Event: Visual Communication Principles

by May 24, 2005

I’ll be speaking at the IxDG (Interaction Design Group) and BayCHI event on Monday June 22nd about Visual Communication Principles for Web Application Interface Design. Hope to see you there.


Luke Wroblewski will speak about principles of effective visual communication as they apply to Web application interface design.

For a Web application to be usable, it must be understandable. It needs to communicate effectively. When people interact with a Web application, they have only the visual presentation-that is, the user interface-to tell them what the application has to offer and how they can make use of it. As a result, designers must rely on visual communication principles to tell users about a Web application's behavior, structure, and purpose. The better designers are at communicating visually, the easier it is for people to understand their messages and intentions and use and appreciate their Web applications.

Visual communication has two intertwined aspects: personality, or look and feel, and visual organization. A presentation's personality is what provides its emotional impact-people's instinctual response to what they see. Creating an appropriate personality requires the effective use of color, type, images, shapes, patterns, and more to say the right thing to your audience. A well thought-out visual organization, on the other hand, can greatly enhance usability by grouping information into meaningful page elements and sequences. Such a system relies on an understanding of how people use visual relationships-such as visual weight and visual hierarchy-to distinguish objects and what those relationships reveal to viewers.

Visual communication is a key component of interface design and, unfortunately, often under-represented in interaction design methodologies. Luke's talk introduces the core principles of visual communication, with an emphasis on visual organization. Through many practical examples, Luke details how interaction designers can put these principles to use when designing Web application interfaces.