Book Review: Golden Krishna. “Good interface – invisible interface”

Today we offer an overview of the author’s book with the wonderful name Golden Krishna, who at one time worked as a leading designer of Samsung. This small 250-page book, published in 2016, has become a bestseller and is recommended not only to designers, but also to engineers, programmers and managers in general. I find it especially relevant for IoT device developers.

The main idea of ​​the book is that cognitive distortion has become prevailing in the computer industry recently: an interface is understood exclusively as a graphical interface (GUI). All the designers of the world are so stuck in the paradigm “you need a screen, and you need an application on the screen” that it began to harm the industry, especially in the development of IoT devices – they also tend to provide screens, while physical devices have a much richer range of interaction capabilities.

What is the solution? It consists in returning to the origins, to the initially correct ideas, which were thought of back in the 80s. The concept of Golden Krishna is called NoUI, but it is, of course, rather catchy slogan. He does not call for abandoning the interface at all, but rethinking it in favor of more natural, more minimalistic, cleaner and more tangible interfaces. After the book was published, many companies began to adopt this method, and there were more such devices – I will talk about this with pictures and examples.

Source: How to develop a Junior designer

About the book and the author

The book is by no means a full textbook on the interface. The author himself does not hide that he was guided by the well-known multi-page work of Alan Cooper “Interface: the basics of interaction design”, which over the past 20 years has already become a classic. It is worth reading first of all if you want to seriously study this area.

This book is rather free reasoning and thoughts of the author, it can be read in a couple of evenings. The book itself is designed as a fractal, that is, at the level of layout and design, it tries to follow the very principles of simple and non-loading design. Even the cover itself already looks talking. And by the way, the cover emphasizes the continuity of the book in relation to the aforementioned “Interface” by Alan Cooper:

On the left is the cover of Golden Krishna’s book, on the right is the cover of Alan Cooper’s book. Source: Read city, Ozon

What was Golden Krishna working on? All his life, he somehow promotes the idea of ​​designing an interface without a screen.

Photo source:

At the Zappos clothing store, he was designing a solution for replacing barcodes with RFID tags to speed up service and reduce queues at checkout counters.

He then worked for Samsung Design America. He was invited there just because of publications on the topic of NoUI. Most of his work was not disclosed, but it is known that a patent for Contextual Computing was obtained:

Source: patent

Golden Krishna is currently working for Google.

Next is a retelling of several key points from his book.

Thesis 1. Mixing UI and UX is a fatal mistake

Have you noticed that in job descriptions UI (User Interface) and UX (User Experience) often go over the line, as if this is one skill: UI / UX?

But originally, they meant different things!

  • UI – this is about how to draw a beautiful mold
  • UX is about how to fulfill a user’s need

Or, if you go from skills:

  • UI is a technique
  • UX is Psychology and Ergonomics

In fact, now UI / UX is simply understood as a specialist in UI, because companies tend to save money and not to hire two employees, believing that one is enough for them. A mixture of these two disciplines and a bias towards the UI led to the fact that we are surrounded by screens with a digital interface, and the user experience is the last thing they think about.

Thesis 2. Screen Interfaces: Fashionable, Doesn’t Need To

With the onset of the boom, smartphones have become the rule of thumb that a mobile app should be for everything. Whatever iron gadget you make, it must have a mobile application.

The graphical interface without hesitation is inserted anywhere. For example, here Twitter and Facebook tapes are displayed directly on the car dashboard, that is, next to the fuel, speed, etc. Golden Krishna asks: is it safe to drive?

Source: Golden Krishna’s performance

Stop. What if without an application at all? Without a graphical interface per se?

After all, we are talking about physical devices. Why don’t they interact with us in more tactile, more tactile ways? Why do not they respond to the environment, do not become adaptive?

Thesis 3. The best design is the one you do not see

Golden Krishna considers Mark Wiser and his ideas great. There was such a famous engineer at Xerox PARC, he suggested that over time, the computer should become invisible, disappear into everyday life. The best design is the one you don’t see. When a computer is built into your environment, and not you bother learning new habits, but the computer will study your existing ones. This concept is called Ambient Computing.

This is how Mark Weiser imagined the future. The source is his article

Mark Weiser saw for himself the office of the future as a room in which each paper surface was replaced by screens based on “electronic ink”. Notebooks, notebooks, sticky notes – all the same, only with screens. You write on them in exactly the same way. Exchange with colleagues, your notes travel freely on these electronic surfaces.

Some negative examples

And so the industry has come to what it has come to.

Chi Touch Handdryer 2 with screen interface:

Source: Amazon

The vending machine Kraft Foods Diji Taste, where instead of watching products behind the glass “alive”, you are offered a touch interface and only images of products on the screen

Source: Flickr

London trash bins that show you a ton of information on the screen, including weather forecasts and stock prices. The cost of one such trash is $ 47,000. A hundred of these trash bins were installed for the 2012 Olympics, because the city with them looks so innovative:

Source: Pinterest

Touchscreen for orders in a restaurant. But in general, what will change the presence of another screen, if everyone is already used to sitting, each staring at his phone? Vice President Chili’s once said in an interview that such interfaces boost sales of coffee and desserts, fun winking from the screen. Great innovation for a healthy diet!

