Pleats and Interfaces: 5 February 2013

Folded structures often occur on a molecular level for functional purposes (e.g. protein folding) or to compact molecules into small spaces (e.g. DNA supercoiling). If we abstract this idea of a linear sequence of information that is bent or folded to hide and reveal content, then we can quickly see new visual possibilities for reducing the complexity of dense input forms.

Cataloging forms have a linear structure that loosely ties together different groups of information. Often, the ordering of these groups are based on precedence, frequency, and/or relevance. Within each group, data may be gathered into tabular format. As a result, there are both horizontal and vertical visual relationships within a standard form. With more complicated input forms, there may be nested tables of information that are impossible to display on one visual plane. In these instances, there are some commonly utilized strategies including the use of dialog boxes and/or accordion menus.

Standard dialog boxes shine in their ability to accommodate large amounts of information. However, this design pattern may be considered disorientating since they bear no metaphoric relationship with the visual plane underneath. Dialog boxes simply appear and disappear. On the other hand, accordion menus present strong visual relationships between the collapsed and expanded content. However, they are often used in a blunt rather than granular manner to group large numbers of elements together.