Omni has, alas, a bit of a track record of inadvertent regressions in graphic design. Quite understandable (and helpful) to hear a range of irritated voices whenever this occurs - distracting design (a bad signal-to-noise ratio in the management of contrasting edges) wastes attention, which is a scarce and jealously guarded resource for any professional.
The fact that these regressions continue to occur suggests two things to me:
- The company culture has yet to acquire a pervasive awareness of the need to carefully manage levels of visual stimuli (contrast levels at edges), and align them closely with information hierarchies. Visual signal-to-noise ratios do not seem to figure very prominently or explicitly in discussions of software design goals.
- Project coordination does not seem to explicitly manage the issue of visual contrasts created inadvertently at the borders between sub-projects. For example: edge-detection in the retinal system is particularly sensitive to vertical and horizontal edges, so some of the strongest visual stimuli in the 1.7 default screen are generated at the two high-contrast edges between the filter area and its gray neighbours. Do these very strong visual signals convey correspondingly significant information ? No, they are virtually information-free, (dispensable, in fact), yielding an appalling ratio of cognitive processing cost to cognitive benefit. Did anyone advisedly decide to place strong visual stimuli at these positions ? No, I would guess that they didn't - these look like inadvertent and unmanaged artefacts of adjacent subprojects. Cognitively costly spandrels.
not to wave the pedant flag too much, but Tufte is generally aiming his work at the presentation of information, rather than interface design.
No need to plumb the depths of communication theory or retinal physiology, however, when the basics of visual signal-to-noise ratios are so easily grasped, and so central to software quality and customer satisfaction.
There is clearly room for them in Omni's design culture, and Tufte is an excellent place to begin.
Last edited by RobTrew; 2009-08-29 at 08:00 AM..