Hope in the Portrait vs. Landscape Saga

Ad agencies appear to have woken up to the superiority of “portrait” (“vertical”) setting of displays compared to standard “landscape” (“horizontal”): that is, how much more natural and life-like the images look on them.

I have already written about how standard computer video interfaces are anything but natural, especially with the advent of widescreen displays.

Why has that happened? Likely for two reasons. First of all, computer screens were originally built using standard TV technology. Television started as a kind of “remote theatre” (most of it, still is). Theatre stages are wide rather than deep, because all actors need to be placed in front of the public and it’s pretty hard to stack them up…the original 4:3 landscape format for TV sets was therefore not a bad choice (even more so, the contemporary 16:9 format).

Furthermore, perhaps since the times of Xerox’s Palo Alto workshop that heralded the era of computer graphics, a PC’s screen has been meant to be a “desktop”…literally, the top surface of one’s desk. Now, office desks are usually rectangular, and this is because of the way we can move our arms (reaching out is much easier on the sides than straight in front of us).

But most of us use computers for reading and writing messages, for blogs and comments, for developing programming code, and in most cases to surf the internet. I am not sure anybody pretends that their few square inches of screen are actually their desktop?

Instead, as books and newspapers are usually in portrait format, and people’s bodies and faces are usually vertically -oriented (that’s why it is called portrait), and even the windows in most buildings are taller than wider…our real-life world is full of portrait-oriented features with which we interact.

It would all look obviously much more natural if we had portrait computer screens. In some cases, even portrait-oriented TV sets.

And that’s in fact what is happening in some airports, where TV screens are being mounted vertically to display advertisements. Whatever is shown, such as panoramas or products, the impression is of looking into a window into another real world, rather than the artificial theatre of television.

So if your screen and your PC’s graphics card allow portrait-orientation, do not hesitate and try it out.

Me, I have no intention to go back to “landscape”.