Notes on (Audio) Iconic Interface Design

Notes of interest to audio interfaces from an aging but good paper, “The Use of Metaphors in Iconic Interface Design“.
“Icons are used extensively for communication purposes. The term icon has been adapted from its Russian origins -‘ikon’ meaning a religious painting or statue. Within the context of computing the word is used to refer to a small image which embeds ‘meaning’.”
“… some of the most popular of the new developments are ‘picons’, ‘micons’ and ‘earcons’. Picons are essentially icons that embed a picture (as opposed to a symbol). Similarly, micons are composed of moving pictures or video clips. Earcons, or auditory icons, are based upon the use of sounds and are usually embedded in sonic sequences …”
“… metaphors can play a part in the development of a functional specification. Indeed, metaphor usage should be made explicit at the design stage of application development so that maximum benefits can be attained. In this way a whole range of functions can be identified for which icons are required. In addition, metaphors can assist interface design by providing ideas for individual icon designs.
Second, the use of metaphors can have a significant impact upon end-users. Within an end-user interface metaphors can provide cues for the recognition of iconic symbolism …”
“As well as textual augmentation, audio augmentation may also take place.
Of course, serious problems can arise from the use of textual and audio augmentation – particularly, with respect to international interface designs. Obviously, if an interface is intended for international use then any textual labels which have been attached to it must be dynamically switchable between the target languages.”
How do you localise audio interfaces? The desktop metaphor seems to be transcending culture but what about audio metaphors? A click sound is a click sound but what about more complex functions.
Read the full paper: Metaphors in Iconic Interface design

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