Animation: From Cartoons to the User Interface

Bay-Wei Chang and David Ungar
Abstract: User interfaces are often based on static presentations, a model ill suited for conveying change. Consequently, events on the screen frequently startle and confuse users. Cartoon animation, in contrast, is exceedingly successful at engaging its audience; even the most bizarre events are easily comprehended. The Self user interface has served as a testbed for the application of cartoon animation techniques as a means of making the interface easier to understand and more pleasant to use. Attention to timing and transient detail allows Self objects to move solidly. Use of cartoon-style motion blur allows Self objects to move quickly and still maintain their comprehensibility. Self objects arrive and depart smoothly, without sudden materializations and disappearances, and they rise to the front of overlapping objects smoothly through the use of dissolve. Anticipating motion with a small contrary motion and pacing the middle of transitions faster than the endpoints results in smoother and clearer movements. Despite the differences between user interfaces and cartoons--cartoons are frivolous, passive entertainment and user interfaces are serious, interactive tools--cartoon animation has much to lend to user interfaces to realize both affective and cognitive benefits.
User Interface Software and Technology '93 Conference Proceedings, Atlanta, November, 1993, pp. 43-55.

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