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Interactive Annual 15:
experimental/virtual community

Beyond the Fold

Launch Live Site

“A concept that elegantly uses gesture and ritual to bridge the gap between tradition and future.” —Jason Ring

“A thought-provoking and elegantly-constructed concept. And, one of the few examples I’ve seen that has adapted the archaic newspaper form, with its associated behaviors, and transformed it into something relevant for our times. The interaction is at once intuitive and surprisingly new and fresh.” —Ranee Chung

Overview: This speculative design for an electronic newspaper of the future, inspired by the affordances of e-paper and the gestures associated with reading traditional newspapers, offers an alternative interface that moves away from the computer/keyboard/mouse environment. It uses the physical manipulation of the e-paper (unfolding activates the interface, shaking it refreshes live information, bending inward/outward switches from local to international content, a 90-degree angle fold activates 3-D mode) to move the reader through digital content that can be accessed wirelessly. The premise that inspired the navigation structure was simple: The human body should not have to adapt to technology; technology should adapt to the human body.

  • • The project was created in two separate phases: Phase one (three weeks) was devoted to the development of the initial concept, focusing on various ways to use gestures as interface; phase two (six weeks) was focused on how the content would behave in relation to the interaction.
  • • The main technologies that would eventually be incorporated into the device are biometrics to recognize the reader as it touches the device; a 3-D accelerometer to perceive the object in space; a bend sensor to sense any kind of distortion when manipulating the object; and WiFi capability.

Comments by Sebastian Bettencourt

What was the most challenging aspect of the project? “The most challenging part of this project was keeping it simple, staying true to the core ideas and avoiding ‘feature creep.’ Whereas from a designer’s perspective, it might have made intrinsic sense to create a symmetrical layout, convention dictated a diagonal structure. I had to stay focused on the original goal—not reinventing the wheel but rather enhancing it.

“The experience of turning pages was a very important quality that I wanted to maintain from the traditional printed newspaper. Discovering information you weren’t initially looking for on the pages between stories, following an unexpected direction, these are the experiences that make reading a newspaper enjoyable—and I didn’t want to lose that. Following a link directly to a story is to lose the essence of a newspaper. There were some interesting obstacles that developed when designing some of the main features of the interface. For example, a preliminary idea of using the hand with different combinations of fingers as an input strategy didn’t work; the flexibility of the material interfered with the pressure of touch, forcing the paper to deform as the user tried to visualize and interact with the content at the same time.”

How did this project compare with others you’ve worked on in the past? “Most of the projects that I’ve worked on in the past were designed with the intent of becoming actual working prototypes that people engage with. As a speculative project that didn’t have real technical limitations, Beyond the Fold had to be designed and communicated differently. However, the philosophy behind my design process is still the same: Exploring a process that employs cultural metaphors, human experiences and rituals as a means to create rich opportunities for innovative ideas.”

Did you learn anything new during the process? “I learned that inspiration comes from experience. It comes from rethinking everyday activities and from reconsidering everyday interactions. I learned that inspiration is not something you can simply read a newspaper.”


Sebastian Bettencourt (Santa Monica, CA), art director/writer/interface designer/information architect/project design and development
Art Center College of Design, client