The impact of relevancy and unexpectedness on the communication effect of design

Yu-Chia Chen
National Taiwan University of Art, Department of Visual Communication Design, Taiwan

Iu-Ru Lai
TungHai University, Taiwan

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Ingår i: KEER2014. Proceedings of the 5th Kanesi Engineering and Emotion Research; International Conference; Linköping; Sweden; June 11-13

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 100:8, s. 101-109

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Publicerad: 2014-06-11

ISBN: 978-91-7519-276-5

ISSN: 1650-3686 (tryckt), 1650-3740 (online)


When the human brain receives information that contradicts preconceived ideas and concepts; the new information would be compared with the preconceived knowledge; during which a schema would be used as a framework to determine the relevancy of the new information. Based on the cognitive framework schema; Stafford and Walker (1996) conducted a study on the interplay between schema and consistently inconsistent information. They found that information of moderate inconsistency tends to trigger the interest of information receivers; and in turn; has better communication effect. The definition of moderate inconsistency is that the overall representation of a design is inconsistent with the receiver’s schema or unexpected to the receiver; yet the constituent elements of the design are relevant.

In the pursuit of a design that has good communication effect; this study first conducted a “preliminary survey”; which required 11 subjects to determine moderately inconsistent design samples that possessed the characteristics of “unexpectedness” and “relevancy” from some award-winning design artworks. Afterwards; these sample artworks were placed into three categories: high; medium; and low groups of relevancy; as based on the relevancy of these artworks’ design elements (products; graphics; verbal descriptions; etc.). Then; a survey on communication effect was conducted to probe into the impact of relevancy on communication effect. A total of 120 subjects participated. The questionnaire content included five scales: comprehension; interest; impression; affection; and novelty. The measurement was based on a 5-point Likert scale (Likert; 1932).

The results indicated that there is a corresponding relationship between the unexpectedness of the overall design that constitutes moderate inconsistency and relevancy; which is a constituent element of designs. Moreover; a higher relevancy of constituent elements; such as graphics; verbal descriptions; and products; means a better effect in enhancing a design’s comprehensibility. Meanwhile; a comprehensible design can better facilitate the design’s communication effects. In brief; emphasizing on the unexpectedness of a design and having a good command of the relevancy between a design’s constituent elements helps to produce a comprehensible; interesting; and memorable communication effect.


relevancy; communication effect; graphic design


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