Expressing passage of time in UI


As part of our bachelor thesis, we were briefed to formulate a research question relevant to interaction design, contextualise proposed research gap in relation to societal and ethical concerns, and constructively use disciplinary foundations of interaction design including methods.



Designers today are concerned with the relationship between users and UI. It is, as described, a series of momentary interactions. A user-centric approach enforces this, neglecting the potential richness of wholesome experiences. Whilst we and our interactions change over time, UI simply does not.


In reality, changes are made under continual conditions, whereas our interaction with a medium influences it as it influences us. This probes the concept of continuity in HCI, and ”thinking of interaction over time rather than at momentary points”. Just as how easing animations mirror the motion of objects in the real world, what if UI was to mirror time of the real world?


I turned to nature, mapping out temporal processes such as frosting, blooming, wearing and tearing, etc. By considering each temporal process as a material, each of them was articulated into material qualities in consideration of its significance and meaning to us.


In answering the question of how it might look and feel in the context of UI, low-fidelity sketches were iterated as a step to incrementally move forward from these textual described material qualities. Low-fidelity sketches inspired me into three directions: contexts, evolvements, and meanings. In this step, prototypes were made to experience them over time.

Design thinking process on Miro




Concept sketching


Implementing temporal metaphors in UI expresses continuity, aligning with existing notions of real-world phenomena and temporal processes exposing continual change. In UI, this means that interactions influence it as it influences the users. For when UI expresses continuity, it paves way for a relationship to be nurtured. Another meaning beyond that of its mere functions.


The temporal processes of wearing and tearing suggest that the experience of the relationship between UI and users is unique and momentary. UI may express a sense of history and memory, whereas one lives through the UI. The value of this design research lays in its approach. I've proposed one possibility in how to articulate these temporal processes in the real world and implementing such in UI design. For contemporary designers, these insights show how new meanings may be implemented in today's functional UI's by considering interaction over time.