If you want to see the future of software UI design, look to the history of print design

This interesting article from bjango.com posits that stylistic design choices follow from the limitations of their hardware or production:

Interaction Design collageLike many trends in technical areas, interaction design is being led by technical ability.

8bit games looked 8bit-y, because of limited colour palettes and giant pixels. 16bit games looked 16bit-y because of better colour abilities and slightly smaller pixels than their 8bit counterparts. Newer games look newer, because GPU hardware developed to the point where full 3D games were possible. These aren’t stylistic choices, they’re hardware limitations, dictating how software looks.

In the same respect, print design has limitations to work with. Most body copy in print design is black, because of hardware abilities — black is one of the four printing plates, so it can be reproduced at high quality, with sharp, fine lines needed for text. Back off a little to a mid-grey and the quality drops significantly, because you’re still using black to print, but you’re building mid-grey from a dither pattern of small black dots on white paper. It’s a trick. There is no mid-grey, only black or white. And because of this, smallish text printed as mid-grey looks horrible (please note that I’m talking about typical four colour CMYK offset printing, not the use of special colours).

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