Enhancing Creative Problem-solving through Visual Display Design

TitleEnhancing Creative Problem-solving through Visual Display Design
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsKevin Bennett, Timothy McEwen, Olivia Fox, John Flach

The topic of this handbook is human systems integration (HSI). At perhaps its most fundamental level, HSI involves an interaction between a practitioner using a tool and the task he or she is to complete within a given work domain. In this chapter, we focus on the role that visual displays can play in this fundamental interaction. The combination of mature graphical technologies and exquisite human visual skills provides designers with the opportunity to develop and incorporate effective decision making and problem-solving support into a system. In other words, visual displays provide the potential to improve the coupling between humans and machines to increase the quality of cognitive work (i.e., to achieve HSI). The visual display literature suggests that effective representations often can improve HSI by transforming effortful cognitive activities into effortless perceptual ones. Other literatures augment these observations. Perhaps the most influential research tradition in problem solving (i.e., Gestalt psychology) emphasized the symbiotic relationship between perception and cognition: To think is to perceive; to perceive is to think (e.g., Duncker, 1945). Wertheimer (1959) provided numerous demonstrations to illustrate how changes in a representation can increase the capacity for “productive thinking. ” In fact, the Gestalt term was chosen specifically to emphasize this principle. Similarly, although decision making historically has been viewed as an analytical cognitive activity, more recent approaches emphasize the critical role of perceptual cues and visualization (e.g., recognition-primed decision making, Klein, 1989; ecological rationality, Todd & Gigerenzer, 2003). Lakoff and colleagues (e.g., Lakoff, 1987; Lakoff & Johnson, 1980) went so far as to suggest that the use of spatial metaphors may lie at the very foundation of human rationality. Realizing the potential of visual displays to improve HSI requires a structured, systematic approach to the analysis, design, and evaluation of human systems. Cognitive systems engineering (CSE) and ecological interface design (EID) provide just such a framework. This framework includes necessary conceptual distinctions, analytical modeling tools, and procedures (Bennett & Flach, 2011; Burns & Hajdukiewicz, 2004; Naikar, 2013; Rasmussen, Pejtersen, & Goodstein, 1994; Vicente, 1999). It is by no means the only available framework for this purpose, but we have found it to be a very useful one. Our experience suggests that it will allow designers to build effective displays and interfaces far more quickly and on a far more consistent basis. In the present chapter, we present a streamlined version of the CSE –EID framework that focuses on display design.