PreRamble: In an article for the Visual.ly marketplace, data journalist Jon Salm cites the fascinating and highly Design-Thinking-relevant research of Dr. Ruth Rosenholtz on visual perception and the user experience around infographics.
Dr. Rosenholtz, Principal Research Scientist at the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, focuses on aspects of human vision including visual search, peripheral vision, perceptual organization, and the impact of visual clutter on task performance. She and her team have developed a process that reveals how the human brain “sees,” using peripheral vision to view images. (Well worth the time to pop over to the Visual.ly site to get a more complete overview of her work and see the side-by-side images.)
Rosenholtz’s research suggests that our performance related to visual information is fundamentally limited by “what we can see in a single glance.” Salm expands upon this idea to note distinct design factors that influence the ability of users to glean information/knowledge as they skim quickly through images in glance-fuls …
For better visuals at a glance:
1. Focus on strong, uniformly colored elements - peripheral “mongrels” show that these are the elements that stand out in a quick glance.
2. Remove unnecessary embellishments – unnecessary elements make the information communicated by your design to be confusing to viewers. If an element doesn’t serve a purpose, it’s a distraction, not an asset.
3. Create anchors – anchor elements that stand out help to create a structure and hierarchy for information; make sure anchor elements are well-defined and cohesive throughout the piece.
4. Limit your color palette - like visual elements, too many colors can become overwhelming and confuse the eye. Limit your palette to make your design more clear.
5. Don’t be afraid of going abstract – abstraction of a complex scenario can provide a simplified, uncluttered overview of key information, even at a glance.
The Take-Away: In this burgeoning frontier of Big Data, micro-tiny technology and ever-faster time constraints, designers and clients of designers take note — research indicates that perceptive factors influence effective communication of information. Pretty designs don’t always communicate effectively, and designs that communicate effectively aren’t necessarily pretty. The mark of really great design is when the two can happen in a single glance.
For more on information architecture and single surface design strategy visit the website of Edward Tufte, here.
Image/Photo credit: Design Seeds