ITSME. Designing beyond the desktop metaphor

Session Title

ITSME. Designing beyond the desktop metaphor


Claudio Moderini, Itsme

Session Type: Presentation

Itsme is the name of an ambitious project, started in 2008 in Milan, Italy, with the intent of overcoming the everyday more evident limits of the existing OS GUI metaphor.
While several generations of processors and workstations came one after the other, we are still stuck on the GUI generation 1.0.

Even if enriched with more performing functions and skinned with ‘wow’ and surprising visual effect, the basic concept behind our new dynamic animated interfaces is still the same. And it is starting to be inadequate.

In the last 25 years there has been very little innovation in personal computing.
The desktop metaphor has established as the standard user interface, with its pros and cons: the analogy with the physical work place was useful then, to make workstations look familiar to users who were not computer-friendly, actually the desktop metaphor reflects the complexity of the human activities without helping people to manage it
At the same time, after more than two decades of innovation in the IT sector, after the boom of the World Wide Web, the complexity of the system we interact with has increased.
The analogy with the physical world is not anymore enough to manage and support all the different emerging needs and new communication channels we experience in our daily use of computer.

A radical innovation is due.

It is not only possible, but is required to rethink and go beyond the desktop by identifying, defining, developing and designing an all around new metaphor; a new metaphor able to embody needs, attitudes, habits and behaviors of technology-born users in the always connected, multi-device, contemporary working and living scenario.

The intent of the project is therefore the design of a new workstation, based on an open source OS, that will promote an original organization and a fluid interaction with personal contents, starting from a radically different conception of the digital environment: what we call “Stories and Venues” metaphor.

The presentation with the same effort will present a critical analysis of the context, will outline the interface design approach and solution, and will describe the process adopted.
The speech will go deep about the design issues: from the visual model that represents Itsme, through the structure and articulation of the interface as well as the nature and behavior of the interactive elements, interaction modalities and items manipulation, until the overall look and feel.
Some spots about critical open issues will be enlightened, to stimulate thoughts and discussions.
The presentation will end up with a focus on the interaction design process and its peculiarities. A highly iterative process that alternates activities dedicated to research and investigation, sedimentation, assessment trough participatory process.


Claudio Moderini is a senior interaction design consultant and researcher, founder and director of the Master Programme in I-Design and director of the Interaction Design Department of Domus Academy.
His design and research interests concern the introduction of Information and Communication Technology (ITC) in the everyday life environment and the potentiality of electronic technologies to support the quality of social relationships.

He is leading Itsme interaction design group by providing a competence in creative direction, envisioning and strategic design.

He lectured at Domus Academy, the Politecnico of Milano, Royal College of Art, Universita Cattolica of Brescia, University of Siena, Universita di Milano Bicocca, FUKUI prefecture Japan, Shih Chien University Taipei, NTUT Taipei and Hong Kong Polytechnic focusing on interactive design, multimedia installations and network environments.


  1. Mkz
    Posted September 29, 2009 at 9:01 am

    ethinking a metaphor must be a huge effort. I visited the project website and seen some interesting stuff, but not really a complete/convincing description of a new metaphor (beyond visuals: operations, terms to describe novel interactions). This presentation could start extremely interesting discussions.

  2. Nehag80
    Posted September 29, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Seems like an interesting project. Curious to know more about the learnings made while designing.