- Deciding relevance. Do I even care?
- Getting an overview. What are the main ideas? What's most important?
- Basic comprehension. What text explains this chart?
- Retrieving buried details. I remember something about an Akido class... where was that?
- Finding actionable details. How do I get in touch?
For example, if someone is looking over a research poster about mobile app usage, their thought pattern might be:
- What's is this poster about? It's about mobile apps. How interesting!
- What research did they do with apps? That app usage can help facilitate learning, wow.
- What was the conclusion to their research? My goodness, app usage is growing and becoming a necessity!
- (Later, after the conference) I'm going to look into mobile apps and how we can employ them.
Remember: you're not making this poster or infographic for you-- you're making it for your audience.
Information is conveyed by the relationship of each element to the others around it. The header, boxes, font, text size and colors all have to communicate together. This will look fantastic if the visual relationships are obvious and clean, but when they are not in sync, the result will look cluttered and confusing. If your audience has to examine your work more carefully to fully get the information, going back and forth to try and make connections, then you've lost them. When you're creating a visual document, you want to eliminate any mental conflicts between what you are trying to say and what your document's layout is saying.
The main problems with bad design is slight, unintentional differences among each of the elements within the document. This causes your brain's visual processing to hiccup. As Higginbotham points out, "First, your brain has to determine if there actually is a visual difference. Then, it has to determine the significance of that difference. Because the small discrepancies don't actually signify anything, you end up wasting your audience's brainpower."