Designing with the Mind in Mind

20160609-_DSF3101A interesting book by Jeff Johnson. intended mainly for software design and development professionals. Full of cognitive and motor learning insights as they relate to software development.

1. Our Perception is Biased

Our perception of the world around us is not a true depiction of what is actually there. Our perceptions are heavily biased by at least three factors: the past, the present, the future


  1. Avoid ambiguity – test your design to verify that all users interpret the display the same way.
  2. Be consistent – put controls and data displays in the same position on each page they appear.
  3. Understand the goals – knowing what a user intends to do on each page can help us direct their attention to actions that fulfill their goals.

2. Our Vision is Optimized to See Structure

Our visual system first sees an object(s) as a whole, rather than seeing it as its individual parts. Our mind simplifies the complex visual world in an effort to clarify and to more easily understand. The Gestalt Principles:

  • Proximity: We see three rows of dots instead of four columns of dots because they are closer horizontally than vertically.
  • Similarity: We see similar looking objects as part of the same group.
  • Enclosure: We group the first four and and last four dots as two rows instead of eight dots.
  • Symmetry: We see three pairs of symmetrical brackets rather than six individual brackets.
  • Closure: We automatically close the square and circle instead of seeing three disconnected paths.
  • Continuity: We see one continuous path instead of three arbitrary ones.
  • Connection: We group the connected dots as belonging to the same group.
  • Figure & ground: We either notice the two faces, or the vase. Whichever we notice becomes the figure, and the other the ground

Gestalt Principles

Gestalt means the “essence or shape of an entity’s complete form” and these principles were developed by the Gestalt School of Psychology at the Berlin School in the late 1880s


  1. After designing a display – view it with each of the Gestalt principles in mind.

3. We Seek and Use Visual Structure

Often referred to as information hierarchy – the way we structure data is immensely helpful in helping us interpret information.