Form follows function: An approach to design student-computer graphic interfaces for effective instructional software.

Arthachinda, Chanisa, Ph.D., University of Kansas, 1991.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of instruction in visual design on the design and development of student-computer graphic interfaces of instructional software.

The instruction in visual design was delivered by CAI. The software application was developed in HyperCard. It contained lessons including: (1) Introduction to Visual Design, (2) Goals of Visual Design on the Graphic Interfaces, (3) Elements of Visual Design, (4) Principles of Visual Design, and (5) Implications of Visual Design for the Design and Development of Graphic Interfaces which emphasized the utilization of visual design principles and visual design elements in various formats on the screen. The approach to the design of student-computer graphic interfaces being examined in this study is "Form Follows Function," an aphorism by the architect, Louis Sullivan. The statement refers to the design and development of the interface in a way that its function influences its appearance.

A posttest treatment and control group design was used. The independent variable was instruction in visual design. Data was collected for seven dependent variables: (1) Visual Clarity, (2) Consistency, (3) Compatibility, (4) Explicitness, (5) Appropriate Functionality, (6) Flexibility and Control, and (7) User Guidance and Support.

Multivariate and t-tests of means revealed significant differences on all seven dependent variables in performance between student instructed in visual design and students not instructed in visual design on the design and development of student-computer graphic interfaces. The results of this study clearly indicated the need for further research to determine the extent of instruction in visual design that is needed.

Instructional software developers are responsible for creating the appropriate visual appeal for the student-computer graphic interfaces to bring about effective communication. Therefore, there is a need for visual design skills that improve the instructional software designer's ability to recognize and effectively use graphic elements in the design and development of interfaces. What instruction in visual design brings to the process is the essence of visual design skills that enable designers to analyze communication tasks and synthesize solutions for basic elements of visual communication. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.)