Embedded GUI Design – Photoshop Can Help
It’s a really “slick” user interface experience that’s always impressive. A true graphical user interface (GUI) should actually be pleasant and attractive at first glance. All those years ago we were content with electronic devices with cryptic displays that had no graphics; We just want the new, fancy device to work.
But, as time has progressed, our society has become familiar, and quite clearly, dependent on embedded electronic devices such as cell phones, personal assistants, and your friendly automotive dashboard. “Effective” is no longer enough.
In the world of desktop computers, not having a “beautiful” graphical user interface is unheard of. Beautiful GUIs (pronounced “Gooeys”) have been hard to come by in the world of embedded devices. However, the audience of the end product, you and I, no longer accept a mediocre display of our technological marvels. (We’re not into our games, but that’s a whole other story!)
Fortunately, some vendors in the embedded device market saw that there was not only a need to help graphic designers and nengineers work more closely together in the world of embedded product design but an inevitable merger of the two disciplines. One such company in the embedded GUI market, Tilcon, recently launched a new version of their GUI design system that significantly reduces the time it takes to create a professional and beautiful GUI.
In the world of embedded graphics, there is the concept of a “virtual” interface. For example, a display on your car’s dashboard might show several meters displaying speed and tachometer readings, a bar graph for temperature, a variety of “idiot” lights, and even touch-screen controlled buttons. You are shown information in real-time as it is communicated to the display from the vehicle’s many microprocessors.
These entities used to be actual physical entities and are now drawn on the screen by the GUI system. In the GUI world, these virtual objects are called “widgets”. These “widgets” are painstakingly created by graphic artists to look as realistic as possible.
Every embedded product GUI design is ultimately a work of aesthetics. To sell in a competitive world, the device must fit the flow of the overall product team’s conceptual goals. Typically, the GUI team creates a “basic” widget set and then has to work diligently with individual artistic renderings to write code to recreate the image, or perhaps import each image and element. Regardless, this is no small feat.
Tilcon has elevated the efficiency of the embedded GUI design process to a new level with its latest Adobe Photoshop integration. In the Tilcon GUI system, a basic set of widgets is provided as a standard. The embedded designer drags and drops desired widgets onto the screen as needed. Once the screen design is complete, the user simply hits the Export button and pops a Photoshop file. This file creates all the layers a Photoshop-based designer needs to begin the artistic process of “branding” and create the desired look and feel of the end product.
The exciting part of this process, for those of you familiar with Photoshop, is that each individual widget object is exported on its own “layer” and the layers are arranged in Photoshop “groups”. If a “button” widget has an image for the “on” state and another image for the “off” state, its layer will be created in each state. This PSD file is delivered directly to the graphic designer. (Embedded GUI Design – Photoshop Can Help)The artist goes on to work in parallel with the embedded GUI engineer. Each item can be created by hand within the Adobe toolset, and upon completion, the final file is delivered to the engineer, who simply presses an “Import” button to import the new look. Suddenly, the screen is gorgeous!
Perhaps more importantly, the engineer continued his work using only basic widgets. Team productivity is improved. Happy product management. Sales teams will love the new professional look of the results.
The time savings this process saves the product design team is obvious. What may not be so obvious on first inspection is how quickly a team can “re-skin” its product look, or “custom-brand” the product for its end customers. The result: A product design team has quick access to great-looking displays, can use the same device for different end-customer needs and can deliver a custom look for each such customer with much greater ease and time savings. Now, watch it!