Visual Approaches on Spatial Thinking: User Interface Metaphors

Koçer Özgün F. N., Alaçam S.

C+++: Computation, Culture, and Context: the 11th ASCAAD (Arab Society for Computation, Architecture, Art, and Design) International Conference, Amman, Jordan, 7 - 09 November 2023, pp.1-12

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Full Text
  • City: Amman
  • Country: Jordan
  • Page Numbers: pp.1-12
  • Istanbul Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Examining metaphors in user interfaces (UI) has been a common topic in the Human-Computer Interaction theoretical framework. From the desktop to the map, from the timeline to 3D space, the usual metaphors have become an integral part of the design and development process. As technology advances, the influencing interface functions that support the designer's spatial thinking system pave the way for the user interface to be used as a spatial thinking environment, supporting, and guiding the design process in the designer's mind. This study explores the link between the development of spatial ideas and the use of the user interface in the digital tools that support it, aiming to follow both mental and digital navigation in the design process. Spatial metaphors at the focus of this exploration were evaluated through spatial interface functions, which provide designers with the ability to manipulate objects and their environments in a 3D environment. In the design process, spatial perception influences the development of the designed object or environment, as designers use their spatial narratives and visual metaphors to convey their ideas to the digital world. In the empirical case study conducted with 4 designers, two different scenarios were used using the same materials. Different approaches to the visual expression of spatial metaphors used in the design process were compared over these two scenarios. In the first scenario with two participants, the participants perform the tasks through sketches and diagrams. In the other scenario, participants complete the same tasks during the 3D modelling process.

These outputs, which are a visual manifestation of the designer's spatial thinking process, are expected to provide insight into spatial and user interface metaphors. Metaphors, which are mainly about personal perception, have the potential to create a personalized space for interfaces in the future, depending on spatial thinking. In this sense, it is aimed to examine the spatial thinking of designers in the design process in the next steps of this study, which is the first step of large-scale research.