A decade or two ago, the global marketplace to share ideas and opinions was the venerable Bulletin Boards and Newsgroups. The predominant mode for such sharing of diverse ideas was plain text. Fast forward to the 21st century. Those BBS and newsgroups are now talked in hushed tones with a fond nostalgia. In its place, the young and the old alike have embraced the rich medium of images and photos to share not just ideas, but their culture, lifestyle, opinions and to an extent laid bare to their peers and to the world at large, a part of their own life.

This adoption of the visual medium is not surprising at all considering that from pre-historic cave drawings to artful graffiti of the new age, humankind has always found a deep desire to express themselves through images. Until recently the medium of images was not easily accessible to the common man, but thanks to the advent of digital imaging technology and the Internet it has become the lingua franca of social communication while also playing an important role in other areas. At the click of the button, we can capture immense swath of rich information with a larger context than what one could achieve in writing a manuscript. As we are aware, there is no such thing as a free lunch. The ease and power of the visual media bring home with it the shadow of complexity – the complexity of managing an immense volume of photos that an individual is amassing at an uncontrollable rate.

That rare cherished moment with family or the happy camaraderie over the campfire with friends is no more burned into our memory but instead sits quietly forgotten and discarded with a few hundred similar images in an archive. We have crossed the line of Image Overload. We are ill prepared in terms of dealing with both the volume and content of images both locally and on the networked world.

The primary reason for the apathy and waste of such personal value is a serious lack of info-centric design process in managing and viewing images. Currently, images that abound in the flickrs and online photo shares are stand alone free floating pieces of digital bits that fail to evoke the sense of story from which those images came to life. Instead of being a rich and efficient medium of story telling, images have been reduced to just that – a snapshot with no legs to stand on, no shoulders to lean towards.

The humble medium of text had as its strength a few hundred years of refinement and some of the best minds improving and providing structure to the design of the medium making it the ubiquitous choice of information exchange. Similarly, there is a compelling need to rethink the way we structure and design our world of images which is a far more powerful means of storytelling and sharing experiences. The design of such system would rightly place one’s experience or story at the core and use the rich images as a narrative style in recreating, sharing & enhancing the overall experience of such system.

Related Posts

An Architecture of Play

Jul 29 2013

As human-centered designers, we can draw a lot of inspiration from the philosophy and science of game design and apply that knowledge toward making successful products that people love to use.

Jon Larkin
Game Designer & Engineer

Information Architecture Redux

Apr 29 2013

A thoughtful client recently asked me to explain the value of information architecture for customers and end-users.

Jon West
Senior Analyst

Information Centricity 101

Apr 24 2009

Information-centric design places primacy on the information itself to support direct interaction between people and information.

Francine Gemperle
Director of Human Sciences, Senior Design Strategist
See all posts in Architectural Approach