Source: Gunaxin

Isn’t it true that all these things seem to be some kind of wild artifacts from a cyberpunk movie?

Such examples, where the screen is completely unnecessary, and the traditional interface would be much more convenient, you yourself will remember enough.

Thesis 4. Observation – Sensory – Adaptation

Golden Krishna pays a lot of attention to how to make a truly humane and user-friendly interface. He even has such a capacious thesis: the goal is to use computers, not to service them. In other words, computers should stop giving users messages like these: “Error message: your password must contain a minimum of 18770 characters and must not repeat your previous 30689 passwords.” Golden Krishna notes: “We maintain computers. Let’s flip this relationship. ”

At the same time, screenless interfaces allow technology to quietly penetrate our environment. They allow us to interact with objects familiar to us images, reduce the time of development of the device.

Now, with the development of technology, big data is connected, and this makes the device even easier to use, because it adapts directly to us. Here from the examples – SportVU camera, which tracks the health of NBA basketball players and helps the coach decide on the timely replacement of the player.

It looks like a computer game, but it is a real application for sports analytics. Source: Sporttechie

Or a device that is very relevant at the moment Earlyense, which is attached under the hospital bed mattress and transmits data on the patient’s breathing and motor activity, gradually studying its individual characteristics.

“Observation – Sensorics – Adaptation”, this is how the steps to implement the NoUI paradigm look.

Some positive examples

Let’s see how you can take and rework an unsuccessful design so as to make it closer to a person.

Car door unlock

Let’s say there is a mobile application for this. Golden Krishna calculated how many actions a user needs to do to open an electronic lock via telephone. It turned out 14 steps! And imagine that this is done in the cold, without gloves?

Source: lecture The Best Interface Is No Interface

Meanwhile, an alternative solution was developed at Mercedes-Benz 10 years ago by Siemens, it is this: the car sends a low-frequency radio signal to make sure that the keys to the car are somewhere nearby – and if everything is in order, the door unlocks. That is, no action is required from you at all. Moreover, it is impossible to accidentally slam the keys in the car: it can detect such situations, and if the keys are inside, it simply will not block the door.

Head injuries in sports

It is known that frequent blows to the head in American football subsequently lead to serious illnesses in players. This could not have happened if, having received a concussion, they immediately consulted a doctor. To solve this problem, the CDC Heads Up! Mobile app was invented. What does it do? This is essentially a brochure with a dozen buttons and menus. It helps to choose a suitable helmet and shows reference information on what to do in case of injury. This is better than nothing, of course.

Source: Arlington kirk

But you can solve the problem in another way, as Reebok did in their Checklight solution: integrate sensors directly into the player’s helmet (accelerometer and gyroscope), and send notifications about impacts. The output signal is given like a traffic light – red, yellow or green; red indicates a severe head injury. Then the coach can see the player’s condition in real time, and make a quick decision about his replacement, so as not to aggravate the risk.

Source: Medgadgets

Tire pressure

The environmental agenda was one of the essential points of the election program of Barack Obama. However, when he proclaimed a course on fuel economy and reduction of harmful emissions, one point there was completely misunderstood and seemed strange. Obama said that you need to keep the tires of the car constantly inflated, then you will slightly reduce the damage to the planet. In fact, if tires are inflated according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, fuel consumption is reduced. How to achieve this?

You can require the driver to follow this, check the tires. Special sensors are sold that monitor this. But for all of us, the attention resource is limited, and forcing a person to follow another parameter and perform additional actions is no guarantee. You can do it in another way: you can put a system that inflates the tire itself, without your participation. This is a common problem encountered in the IoT industry. From Russian companies, KamAZ was interested in the task, and a prototype of such a device was made on the basis of VolSTU – the partner university of the Samsung IT Academy. So, we have a device that saves our money and attention and, in addition, reduces the damage to the planet.

Goodyear self-inflating tire device. Source:

Overheating of the passenger compartment in the sun

In general, Golden Krishna has many examples from personal experience. He considers, among other things, such a problem as the car overheating in the sun. Suppose you left a car in the sun and went to the cinema. How to make the machine aerate by the time you return from the session?

The most straightforward option that has been implemented is a mobile application for driving. There you can manually remotely turn on the air conditioner. But how will you do this in the movies – including the screen of your smartphone, stopping other viewers from watching the movie? Yes, and we must not forget to do this shortly before the end of the session. Sheer inconvenience.

Nissan Leaf app. Source: Nissan Leaf UK

A user-friendly solution lies on the surface: equip the machine with a temperature sensor, and then when the threshold is exceeded, the air conditioner will turn on itself! This solution was proposed by Mazda. Moreover, it is also environmentally friendly: the ventilation system is powered by a solar panel located on the roof of the car.

Solar battery on the roof of the Toyota Prius. Source: Pinterest.


The NoUI approach does not tell us anything fundamentally new, but it helps us stop and think: where are we now? Have we become hostages to established thinking? Can we make everything more convenient, simpler, more concise? What will be better for the user? For such a small book, this is a pretty good result.

Tatyana Volkova – The author of the training program on the Internet of Things track “Samsung IT Academy”, a specialist in corporate social responsibility programs at Samsung Research Center

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