Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Integrated Theory and Practice: Information overload

As I sat on the train home, I tucked into a cheese and tomato pasta pot. My surroundings were more or less a blur in my memory, but the food is the most vivid recollection of the short 20 minute journey. 
I may not remember the fire exit instructions, or the adverts on the walls, the nutritional information on the pot, or the headline on the metro sitting on the seat next to me, but they were there, and my subconscious picked up on that fact. I could have read it all without even noticing, taking in information without the slightest conscious thought. Then there was what I DID notice. The litter sign; as I binned my rubbish. The manufacturers name on the train door; as I waited to exit at my stop. 
We are constantly bombarded with information. Only a tiny fraction of that is consciously taken in, and an even smaller amount is processed, understood and remembered. The rest is subconsciously banked within memories. Not only is it visual information, but also audio. People's conversations can be unintentionally over heard along with music, and background noise like traffic. 
If we are directly targeted with a piece of information, we will not notice it unless it catches our attention. 
Swiss designer Willi Kunz believes that the quantity of information we are subjected to outpaces our capacity to sort, filter and select, which makes high quality, disciplined design essential.
I also believe this, along with the idea that design must scream to stand out as much as possible to be seen and heard, but that is difficult when every other designer is trying to do the same. There are only so many ways you can be original.
My brain feels like a tightly wound ball of thread. When I talk or write something down, it unravels. This long thread it seems is compiled of memories, information, thoughts and an attempt at organising all that is thrown at me into some kind of comprehendible structure. Only when I unwind it and compose these into some kind of pattern does it all make any sense.
Sometimes, if there is time, I can unwind a small portion of thread that I have taken in, in order to understand and think about it further, there and then. For example, I may notice a poster on the side of a building, but not read it, and so I cannot take in that information, even if i can remember what it vaguely looks like. However, I might notice it another time and stop briefly to read it. At this point I am understanding it and taking it in. 
In order to take in information, then understand it, and remember it, I find that it helps to organise everything by breaking it down, putting it into categories, then deciding on the most important points. This is how I tend to learn most effectively. 
Important Information in every day life can get lost amongst other irrelevant, unimportant pieces aimed at us in order to sell something. 
As a sponge, a consumer sucks up all that is thrown at it. I am a consumer so I cannot choose what I take in, but I can choose what to squeeze out and relay to others as important and useful information.

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