Topic: word vs. picture

topics > Group: philosophy

graphical user interface

declarative vs. procedural representation
problems with using icons
symbolic representation
using icons to represent objects in a user interface
visual programming


A picture is worth a thousand words, or more accurately, it takes a thousand words to describe a picture. This reveals one of the limitations of pictures: ambiguity. They take a lot of screen area and they're time-consuming to construct.

Pictures are attractive and they make a display less daunting. Carefully done, they can convey more meaning the a label. But be careful, studies find that labels work as well or better. It is probably best to use both. Pictures to keep the entertainment level up and labels to convey information. Check out the quote by Twain on significant attitude. (cbb 5/94)

Subtopic: words better than pictures up

Quote: while pictures mean different things, words mean roughly the same thing; make better file indicators [»byrnMD10_1991]
Quote: a good legible label is worth a ton of significant attitude and expression in a historical picture; e.g., Jackson Accepting Lee's Invitation to Dinner [»twaiM_1882, OK]
Quote: blank icons with filenames were better than stylized or prototypical icons with filenames [»byrnMD10_1991]
Quote: direct manipulation needs easily reproducible symbols for entities; text is best, that's its purpose [»diseAA_1986]
Quote: reading comprehension of nested conditionals was slower with graphical representations than with textual representations [»petrM6_1995]

Subtopic: pictures better than words up

Quote: Peirce's system of existential graphs visually displayed an assertion and its logical structure [»lehmF12_1988]
QuoteRef: smitDC6_1975 ;;9 "Perceptual images, particularly visual images, provide more descriptive power than do words"

Subtopic: language as picture up

Quote: Wittgenstein realized language formed pictures of reality through a schematic drawing of an accident; a fact or word corresponds to reality [»pitkHF_1972]
Quote: 'choose a yellow ball' might bring up a yellow image, or a feeling of recognition on seeing a yellow ball [»wittL_1958]
Quote: can represent the meaning of a word by a picture that corresponds to the word, or by the use of the word (again a picture) [»wittL_1939]

Subtopic: problems with pictures up

Quote: hardware limits the number of recognizable objects that can be displayed at once [»feinS3_1988]
Quote: authoring pictorial documents is demanding and time-consuming [»feinS1_1982]

Related Topics up

Group: graphical user interface   (24 topics, 512 quotes)

Topic: declarative vs. procedural representation (54 items)
Topic: problems with using icons (11 items)
Topic: symbolic representation (26 items)
Topic: using icons to represent objects in a user interface (10 items)
Topic: visual programming
(32 items)

Updated barberCB 4/05
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