In-flight emergency cards

Published: 31 March, 2014

Categories: General

In-flight emergency cards

In-flight emergency cards

If you want to understand a word and its uses, it’s easy – you use a dictionary.  Unless you are writing poetry, your copy can only be interpreted in so many ways.

Unfortunately this does not apply to visuals.

Humans are hard-wired to look out for visual cues – and you will use visual aids throughout your lifetime – the interpretation of these aids can, however, be misconstrued. Not only that, but scientists have found several problems with ‘visual memory’.

Firstly, memory is not a record – it is an actual reconstruction. We remember the main points of events and visuals and then fill in blanks in these visual cues and events with information already available to us. We are literally making up our own stories by using personal references.

Another problem with visual memory, according to Visual Expert {link to site:} is that our minds automatically convert visual memory to words. If you see a red car, for instance, your mind stores the memory as the words ‘red’ and ‘car’, instead of the actual image. Which means that you recall the words when you see it, and don’t always view a replica of what you’ve seen.

The third problem, according to Microsoft Office online {link to site:} is relevance:

“The cognitive system is a fantastic relevance detector. It constantly tells the perceptual system, “Hey, spare me the fluff and give me only the facts I can use.” At the same time, pictures attract our attention like magnets. Can you see the dilemma? If irrelevant stock photos (…) appear frequently on slides, purely for decorative reasons, the eyes will respond automatically and then the brain has to make sense of them. Subconsciously, the viewers will be thinking “Why am I being distracted by that visual input? These pictures don’t relate at all to what the guy is saying.”

So now you get how complicated the whole visual representation and memory recall process is, and how any visual instructions could go horribly wrong. Your interpretation of visuals will not necessarily be the same as the person next to you – which is why it’s always good to get a second opinion.

Funnily enough, it seems that people tend to pay much more attention to unusual instructional, whether they were intentionally designed like that or completely by accident.

You’ll remember the antics of Tyler Durden and his posse of wannabe anarchists in Fight Club when they fiddled with the in-flight emergency cards. The result was somewhat hilarious. Since then, the internet has seen many a meme and instructional parody {link to site:} on the matter.

There’s a lot of fun to be had with memes and infographics. You’ve probably seen many illustrations on instructional manuals that made you giggle. Or have you perhaps made a similar blooper in one of your presentations to raise some eyebrows? Once your red-face has resumed its pre-humiliation hue, it’s perhaps a good thing to sit back and laugh about it – or share your blunder with others.

If seriously need to get it done, however, Hongkiat has a list of 50 infographics that got it right {link to site:} as well as some ideas on making your user guide interesting. {link to site:}