Principles of Design #66 – Similarity

Nov 23 2015 Published by Neil Gains under design

It is a key principle of design that elements that are similar are perceived by users to be more closely related than elements that are dissimilar. This principle comes from Gestalt psychology, and while often seeming obvious is important to the way that users interact with objects, helping them simplify and structure the world. A simple matrix with alternative rows of dots and squares, this becomes a set of rows only with the similar elements grouped into holistic lines. In the same way, even complex displays is interpreted as having different areas and groupings depending on the colour, shape or size of different elements and to what degree they appear similar. Read more »

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Principles of Design #60 – Closure

Sep 23 2014 Published by Neil Gains under design

Closure is the name for the way in which humans perceive a set of individual unconnected elements as part of a single recognisable object or pattern rather than individual pieces. This is one of a number of principles relating to Gestalt psychology, and is so strong that people close gaps and fill in missing information to complete a pattern if necessary. Read more »

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Principles of Design #57 – Symmetry

May 04 2014 Published by Neil Gains under design

Symmetry has always been associated with beauty (although for a twist on this read about Wabi-Sabi aesthetics here). It is found in most natural forms, and is generally favoured in natural selection and specifically in sexual selection (symmetric faces are perceived as more attractive than asymmetric faces). The human body shows the principle of symmetry well, with two eyes, two ears, two arms and two legs, but other animals and plants show this just as well. In nature, symmetry is largely a function of the force of gravity and a kind of ‘regression to the mean’ (averaging of form).

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Principles of Design #56 – Wabi-Sabi

Mar 19 2014 Published by Neil Gains under design

Wabi-Sabi is a design principle that is also a (Japanese) world view, philosophy of life and aesthetic principle. Wabi-Sabi centres on the acceptance of transience and imperfection, and is based on beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent and incomplete”. It derives from one of the three marks of existence from Buddhism: impermanence. [The others are suffering and absence of self-nature.] Read more »

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The Design of Everyday Things

Aug 28 2013 Published by Neil Gains under design

I have just reread The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman, a recommended read for anyone interested in design. As Donald Norman points out, the book was originally titled The Psychology of Everyday Things (from POET to DOET) and the book is full of insights into the psychology behind user experiences, and the failings of many designs to accommodate the experience and learned practices of users (Norman was himself a cognitive psychologist). The book is a great argument for user-centred design. Read more »

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Principles of Design #47 – Cognitive Dissonance

Apr 15 2013 Published by Neil Gains under design

Cognitive dissonance is a feeling of discomfort on holding conflicting ideas, values, opinions, beliefs or emotions at the same time. This leads to a tendency to seek consistency by changing the importance or quality of one or more of the ideas, values, opinions, beliefs or emotions.The phrase ‘cognitive dissonance’ was first coined by Leon Festinger in 1956, inspired by his work studying a UFO cult, and which he later developed into a full theory in his book A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. This is one of the most influential theories in social psychology, and one of the most extensively researched. Read more »

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Principles of Design #46 – Interference Effects

Nov 25 2012 Published by Neil Gains under design

Interference effects are the name given to the slowing of mental processing (with diminished accuracy) when there are competing mental processes. They occur when two or more perceptual or cognitive processes are in conflict, reflecting the multiple systems used by the brain to process information independently of one another. The outputs of these systems are communicated to working memory for interpretation when there are relevant goals. When they are congruent. interpretation is quick and performance is optimal, but when they are incongruent interference occurs and additional processing and time is needed to resolve the conflict, leading to a negative impact on performance. Read more »

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Principles of Design #44 – Law of Prägnanz

Jun 11 2012 Published by Neil Gains under design

The Law of Prägnanz is the tendency for all of us to interpret ambiguous images as simple and complete rather than as complex and incomplete. It is one of the key principles underlying Gestalt psychology and is also sometimes known as the law of good configuration, law of simplicity, law of pregnance, law of precision or law of good figure. Read more »

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Principles of Design #43 – Mapping

May 30 2012 Published by Neil Gains under design

Easy user experiences

Mapping is the term used to describe the relationship between controls and their movements or effects, and good mapping is an important part of making the user experience easy and enjoyable. For example, the Segway human transporter goes forward when the user leans forward and back when the user leans back. A great use of mapping. Read more »

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Principles of Design #41 – Self-Similarity

Mar 11 2012 Published by Neil Gains under design

Different scale, same pattern

Self-similarity is a common property in nature, usually seen as intrinsically aesthetic, by which a form is made up of parts similar to the whole (or to one another). Natural forms are highly likely to to exhibit self-similarity at many levels of scale, in contrast to human made forms which usually do not. An aerial view of a coastline reveals the same basic edge patterns whether you stand at the water’s edge or view from a helicopter above (or even higher), in the same way that the Mandlebrot fractal set above, with the same pattern at varying levels of detail. The whole is a mosaic of smaller wholes, on and on into infinity. Read more »

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