Camouflage: Why Some New “HMI Improvements” are a Step Backwards

  • Conference Program
  • EPC
  • April 9, 2019
  • 4:15 pm - 5:00 pm

Process Control HMI improvement continues to be a hot topic. It began with the publication of The High Performance HMI Handbook in 2009, followed by the 2015 publication of the ISA-101 HMI standard. Since 2009, many companies have revised their HMI practices, many case studies have been published, and many presentations have been given at technical conferences.
Graphics should provide:
• Depiction of information rather than just raw numeric data
• Clean, clear, crisp, and legible object depictions
• Ease in deciphering object elements
• Proper and consistent use of color
But, thing seem to be going wrong. Camouflage is the art of making things more difficult to see. Methods of camouflage include decreasing an object’s contrast to its surroundings, eliminating outlines and edges, eliminating patterns, and the incorporation of randomness in visual arrangement.
Surprisingly, these principles and methods seem to be the basis of many HMI practices being touted today as “improvements.” These include:
• Design elements that are low-visibility, tiny, and “fussy”
• Gray-on-gray “blob” graphics with inadequate contrast
• Random and confusing arrangement of screen items
• Poor use of screen space, with “white space” increased by making process indications smaller and more difficult to read
• Even worse use of color than “traditional” graphics
Such poor designs are easily found on the web, in magazine articles, and in vendor promotional materials and completed designs. In this talk, examples of such practices will be shown, and contrasted to clean, clear, crisp, and legible visualizations that would provide operators with a much clearer understanding of process conditions.