper, discover more functions, and make them more user-friendly. For example, it has a good classification system, so now users can put different kinds of notes, pdfs, or word documents into different folders. When users need to draw or take notes on certain document, they can set your own favorite pens with certain color, size of the brush, and stroke style.

Moreover, Kay did not just imitate paper but also create “magical paper”3. Kay did not forget take advantage of dynamic media in computers, combing simulation, made computers more and more multifunctional. The example mentioned in the article “text becomes a graph”4 is what we are doing in our daily digital life. People text with their friends and the content are not limited to words and sentences but also including photos, videos, music and so on. Since more and more new kinds of media come out these days, people can also add those things on the “graph”. For example, when people chatting with friends through instant chatting applications, they not only text, but also share a lot of other media on the “graph”, the interface of chatting, like music, voice message, photos, videos, and links from other applications. Maybe in the future, the graph will develop into a new media, and more other media can be shared and presented on the graph.



  1. Manovich, Lev. Software Takes Command. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013.
  2. Kay, Alan. “User interface: A personal view.” The art of human-computer interface design (1990): 191-207.
  3. Manovich, Lev., 64.
  4. Manovich, Lev., 71.