Interactive Multimedia Design Guidelines: A Contribution to the Discussion

Adrian Mallon, 23.3.1994 (minor additions August 1996)


Table of contents


The Meaning of Design

In evolving interactive multimedia design guidelines, the various design processes involved in the development and evaluation of multimedia resources should be identified and defined. Let me suggest that the major design processes are as follows: interactive design, screen graphic design, audio-visual and animation design, instructional design, structured program design, sound recording and engineering, and display and packaging design. Other areas of design will also need to be considered, --areas such as the design of support materials and of procedures for product testing, evaluation, and localisation, --but I'd be happier addressing those in a follow-up paper to this one. For the moment I offer the following definitions of the major areas in interactive multimedia design.

Guidelines should exist to cover each area of design.

Significant Influences on the Design Process

Let's now consider for our guidelines those things that most significantly influence the design process in all or any one of its forms. They are:

The remainder of this paper is devoted to looking at these categories in turn and reflecting in a personal way on possible guidelines.

Personal Skills and Qualities of the Designer

The qualities possessed by a good designer should be studied. They are of particular interest to employers in drafting job advertisements. Research into this area should survey job advertisements in each design area, published materials, and solicit the opinions of employers and designers either in face-to-face interviews or by means of Internet E-mail/bulletin board/discussion forums.

Consider the attributes and qualities Lorenz identifies as important for the successful designer in industry:

Consider, also, the qualities that Kendall and Kendall identify as important for the systems analyst. Can they be applied to the interactive designer?

The CD-I Production Handbook describes the CD-I producer (or project manager) as "a jack of all trades—someone whose knowledge has to encompass a variety of areas, from sound-recording to software engineering, and from animation to video techniques, with project management and public-relations skills thrown in for good measure." (Philips IMS, The CD-I production Handbook, Wokingham England, 1992, p.4.)

A CD-I software development manager quoted in the CD-I Production Manual says about programmers, "I find the kind of people we want are very unusual; the key thing is that people should have real-time experience. The perception is that you want people who have graphics experience, but the problems we're facing are real-time problems. So good experience of real-time programming, preferrably on 68000 or even OS-9, is more important than graphics experience, or even knowledge of C for that matter, provided someone has a good knowledge of programming languages." (Philips IMS, The CD-I Production Handbook, Wokingham England, 1992, p.19.)

Another CD-I programming manager looks for programmers who understand issues in graphics and user interface design, with interests in entertainment, film and music, and, preferrably, with experience in computer games programming. (Philips IMS, The CD-I Production Handbook, Wokingham England, 1992, pp.20–21)

As for the team leader, depending on the scale of the organisation and team-member experience, that might be a director, producer, or interactive designer. (Philips IMS, The CD-I Production Handbook, Wokingham England, 1992, p.21)

Preston describes the need for talented and adventurous people with backgrounds in film, TV or corporate video, and book publishing. (J.M. Prteston, ed., Compact Disc-Interactive: A Designer's Overview (Deventer, The Netherlands, 2nd edn., 1991, pp.55–56)

Data from such sources, together with that polled and from published job advertisements, should be sufficient to create some interesting profiles to incorporate in the guidelines and serve, also, as a basis for further research.

Peer assessment. Criteria for the Judging of Interactive Programs by Professional Associations

Another useful source for design guidelines is the study of competitions designed to recognise and promote excellence in the production of interactive media. The British Interactive Multimedia Association (BIMA) apply the following criteria (reproduced from a BIMA competition entry form for 1993) in judging entries for design awards to their yearly competition:

The American Cindy Awards Showcase for Corporate Video apply nine critia in judging interactive programmes (reported in S. Hoffos et alia, CD-I Designers Guide, Maidenhead, England, 1992, p.149):

There are, of course, other competition organisors, in Europe, North America and elsewhere.

Attitude and Ideology

Commissioning-Client Considerations

End-user Considerations

Hardware-software: Delivery Platforms

Human-computer interface considerations: Interactive and Screen Design

Human-computer interface considerations: The Use of Colour

Human-computer interface considerations: Touchscreens

Human-computer interface considerations: Sound

Cost, resource and time constraints

Development-team structure

Product specification

Development-team communications

Initial and further training.

Access to professional sources of information and discussion forums.

Testing (to be developed, along with evaluation and localisation sections in a second paper)