The other day I was watching the special features on the Stranger Than Fiction DVD. When I really like a movie I really like to watch the special features. And I really like Stranger Than Fiction. One of the special features focused on the GUI, or graphic user interface in the movie. Harold Crick is a rather idiosyncratic person. He counts how many times he brushes each of his teeth, he knows how many steps it takes to get to the bus stop. He is very aware of his surroundings and this is represented with an animated GUI (pronounced gooey) in the movie. So we see Harold’s mental diagram of his teeth, we see him inventory the contents of drawers and cabinets. Harold’s GUI is centered on numbers, numbers in both time and space.
The creative team discussed how they came up with this particular GUI for the movie. Obviously they wanted it to be a significant point in the film, but not to the point of distraction. So they started batting around their own GUI’s. What visual images do we unconsciously (or maybe more consciously) use to relate with the world? Picture a sports fan who is perpetually late. His GUI might look like a playbook, laying out obstacles, openings in the path to the goal, offensive & defensive maneuvers. An architect might use a lot of geometry in relating spatially to the world.
I never thought about it before, but I have a GUI. (That was good to discover because I didn’t want to feel left out). And I was pleased to discover that my GUI is quite “writerly.” I free associate words and write them in my mind map. So if I ask how you are and you say “fine,” writing this word in my brain might remind me to return the library books before they are past due. My GUI looks a lot like an edited manuscript with circles, arrows, highlights, lists, and rewrites all over the place. If someone uses a word incorrectly, I rewrite the sentence in my head. (Yeah, I used to hate those people too, until I realized I was one of them).
What does your GUI look like?