A Real Dial

13 April 2019

From “A Spectre Retrospective”:

Remember how I talked about the exposure duration dial, and how I really wanted it to feel like a tactile control like the one you have on a camera? The delightful clickiness of it, its precision, the appearance of etched metal… Delicious. How could we possibly translate this to a digital user interface? You’d just be tapping on glass.

[…] The only issue was that my big silly thumb would totally obscure the control. […]

But we didn’t have to also emulate the limitations of the physical world along with its wonderful tactile qualities: this is the digital world. We can make tiny phones fly. We can use a machine brain to pick the right settings for you.

We can make the dial expand gracefully as you select an exposure time.


This is probably my favorite part of the interface. Everything about it feels and looks perfect; Ben’s custom spring physics, my visual design iterations, and Jelmar’s completely custom typeface we use for the numerals. Three people worked hard on this little doodad — and most users probably wouldn’t even notice the work we put into it!

I would argue that’s how you know that you’ve made something well.

When you come across an article set in a superb typeface for reading, some excellent airport signage or a well designed door handle, you don’t think about it or even notice it. If anything you might just notice being happier, or simply not frustrated. That’s how you know a design is great: it disappears.