One Two Tie My Shoe

A Visual Exploration of Digital Gestures
Using the Therblig System of Motions


Therblig System
of Motions

    The Therblig System of Motions is a compilation of 18 elemental motions, called therbligs that one is required to do, in varying sequences, in order to perform a workplace task.
    The motions in the system are comprised of: search,find, select, grasp, hold, transport loaded, transport empty, position, assemble, use, disassemble, inspect, preposition, release load, unavoidable delay, avoidable delay, plan, and rest.

    Although they are not pure or fundamental elements (in the sense that they cannot be further subdivided) they are considered one of the best classifications of hand motions created. 

...gone digital.

    While the Therblig System of Motions was originally applied to physical manual labour tasks, this research considers it in a different light, by applying to the digital environment.
    Through the deconstruction of digital gestures into sequences of motion, the visuals below explore the relationship between physical hand motions and digital gestures, experimenting with alternative approaches to visualising motion-gesture relationships related to simple, habitual digital tasks.
    Through the analysation of digital gestures using the Therblig system, this research explores the role of the physical body within the digital working environment.

original sketches of the therblig motions


_searching, finding and selecting of an object are usually combined as a group under the therblig term ‘select’, as it can be difficult if not impossible to determine where the boundaries lie between these three therbligs;
_searching refers to part of cycle during which eyes or hands are grouping or feeling for the object;
_find proceeds search and represents a mental reaction;
_select refers to the choice of one object from among several.


1. eye turned
2. eye straight and fixed

3. reaching for object


Digital translation

slide → stop


Description_taking hold of an object, closing fingers around it preparatory to manipulating it, picking it up, or holding it;
_begins when hand or fingers first make contact with object being grasped and ends when hand or fingers have reached position necessary for performance of next therblig motion


hand open


Digital translation


tap → release

transport loaded

_requires change in location: moving of object from one place to another;
_object may be carried in hands or moved by sliding, dragging, pushing 


hand with something in it


Digital translation

tap → slide
press → slide