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  Expert Forum for Knowledge Presentation
  Preparing for the Future of Knowledge Presentation


Rune Pettersson

  Gearing Communications to the Cognitive Needs of Receivers: Findings from visual literacy research
© 2004, Rune Petterssen


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Knowledge of graphic design, information design, visual communication, visual language, and visual literacy are important for our ability to produce messages that work. Eight groups of ID students were asked to rank how they perceive the importance of 50 research findings related to sender processes, text design, image design, graphic design, and receiver processes. The result is a “set of guidelines” helping us to improve quality of information materials. The most important guidelines are as follows:

For sender processes: Define what any message is supposed to show, always keeping the audience in mind.

For receiver processes: Create combined verbal and visual messages when the message content is complex factual information. Visual language abilities develop prior to, and serve as the foundation for, verbal language development. Memory for pictures is superior to memory for words.

For graphic design: Adjust the execution of a message to its content.
For text design: Provide the time that is necessary for the audience. It may take quite a long time to perceive and interpret a verbal message. A message is only comprehensible if the receiver can grasp it without difficulty.

For image design: Consider that pictures have a strong emotional impact. Image content is more important than its execution, context, and format.

Figure 1. Research findings for sender processes.


Here rank 1 is significantly better than ranks 3 – 10. Rank 4 is significantly better than ranks 7 – 10, and ranks 5 – 6 are significantly better than rank 10. This area of knowledge is characterized by strong agreements between the groups.

Figure 2. Use of icons and spatial arrangement for information display.


Here rank 1 is significantly better than ranks 5 – 10. This area of knowledge is characterized by disagreements between the groups.

Rune Pettersson
  Rune Pettersson is Professor of Information Design at the Department of Innovation, Design and Product Development at Mälardalen University, Eskilstuna, Sweden. For several years he served as Head of Research and Development at the publishing division of the multinational group Esselte. This work involved monitoring international developments in new media and extensive research activities. He has served as an expert in several governmental committees in Sweden. Dr. Pettersson is a Past President of IVLA, International Visual Literacy Association. Currently, he is a Vice President of IIID in Vienna. His main interests comprise information design, infology, visual literacy and new media development.


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