Magic and Software Design

Tognazzini, Bruce, “Magic and Software Design,” 1993.

Perhaps no field other than magic is tied so closely to the field of graphical interface design: The people working at Xerox PARC in the 1960’s and early 1970’s were aware of the principles of theatrical magic when creating the first graphical interfaces, to the extent that David Smith named the interface itself the “user illusion” (Kay). We are designing interfaces for an interface system based on magic, yet there is almost nothing written about it in our literature. (An exception is a single page by Heckel.) Magicians have been struggling with the principles, techniques, and ethics of illusion for at least 5000 years (Burger). There’s a lot we can learn from them.

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