Time Capsule 5 - Her

Send six artefacts and lessons back to 1994

Her is 2013 film directed by Spike Jonze staring Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore, a man tasked with writing meaningful and emotion letters to other people. The story is a moving tale of a Theodore’s evolving relationship with an ever growing artificial intelligence. Throughout the film there is strong references towards the Singularity theory.

However, I would like to focus upon the films aesthetics and world and how it can inspire designers.

I was personally very moved by this film when I first saw it.

Her was one of the first Sci-fi films which depicted a future I could imagine myself living in. Its world felt approachable, humane and gentle with the furniture taking almost 60’s feel, very different from the harsh and cold bleakness of Minority Reports or Blade Runner. In Her’s world, technology melts and morphs into the everyday life rather than standing out. Screens are fairly absent and everything works in the background, quiet, capable and low key. Devices are smart yet ambient and unobtrusive.

“There are a number of films that cover that very well so we didn’t need to go there. This is a pleasant, soft future where everything is designed to everybody’s personal taste.” – Barrett on the films world

Design and technology often flow at the footsteps of science fiction. I believe that by sending this film back to 1994, designers and engineers alike can be inspired by another type of future design, calm design. The future doesn’t have to consist entirely of green UI’s, flashing lights and deadly robots.

Lesson one. Good design is as little as possible.

The nineties are iconic for bright colours, bold typography and funky product design. Design follows trends, technology and a natural progression of inspiration and culture. In the 1980’s, Dieter Rams created a list 10 of principles he believed formed good design. The tenth principle, good design is as little as possible, could question and counter some of the more questionable design decisions, such as trolls or the old MacBooks, that could have benefited from use, or at least inspiration, of these principles.

Lesson two. Design for wellbeing.

In 1994 mobile phones were chunky, bulky and, in general, ugly. The progression to the modern day smart phones seems almost inevitable, but as the novelty and newness of the smartphone wears off, the screen is slowly fading away. People are become more and more aware of their own digital wellbeing and how the modern day smart phone, while incredibly powerful and useful, is perhaps not best for human beings.

Ambient information and design is becoming more popular and more accessible. Phone companies are even including wellbeing apps and system integrations for their devices, such as iOS’ “Screen time” and Androids Pie “Digital Wellbeing”, limiting, tracking and helping users find balance between their own screen time while informing them of their own habits.