How Perception Works and its Role in Creating Engaging Design

By Richard Pratt.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

As the scientific community continues to make progress in analyzing the ways in which the mind and eye work to conceptualize complex information, designers are gaining better techniques to make information graphics clear and easily digestible. These techniques can be implemented for better information processing, but can also be turned on their heads, and under the right circumstances used to increase interpretations, add ambiguity and push the boundaries of striking, aesthetically strong designs. The same principles that create clear, digestible information can also be used to create dramatic and dynamic compositions that push the viewers into new experiences.
The year 2009 was the 75th anniversary of John Dewey’s philosophical examination of the aesthetic experience in his book “Art as Experience”. In this book, Dewey comes to understand that an aesthetic experience requires both harmony and discord. The more dramatic the experience, the greater the play between these two forces, which creates a confrontation between the clarity and engagement of any design. As designers of a variety of visuals, we must look at the function of a design and gauge the need for clarity versus dramatic depth. A street sign should be appropriately clear and concise, but will not cause the stronger aesthetic engagement that a more ambiguous poster might. Understanding the play between balance and tension, clarity and ambiguity, harmony and discord allows designers to manipulate the makeup of a design in order to facilitate a desired outcome. To manipulate these forces requires an understanding of how forms interact, a sensitivity to linguistic coding (particularly helpful is Umberto Eco’s concepts of overcoded and undercoded abductions) and increasingly a familiarity with how the mind and eye function.

Keywords: Aesthetics, John Dewey, Umberto Eco

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 5, Issue 5, pp.511-520. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.090MB).

Prof. Richard Pratt

Associate Professor of Graphic Design, Department of Design, California State University, Sacramento, Sacramento, CA, USA

With a strong background in art and aesthetics and several years of professional design experience, Richard brings expertise in both theory and practice to the classroom. Prior to joining the California State University, Sacramento faculty in 2002, he worked at design studios in Boston; Providence, Rhode Island; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he designed collateral materials, exhibits, product packaging, and publications. In his teaching, Richard encourages students to consider the power of visual elements to communicate varied messages, both intended and unintended. His research interests include aesthetics, semiotics, and the relationship between art and design. In addition to earning his Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Painting, Printmaking and Drawing at The Ohio State University and his Master’s of Fine Arts in Graphic Design at the Rhode Island School of Design, Richard studied graphic design at the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning at the University of Cincinnati.


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