Switching on to the medium of the future

The future’s bright. The future’s… television. Friendlier and more accessible than the computer for the average punter, as it becomes more interactive TV is poised to overtake the Web as a global communications platform. And, as in most countries, just about every home already has a TV. The main challenge to promoters is to persuade the public to take on board the kit that links into technologies developing round a familiar medium.

This was a key theme of a debate organised by PhotoDisc Europe at London’s ICA last Friday to explore design in 2010. Subscribers to the idea include Malcolm Garrett of AMX Studios and Rob Bevin, who recently left NoHo Digital to set up his own venture, both of whom are well down the line in developing interactive media for a wide audience. But designers rooted in print, such as Stocks Austin Sice founder Nick Austin and Guy Marshall of Williams and Phoa, were ready to take the proposition on board. They see TV, already established as a communications medium with strong design links, as one of many platforms that will move into the next millennium, as the public demands even more choice.

For designers, TV throws up real challenges if it is to reach the potential the experts foresee. Its development as an interactive multimedia platform demands greater teamwork than most other media, with techies coming together with creatives versed in ergonomics and communications. It’s no good having a technological wonder sitting in the corner of the living room if you’re intimidated by it – and “you” might be aged anything from three to 90.

It’s a chance for designers to take the lead, as champions of the people. It means gently wresting responsibility for the interface between user and technology from the software merchants to make it more accessible.

Hardware also needs addressing. “Boxes” bring digital TV to our homes and satellite dishes are an all too familiar sight. But are these the best solutions? And should an interactive control resemble a remote video controller or is Nintendo a better model?

More importantly, if more TV channels mean more choice and control, there will be a real need for programme providers to develop strong individual personalities, through graphics, set designs, overall style and ease of accessibility. The scope for design is endless.

We’d all be wise to tune in and turn on now, rather than drop out of what is predicted to be the next big communications revolution.

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