Unit 1: How People See

Senior Project Pre-Production


The first unit of this book, “100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People” is largely a brief to the reader on how the eyes and brain communicate with each other. In the first two sentences our author, Susan Weinschenk, PH.D., explains why this is so important,

“Vision trumps all the senses. Half of the brain’s resources are dedicated to seeing and interpreting what we see.”

So, vision is a more powerful sense than any other.

What I took away most from this unit is a reinforcement of the idea that ‘presentation is everything.” his is why a designer’s job will continue to be so important, and to be an effective designer we need to understand how the brain interprets what the eyes are seeing. It might sound superficial for a person to say that people pay more attention to things that are beautiful or well designed, but there that statement is actually founded in science and the biology of the eyes and brain through recognizing patterns, color association, and affordance. And I don’t mean supermodel beauty but design beauty which could be a simplistic design, grids, or complementary colors–whatever doesn’t make the brain work harder than it has to.

The accompanying video with the moonwalking bear took me several tries to catch, but was pretty entertaining!

This unit references the book, The Design of Everyday Things, which has encouraged me to look at the web as any other tool, just a highly sophisticated tool. And this tool is very much, an everyday thing. Tools have visual cues which are called affordances.


Affordances are the parts of a tool that signal the brain to interact with them, knobs for turning, buttons for pushing, handles for holding, etc. And the brain must be able to recognize those affordances through the recognition of objects…

According to recent research by Irving Beiderman, known as the Geon Theory, recognizing patterns is how our brain prefers to identify objects. It’s like having a sprite sheet (to put it in design terms) of 24, basic, geometric shapes (called Geons) in our brain.

BUT, there is a special part of the brain reserved for recognizing faces. Identified by Nancy Kanwisher and known as the fusiform face area (FFA), it allows the brain to recognize faces faster than aforementioned basic shapes. In regard to art, design, and advertising relatability-people recognize other faces before anything else and then reacts to that face and what it represents.

Another interesting section of Unit 1 describes what’s known as Canonical Perspective. When remembering objects, a majority of people commit to memory a mental image of that object from slightly above looking down on it. Which, when designing, becomes especially important in iconography. People are going to recognize icons, if at all, much faster from the canonical perspective.


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