Can you describe the function of the object pictured below?
While viewers may differ on the specifics, they tend to arrive at roughly the same conclusion: it’s a structure that houses humans.
Now what about this one?
Giant scale? Portable stage? Simultaneous-play DDR dance pad for a 30-person troupe? It’s much more difficult to tell what this object is actually meant to do.
Both of these images depict highly fantastic, imagined objects conceived for science fiction literature over fifty years ago. Neither strongly resembles anything we use today. So why is it that one object (the older one, no less) communicates a clear function to viewers, whereas the other remains ambiguous? The answer tells us a lot about how to create designs that are both innovative yet usable.