In the pixel zone: Perception of digital design

Kateřina Tesařová


The quality of content perception is often conditioned by visual presentation, which corresponds to the perception patterns of the youngest generations, where there are only a few seconds of time for immersion in memory. One of the most emblematic platforms of today – the web – offers the potential to address this shift in perception, making use of the principles of user interactivity. New rules and new ways of communicating content emerge on this transformative platform, exploring contemporary cognitive processes. The purpose of this paper is to provide insights into the currently forming discipline entitled digital design and its perception through the perspectives of postdigitality. Since the beginning of the millennium, the internet has undeniably influenced everyday life as well as the creative sphere, in countless ways that have already been exhaustively discussed. In this paper, we discuss the term postdigital, which is relevant to anchoring the perception of digital design. There are a number of theoretical works dealing with the terminology of postdigital, with different conceptualisations differing from one another. Postdigitality offers a set of speculative strategies with the intention of building a complex architecture for thinking and creating under contemporary conditions: how to critically consider, contextualize, and shift the perception of new technologies as part of existing culture. The postdigital condition must then be seen not only through the prism of theory. The essential takes place at the level of creative practice. The notion of postdigitality is thoroughly explored on the online platform Post Digital Culture, which has been collecting articles and publications dealing with the phenomenon of postdigitality in a broad art-society context since 2013. Digital design has become an integral part of everyday reality: websites, mobile devices, tablets, but also products and services that use digital interfaces as interactive communication channels between a human and a machine. These interfaces require a specific approach to their design. The term digital design entails the design of the entire range of digital products and services and is understood as a complex set of many disciplines: user interface, interaction design, information architecture, user experience design, visual design, web design, app design, or game design. The boundaries between the different areas of design are very blurred and permeable, thus creating the necessary need to define strict boundaries between graphic and digital design. Digital grows out of the principles of graphic (visual) design and adds to it additional knowledge and very specific principles based on the nature of the digital medium. One of the most emblematic platforms of today, the web, is highly nonlinear by its nature. It opens up the issue of contextual reading of content and raises the question of the degree of surface perception of content. This is very closely related to the interactive nature of the web, which is undeniably an elementary property of digital media. No previous media has managed to offer such a degree of interaction between itself and the recipient. Due to this shift in the standardized perception of composition, it is one of the significant features to be considered. Another distinctive feature that differentiates the web from the previous media also occurs in the question of time and mutability: information and modules or additional elements can be modified, appended (edited) on the web in response to the users’ current needs. This raises the question of the limited lifespan caused by the outdatedness or obsolescence of a website, which is often solved in practice by redesigning the existing website. The original design can no longer be found (only in the ‘inanimate’ designs of the designer), as opposed to that of a book or tangible design product. Therefore, the launched website is not a definitive (immutable) medium – on the contrary, it functions as a living organism. Marc Prensky introduced the concept of “digital natives” by defining generational differences in the perception of digital media. These are young people who have been surrounded by the world of digital technology since birth. Computers and the internet have been a natural part of their lives, they have no direct comparison with analogue experience, and this creates new patterns of thinking and perception. Digital design offers little limitation from the perspective of affordability and accessibility. Simultaneously, these are in fact also endangering: because of these factors, it can easily be misused for spreading of disinformation and for deception e.g. by misusing principles of cognitive ergonomics. Meaningless replication and copying of design principles without understanding them leads to degradation of presentation quality of the content. If we do not improve the awareness of the power of this media and do not educate the new generations – those digital natives (but also the generations of “digital immigrants”) – about the need to critically filter information and regulate one’s immersion into the digital world, it can have a negative effect on the development of the society. The digital world we have created (and will continue to create and form) might get too tempting for its lightness and carelessness in comparison to the reality of the physical world we are evolutionary destined for.

Keywords: digital natives, communication design, digital design, web design, postdigital