Though many lament the fact, it is undeniable and arguably unavoidable that our daily view of the world increasingly comes through the lens of a computer display. While our visual system is almost incomprehensibly adept at detecting, recognizing, and comprehending objects in the physical world—thanks to millions of years of evolution—our eyes don’t have as much experience with the digital world. This is why we must understand the capacities of our visual system and create digital interfaces that best serve it. Developing a strong synergy between our cognitive systems and our technology’s increasing computational capabilities will only lead to enhanced communication and substantial increases in productivity.

One of the major opportunities to enhance our cognition as it pertains to the human-computer relationship is in the use of images. We know from Chapter 1 (Importance and Efficacy) that the mind is able to instantly detect and recognize a visual image with which it is familiar, bringing with it a host of associated experiences. Common imagery in a user interface allows viewers to navigate through programs quickly, by prompting them to recall what the imagery represents and where it will take them (Ware, p. 228). This is a strong argument for using more iconography in interface design; it enables quicker recognition of navigation systems while simultaneously enhancing aesthetic appeal. The introduction of illustration can benefit interfaces ...

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