Recently I posted a photo of the Tokyo Metro Goverment Building and its free observation towers in Shinjuku. While browsing more photos of Shinjuku today, I discovered this amazing photo which captures Tokyo perfectly…

Real-life user interface design in Shinjuku, Tokyo

Neon lights of Shinjuku, Tokyo
Neon lights of Shinjuku, Tokyo

This photo is © William Bullimore. View the original photo or William Bullimore Photography‘s website.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you might think I’m a full time traveler or resident of Japan. But actually…

I’ve been working in digital and online industries in some form for well over 10 years, working with and for big companies like Xbox, Mars… I could go on and on. I love design and how humans interact with digital interfaces, so when I look at buildings like this, my first thought is… “isn’t that a great example of user interface perfection?!”.

In Japan, multi-storey buildings containing shops on different levels almost always signify what is on each floor in the same way. If you look at this photo closely you will notice a few things:

  • Running vertically up the left side of the central building, above the blue subway entrance, are store signs, rotated 90° clockwise. These signs (from the bottom up, Softbank, Docomo, AU) line up with the physical location of each store.
  • Running vertically up the left side of this building is 2F, 3F, up to 9F. This corresponds to the floor number, so you can easily tell which floor each store is on.
  • And finally, if you missed all these subtle signs, running vertically up the middle of the curved corner of this building are large digital displays taking up the entire height of the floor.

While for me this is great user interface design, that is, you don’t have to go through a process of learning where the stores are (i.e. go inside, find a directory or store map), rather you instantly know how to “use” the building.

For a long time I’ve wanted to share this idea with the world, and this photo exemplifies it perfectly.

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Every Friday as part of the Mainichi Photo series, I feature the best photos from fellow travellers of Japan. If you have some great shots, why not submit them for publishing? Contact me through, or get in touch via social media (links below).

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