Emily Horgan – At A Glance

If you were to consider my life as a Venn diagram, you could comment that the majority of my interests have slight, if any intersection. Fashion and computer science aren’t regularly seen to go hand in hand.

However, knots of similarity wind through the two, like separate planks of wood cut from the same tree. These tie the two worlds together. Words like ‘prototype’, ‘wearable’ and ‘trend’ are etched deep into these patterns, common and important in both worlds. Another word that can be seen faintly yet freshly carved into the knots is the word ‘glance’.

This word has been ingrained on my mind. A glance can be a look of appreciation, a connection of understanding, an update, an escape, a crash to reality. But one key characteristic of a glance is this – it is always brief.

Hurried and rushed, it manifests itself in such a way that allows us be passive towards the intricacy of everyday life. This manifestation has invariably changed the way we consume everything: from click bait to custom jewellery, we are modern day magpies in a world of sparkling objects.

The flippant nature of a glance has not only changed the way we interact with things, but also the way we design. It has undeniably enhanced user experiences and challenged user interface and fashion designers alike. But I can’t help but wonder; is it essentially numbing the creativity and subtlety that was once considered ‘good design’ in both fields? Don’t get me wrong – human nature hasn’t changed so much in the past few decades that we are suddenly void from any creative appreciation. The issue here is that we are tailoring products to have a certain immediacy, enabling this lack of appreciation to be the norm.

For example, Apple released their most personal device yet this year – the Apple Watch. It’s a wearable that not only monitors your health, social life and sleeping patterns but is also in the running to replacing regular visits to the doctor, tracing intimate details like your heart rate and trusted with the details of your day to day routines. And yet the mechanism for checking the most relevant information it collects is called a ‘glance’. This brief interaction with the small screen has to be designed for the passive user who will only focus on information for five to ten seconds at a time.

This poses a whole new complication to overcome for UI designers – creating an interface that caters to the transience of a human glance. The most important details of the app must be displayed in a manner that embraces clarity and immediacy but is also aesthetically beautiful, fitting with the Apple fundamentals of design. What is only appreciated for a few seconds at a time has weeks of thought, design and implementation behind it. Skills that took years to acquire are displayed and consumed in five to ten second stints.

Similarly, in the fashion industry, designers go to excruciating detail with each garment they create – from the hem of a dress to the choice of fabrics down to the smallest placement of embellishments. Hours, days, weeks of work for something that is taken in at a glance for the most part.

How long does even the most passionate fashion follower spend truly appreciating the work of a designer? If he or she is lucky enough to be a face in the front row at a fashion show, it’s only for a brief second that the garment is in direct eye-line, and a total of perhaps a minute of display in peripherals until the next beautiful piece steals your attention. If not, snapshots of each creation are lost in and amongst the other important corners of our day to day life. Again, a glance will do.

Which begs the question: Is it simply enough to accept that our lives are becoming so fast paced? Do designers in both the technology and fashion industry have to simply succumb to the fact that their creation will be interacted with in such a passive manner? If we place this passive attitude that favours the glance into any other creative realm, an equivalent of Spark Notes would come with every book, decoding the beauty of written word and handing it to you in a bitesized chunk. Poetry would be taken on face value and we would never know what the great writers really meant because we simply wouldn’t take the time to care. Art galleries would have labels on each piece, pointing out the main techniques behind the artists work. Subtlety and the ability and enthusiasm to interpret creativity would be silenced.

I know it seems dramatic and almost hypocritical to feel the need to use such bold examples to prove a point. With fashion and technology being such loud industries in modern society, it’s admittedly easier to become complacent with appreciation. However, as someone who has worked hard in both industries, I see the amount of time and effort that goes into each photoshoot, each app, each fashion show, each website. What I have learnt the most is that absolutely nothing presented to you digitally or through trends is a mistake. Everything has been carefully placed for a reason and is often considered for longer than you think.

As busy as we may seem, it is essential that we are never too busy to appreciate the work and effort that goes into the components of our day to day lives. Fashion and technology shape the world we live in, whether we like it or not, and each piece that we interact with from these industries has someone’s personality carefully encoded in it.

With this in mind, Take a second glance.

Emily Horgan is a final year student of Computer Science in University College Cork. She has interned in companies like Image Publications and Tapadoo, an app development company based in Dublin. She tweets at @emileee_rose and shares pictures at @emleeh on Instagram.

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