UX/UI and Cinematograph

Everybody likes cinematography. Somebody perceives it as entertainment only. Another group of people works in this industry. But as being a Designer you just can’t miss the opportunity to learn something from movies (yeah, there is so much stuff to grasp of). And yep, as you have guessed already, I am a big moviegoer (if you can read in Russian, you are welcome to my Telegram channel Douglas Firs, or just check out my Letterboxd). Anyway, let’s dive into it!

Does every Designer know what user flows, storyboards, scenarios are? The ones are just stories that you want to tell. And what can tell stories better as not a movie? I prefer to think that we must perceive any Interface as a story that has the beginning and the end. It especially important now, when people (users) are looking for some connections with brands and stories, not just with spec sheets. Some examples:

  • Onboarding is a great way for the exposition where you explain the rules of your world (product). You can teach users to use your product and just give them a particular feeling (it might enjoy or scary them, it’s all up to you and your goals).
  • Aha-moment. Bear in mind that it is a good representation of the end of the first act in the structure of a movie (as Aristotle bequeathed to us). The irreversible moment from where a user can’t leave your product without some damage (mostly mental, of course).

That is not it. As every director knows there are many ways to tell a story to spectators. Not only the scenario. Another way is to do it via camera. When watching a movie, pay attention to how a camera moves, how a shot was constructed, and what parts it consists of. Look for things that can help you to understand ongoing action and what a director wanted to say throughout it.

A small example is how David Fincher works with the camera and how you can use the same approaches in the UX/UI. David Fincher is a perfectionist and he uses a camera that is synced with the movements of a character in a shot. It is how it works in real life. You’re moving — things around you move synced (depends on distances and speeds that together create parallax effect). And look at any typical examples of the onboarding process with some slides, which you can swipe, and the button underneath. You look at the background (slides) from the perspective of the button because the button is always at the same place. The button is the main character here. Not because of its size or a bold color, but because of the movement of background and the freeze position. Another example here is the iPhone’s home screen where the background moves under icons. Just an imitation of the real world.

The next step is absolutely abstract. And (it’s more important for us) is visual. Cinematography is an art and like in other forms there is a place for beauty and aesthetics. Look at a great — and maybe because of it really corny example — movie by Stanly Kubrick which is called 2001: A Space Odyssey. If you have watched it, you could notice that Kubrick didn’t try to tell a story via dialogues, he wanted to create an absolutely visual story which describes itself only by images (like paintings in a gallery). I think that’s the reason why you cannot think about UI outside of UX (and vice versa). All need to work within consistency and integrity.

Movies force us to pay attention to small things which can have a big matter. And often it is about to create strong feels by small efforts. Just add some balloons in the shot and you have fulfilled the scene with a different mood (as it works in It’s Only the End of the World by Xavier Dolan).

The shot from It’s Only the End of the World by Xavier Dolan

Wrapping up

All described stuff is a big deal. It is hard to notice all (especially in the world where entertainment forces us to the clip thinking). But down the road, you will get big benefits which help you to create a better experience. Because all what we want is to tell a story, no matter how exactly.

Just foster your tastes not only in your particular field but do it somewhere outside too. And remember that taste is just the ability to explain why you like something or don’t.