Visual Communication – Redundancy, Entropy and Noise

Today we learnt about three new topics about the visual communication of a design called redundancy and entropy, as well as “design noise”.

Entropy and Redundancy
Entropy is a term that means the amount of understanding that a design receives or is capable of giving to an audience about its purpose. A high amount entropy means that the design is too vague to fully understand and often leaves the viewer unsure of what the design is about. A low amount of entropy however, means that the design is not as vague about its purpose and the viewer is much more likely to understand it.

Redundancy is a term used to describe the act of putting visual clues within a design to make it far more understandable for an audience, even if the clues used are not really even required to get understanding from the audience (redundant elements). The more redundancy placed within a design, the more likely people looking at it will understand its meaning (although too much redundancy can be off-putting or ruin the image, plus people understanding it is not guaranteed).

Design Noise
Noise within design refers to anything that in one way or another causes the audience to be unable to understand the purpose of the design. there are three types of noise within design:

Technical/Logistical Noise – refers to any sort of random problem (normally physical) that would prevent a viewer from understanding the design itself. This could be things such as the text being too small to read from a distance, the rain having washed the colors to be unreadable or something getting in the way of the design, preventing the viewer from seeing it. This sort of noise is often very random and there is not often much that one can do about it.

Semantic/Understanding Noise – refers to the viewer them-self not understanding the design. This could be due to the viewer not being able to understand the designs language, not understanding the subject of the design or even just being unable to decipher what the designer made in general.

Effectiveness Noise – refers to how effectively the designer made the design in general, and how easy they made it for someone else to make any sense out of it. If the designer them-self failed to create an effective design for their piece of work, then it is unlikely that many people will understand what it means.

The reason why we learnt these terms was to help increase our understanding of communication between our designs and our audiences when creating such things as posters or other illustrations. The more we understand what blocks our link between our audience and us, the more effective our designs will become because of it.


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