Our minds make the world a considerably more beautiful place. Consider a long drive through the country. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself staring out of the window at the rolling hills, watching the sunset as you chase the sky along the horizon. You’ll look at the colour of the sky and wonder how it looks from up there. You’ll then reach for your camera and have the scene in your mind’s eye shattered by reality; there are fences, bushes, cars, and buildings obscuring the rolling hills and orange skies. This is occlusion playing its dirty trick.
We’re very clever, you know. Clever enough to imagine a scene without the bushes and thickets in the way of our beautiful landscapes. I’m sure I’m not the only person to have been taken aback when holding up a camera to a scene through the window of a fast train. Heck, I’ve seen it enough times. People holding their phones up, waiting for the bushes to clear. We’re trying to capture a kind of beauty only our minds can achieve. It’s the same as the colour of the sky. Try as you may, the colour of the sky is something no painting or photograph can (easily) achieve. Recreations look artificial.
Occlusion in design manifests itself in a different way. In any design project, we might start with a vision in our mind’s eye; a finished product. This product will most likely be based off the assumption that the few design elements you can see as clear as day right now will make it to the finish line. The occlusions in design take on many forms; research, implementation, testing, evaluating, red tape, client demands, board meetings. You might find yourself in love with the scene in your head and the scene you present, only to have your hopes shattered by the lens of the user.
But these occlusions and distractions give way to a vital ingredient. What if there really is a vast lake beyond those buildings? What if behind those bushes, you can see the sun setting between two peaks? What if this really is the perfect solution for our users? Curiosity and imagination are vital to the creative process. Without it, every design would be the same. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and our lenses will never match the lens of another; but with enough practice, you can get an insight to the workings of your user’s imagination. You can learn what they see beyond the occlusions, and you can even give them glimpses of the scene through your own lens. If you can explain and justify the reasons behind your scene, there’s not a single thing that can spoil your view.