How Humans Process Visual Information: A focused primer for designing information


  • Lou Tetlan
  • Douglas Marschalek


Data is presented identifying a major gap between two-dimensional (2D) communication modalities and actual learning of its content. It is proposed that information designers can create formats that are cognitively more effective by incorporating constructs from the cognitive sciences. In order to effectively design information for learning, an understanding of how the brain processes information is important and presented. In addition, application of cognitive constructs have the potential to guide designers in creating cognitive-based information designs (CID). Seven cognitive constructs are discussed that can directly impact the effectiveness of information formats.

Author Biography

Lou Tetlan

Lou Tetlan was an Honorary Fellow at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, serving in the Neuroradiology Lab on fMRI brain studies from 2009-September 2015. She received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction/ Art Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison . Her research interest is in the neurobiology of learning. She is a national and international speaker with membership in the International Mind Brain and Education Society (IMBES), Design Research Society (DRS) and National Association of Professional Women (NAPW). She currently is researching, writing and educating groups on Cognitive-based Information Design (CID) on a full-time basis.;Douglas Marschalek is emeritus professor, Art Education/Art Department and Curriculum and Instruction, University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research and practice has involved application of design disciplines and education to the design of school environments, urban planning, object design, exhibit design, and information architecture. He believes that design has the potential to change and redesign education, such that learning occurs through design; and second, there is an untapped potential for design to shape school-based environments not previously met by interior designers and architects.






Journal Article