Pictorial Symbols Design based on the Gestalt Theory
1Robbi Sluter, C.; 2Faria Andrade, A.
One of the communication problems of maps is a non-attractive result of the map design. The result of the symbols design is only effective when the map is useful for the user. The amount of symbols on a map can damage the quality of understanding maps. It occurs when the theories of visual perception, visual cognition, and Cartography are not used when the map is designed. In this context, some of the map problems are visual pollution, large number of information, and inappropriate color hues for the map background. Understanding the meaning of a symbol depends on its picture. The better the symbol is designed the better the understanding of the map message. Thus, like the oral language, it is necessary to have a set of premises, norms and codes for the visual language in order to achieve a complete visual experience. Therefore, our hypothesis for this research is that the result of map communication is of a good quality if the map design is based on semiotics and Gestalt theories. The objective of a good design is that everyone can correctly understand the map message. This paper describes the first step of a research project that aims to comprehend how the design of pictorial symbols can be based on the theory of visual perception and communication in order to achieve high level of efficiency in the process of reading maps. In this step of our research, we adapted and used the symbols of the `Brazilian Guide for Tourist Symbols` in a tourist map of Curitiba’s downtown. Curitiba is the state capital of Paraná, one of the 27 states of the Republic of Brazil. We adjusted the `Brazilian Guide for Tourist Symbols` in accordance with the following criteria: simplicity, visual unit, and balance unit. And we created the pictures of the symbols in black and inside a black frame. The background of the symbol inside the frame is white in order to achieve the higher color contrast in the figure-ground relationship. In this paper, we used the Gestalt theory as a support for the evaluation of the symbol design results. We evaluated every symbol using a basic premise, which is the “Prägnanz” or “configural goodness”, and we scored every symbol as low, medium or high "Prägnanz". The evaluation of symbols Prägnanz aims to confirm our hypothesis that the higher the symbol Prägnanz the more effectiveness the symbol detection and recognition when the user reads a tourist map. In this research, we understand the term effectiveness from the human information process, that is, how well people process the map information and how easier is the map communication. An effective map is the one that can be easily understood by the user, even though the map message is complex. Consequently the map effectiveness is, on one hand, related to how information is depicted on the map, and on the other hand, related to how people process that information. Therefore, in this research map effectiveness is related to user’s ability in detecting, discriminating and recognizing the map information. The results show that the symbol detection process depends on the symbol balance and visual organization. On the other hand, the recognition process is related to cultural influence and semantic relation to the symbol referent, balance and visual organization. Based on the achieved results our conclusion is that the Prägnanz of the symbols directly influences their detection and recognition. And that the Prägnanz depends on the figure-ground relationship.
Gestalt laws; pictorial symbols; map reading