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The Tools of Information Chunking

03/28/05

Permalink 01:06:58 pm, by fumanchu Email , 241 words   English (US)
Categories: By By Design

The Tools of Information Chunking

4-panel trailer warning label

I found this label on one of our tool trailers while working in Ciudad Juarez last week. The bar on which they placed the sticker is wider than it is tall, so one might think that the 4-panel layout is due to those size constraints. If the layout had been vertical, would it have been like this instead?

same label but in a vertical style

In the original, four horizontal panels each have their own header in a different color, but the meaning of each header isn't very different—"warning", "danger", "caution", and "notice" aren't very specific, and all carry the same semantic. One might think the space is wasted.

But there are good reasons IMO to have four separate sections. If they had not done so, would anyone read all of the information? I doubt it. They would instead gloss over the entire panel, reading only perhaps one-quarter to one-third of the text. Having four sections at least draws the eye to the initial text in each section, and increases the chance that the reader will get "the big points". In addition, I found myself more interested in reading the entire text when it was broken up into four manageable chunks. The first and last chunks are quickly dismissable as "common knowledge"—things you should know without having to read it. That quickly leaves two short lists to check off mentally, rather than one large one.

So the question is, is this by by design?

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