Visual Perception

Your constantly-updated definition of Visual Perception and collection of topical content and literature

What is Visual Perception?

Visual perception is the ability to perceive our surroundings through the light that enters our eyes. The visual perception of colors, patterns, and structures has been of particular interest in relation to graphical user interfaces (GUIs) because these are perceived exclusively through vision. An understanding of visual perception therefore enables designers to create more effective user interfaces.

Physiologically, visual perception happens when the eye focuses light on the retina. Within the retina, there is a layer of photoreceptor (light-receiving) cells which are designed to change light into a series of electrochemical signals to be transmitted to the brain. Visual perception occurs in the brain’s cerebral cortex; the electrochemical signals get there by traveling through the optic nerve and the thalamus. The process can take a mere 13 milliseconds, according to a 2017 study at MIT in the United States.

Different attributes of visual perception are widely used in GUI design. Many designers apply Gestalt principles (i.e., how humans structure visual stimuli) to the design of GUIs so as to create interfaces that are easy for users to perceive and understand. The visual perception of affordances (action possibilities in the environment) is another example of how the understanding of visual perception is a critical item in any designer’s toolkit.

Literature on Visual Perception

Here’s the entire UX literature on Visual Perception by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Visual Perception

Take a deep dive into Visual Perception with our course The Ultimate Guide to Visual Perception and Design .

Human vision is an amazing ability; we are capable of interpreting our surroundings so as to interact safely and accurately with little conscious effort. However, we are well attuned to nature and things that occur naturally in our environment, which has significant implications for design. Unless man-made products are attuned to, and support, human visual perception, the viewing experience suffers and there is significant potential that users will be unable to use your products quickly, safely, or without error. For this reason, it is essential that we investigate how we see the world and why we see things in the way we do in order to know what we can do to ensure our products provide the best viewing experience possible. This is why we have developed “The Ultimate Guide to Visual Perception and Design,” and why it is such an important topic for designers to master.

For those of us who are blessed with good eyesight, we seldom consider it. That’s why going off to investigate the whys and hows involved is a little like trying to get behind the wind for the sake of finding the exact spot where it comes from. Happily, getting to the bottom of the phenomena involved in visual perception is a lot less laborious, and perhaps infinitely more fascinating. During the course, we will first cover the basic anatomy of the human eye so as to understand how vision is formed. We will then look at lots of different designs, evaluating each one according to specific aspects of the human visual experience. We will also identify how we can improve designs to support human vision better and improve usability as a direct result. Using the knowledge it imparts earlier on, this course will then analyze the design of icons in screen-based interfaces.

All Literature

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