Computers are maybe the archetypal example of the pinnacle of performance load when it comes to cognitive load. They have simplified millions of tasks so that we can surf the internet at the click of a button, use word processors to write letters and everything else that comes with the age of computers. Whereas they used to be complicated machines used only by scientists, they are now a symbol for our tech savvy age.
Apple Mac Desktop (Murray, 2017)
Elevators are a good way of showing a reduction in kinetic load. The fit the design principle by taking out the physical monotony of climbing many flights of stairs and also cut down on the time it would usually take to do so.
ECU Elevator (Murray, 2017)
Now with the addition of PayPass to our bank cards, the cognitive load of remembering a pin is eliminated and attaching them to a vending machine which is taking the physical steps of staff getting drinks for you and hence decreasing the kinetic load, such machines are a good example of reducing performance load in the whole sense.
Coca-cola vending machine (Murray, 2017)
Murray, D. (2017). CCA1108 Communications and digital technology. Perth, Australia: Edith Cowan University.
The way in which we think is a rather measurable quantity and when it comes to design the most successful approach is often one that incorporates psychology. Having studied psychology units in the past, it becomes apparent very quickly that many people think in a similar way which can be predicted. It is through this predictability that design must take advantage. If we know how someone will react to various design mechanisms and techniques, their response to a product can be manipulated according to a designer’s whim. The scientific data is out there and to ignore it during the visual design process seems like a waste of resources. Instead of thinking the way a target audience may perceive a design, research has already been done into things like the psychology of colour and shapes and this should be utilised. This is not to discount the fact that everyone perceives things differently, which they do, but there are trends that really need to be recognised and taken into account to create effective visual designs.
Chunking refers to grouping of like information in the hope that a better retention rate can be achieved (Mayzner, 1963; Miller, 1956; Thornton & Conway, 2013). Miller (1963) first posited the term ‘chunk’ in reference to our ability to compile bits of information like letters into syllables and syllables into words as a way of better retaining information. In the case of design and visual communication, chunking is primarily associated with the cognitive load of a task. If a design contains similar information that needs to be interpreted, compiling this information in a like way can help the user better comprehend the message that needs to be understood. Chunking helps to decrease the cognitive load associated with visual communication. Harking back to production load, a reduction in cognitive load can assist in the ease of successfully communicating through visual design. This is at the core of all good design, making it as easy as possible for the end user to understand and utilise whatever may be the purpose of said design. Chunking is one way of increasing the efficiency of a design and is backed up by scientific research.
Mayzner, M. (1963). Information “Chunking” and short-Term retention. The Journal of Psychology, 56(1), 161-164. doi:10.1080/00223980.1963.9923710
Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review, 63(2), 81-97.
Thornton, M. A. & Conway, A. R. A. (2013). Working memory for social information: Chunking or domain-specific buffer? Neuroimage, 70, 233-9. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.12.063
The article outlines the general and somewhat self-evident paradigm that tasks which are mentally and physically more arduous and involved than simplified ones are less likely to be completed successfully or with more errors and vice versa (Lidwell, Holden & Butler, 2003). It goes on to describe that this is termed ‘performance load’ which is comprised of ‘cognitive load’ and ‘kinetic load’ (Miller, 1956; Sweller, 1988; Zipf, 1949). As the names suggest, cognitive refers to the mental aspect of a task and kinetic to the physical. They assert that by reducing the amount of mental activity in ways such that less retention and problem solving are required along with reducing the number of physical steps and their difficulty is the avenue down which design should be travelling (Lidwell et al., 2003). Essentially, the lower the production load (cognitive and physical), the higher the likelihood of a successful completion of whatever the designated task may be.
Lidwell, W., Holden, K. & Butler, J. (2003). Performance Load. In Universal Principles of Design (pp. 148-149). Beverly, Massachusetts: Rockport
Miller, G, A. (1956). The magical number seven plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review, 63(2), 81-97.
Sweller, J. (1988). Cognitive load during problem solving: Effects on learning. Cognitive Science, 12(2), 257-285. doi:10.1207/s15516709cog1202_4
Zipf, G, K. (1949). Human behavior and the principle of least effort. Boston, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley [2016 reprint]