learning portfolio 3 – Q2

Q2. “Chunking” information

‘Chunking’ refers to the teaching method of chunking important or relevant information together in order to reduce cognitive load.  This is a mnemonic learning technique where designers group “content in a way that makes it easier to recall” (Dawson, 2011, p. 181).  The theory is based on research showing that users are better able to retain bite sized chunks of information rather than a swathe of data, which can be overwhelming and difficult to remember.  Research indicates that total cognitive load should not exceed working memory resources, because if too much information is presented at one time, learning may become difficult or impossible (Sweller, Ayres, Kalyuga, & Ebook, 2011, p. 64).  An example of this is that “we often learn and recall long sequences in smaller segments, such as a phone number 858 534 22 30 memorized as four segments” (Fonollosa, Neftci, & Rabinovich, 2015, p. 1).  Another example is the use of dot points in PowerPoints, or when taking notes.  The grouping and then subgrouping of information makes it easier for the brain to first retain and then classify information.

In relation to employing the ‘chunking’ technique in design, designers should present information they wish to communicate as simply and concisely as possible, grouping it into easily retained ‘chunks’ for effective learning.  This reduces cognitive load for the user, and allows them to focus and learn more easily.  The user should be able to easily identify important information, and then link that information together as they go.  Chunking makes information more easily retainable.





Dawson, A. (2011). Distinctive Design: A Practical Guide to a Findable, Useful, Beautiful Web: Wiley.

Fonollosa, J., Neftci, E., & Rabinovich, M. (2015). Learning of Chunking Sequences in Cognition and Behavior. PLoS Computational Biology, 11(11) doi:


Sweller, J., Ayres, P. L., Kalyuga, S., & Ebook, L. (2011). Cognitive load theory (Vol. 1). New York: Springer.


learning portfolio part 1 – Q1

Q1. Aesthetics and Usability

In Universal Principles of Design, Lidwell, Holden and Butler introduce research indicating that people perceive “more aesthetic designs as easier to use than less-aesthetic designs – whether they are or not” (2003, p. 18).  This aesthetic-usability effect, as it is commonly known, is tied into the emotion of design.  People form emotional associations with designs, and a visually pleasing design is more likely to attract a positive emotional response.  The reason why more aesthetic designs may be perceived as more usable is speculated to be tied to the ‘halo effect’, that is, the idea that people’s opinions of a person or object can be influenced by them noticing a positive, prominent characteristic of the person or object (van Gorp & Adams, 2012, p. 404).  This is supported by social psychology research that shows attractive people are perceived to have good qualities.  In design, this leads to people inferring that visually-pleasing designs must work better.  Further, this preconception that  the visually appealing product is easier to use sets the stage for a more positive working relationship between the user and product, making “difficult tasks easier to perform” and encouraging users to be “more tolerant of minor difficulties and more flexible” (Masmoudi, Yun Dai, & Naceur, 2012, p. 188).  For example, in a study researching user interaction with technology, psychologists found that “while effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction are definitely important determinants of human–technology interaction, other aspects, such as the aesthetics of system design and emotional experiences during system usage, certainly impact on the perceived quality of use as well” (Thüring & Mahlke, 2007, p. 254).  It is argued that many successful products are embraced because they manage to “satisfy the emotional needs that were most important for their context of use” (Sonderegger & Sauer, 2010, p. 18).  Therefore there is a strong basis for designing aesthetically pleasing products. They are more likely to be perceived as usable, and more easily forgiven when they are not.


Lidwell, W., Holden, K., & Butler, J. (2003). Universal Principles of Design.

Masmoudi, S., Yun Dai, D., & Naceur, A. (2012). Attention, Representation, and Human Performance : Integration of Cognition, Emotion, and Motivation. London: Taylor and Francis.  Retrieved from http://ECU.eblib.com.au/patron/FullRecord.aspx?p=957267

Sonderegger, A., & Sauer, J. (2010). The influence of design aesthetics in usability testing: Effects on user performance and perceived usability. Applied Ergonomics, 41(3), 403-410.  doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apergo.2009.09.002

Thüring, M., & Mahlke, S. (2007). Usability, aesthetics and emotions in human-technology interaction. International Journal of Psychology, 42(4), 253-264.  doi: 10.1080/00207590701396674

van Gorp, T., & Adams, E. (2012). Chapter 1 – Why Design for Emotion? Design for Emotion (pp. 1-18). Boston: Morgan Kaufmann. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-386531-1.00001-6