To Picture or Not to Picture: How to Decide

Sims-Knight, Judith E.
July 1992
Visible Language;Summer/Autumn92, Vol. 26 Issue 3/4, p325
Academic Journal
This paper proposes that to create visual designs that effectively communicate their information it is necessary to supplement the intuitions of the designer with empirical research. The first part of the paper gives the reasons why intuitions - of designers or anyone else - are inadequate. It describes the habits of human reasoning that distort designers' ability to intuit how users will understand and respond to graphics. The second part of the paper gives two alternative solutions to these problems, both of which are based on observing how people actually behave in response to visuals. One solution is to investigate scientifically whether and how visuals communicate to viewers. From such investigations general principles can be developed and examples of research-based principles for educational visual representations are given. When such general principles are not available or appear to be inappropriate for the given situation, designers can use a second solution, that if user-based iterative design. This strategy provides procedures by which designers van explore users' reactions at the same time they are developing prototypes of their designs. In this say user-based errors can be corrected while designs are stilt being developed.


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