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Monday, March 28, 2022

Do we observe patterns ! or simply see a picture !!

A photo taken by me recently – would we be looking it, if not for the subject at the centre ? – a simple house sparrow ! – is life all about patterns ?


A team of researchers from the Royal Observatory of Belgium, Université Savoie Mont Blanc and Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris has identified nonaxisymmetric wavelike patterns in the equatorial region of the Earth's core. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the group describes their study of geomagnetic data obtained from satellites and ground-based observatories over a twenty-year period and describes fluctuations they found beneath the equatorial part of the planet. 

A pattern is a regularity in the world, in human-made design, or in abstract ideas. As such, the elements of a pattern repeat in a predictable manner. A geometric pattern is a kind of pattern formed of geometric shapes and typically repeated like a wallpaper design. Any of the senses may directly observe patterns. Conversely, abstract patterns in science, mathematics, or language may be observable only by analysis. Direct observation in practice means seeing visual patterns, which are widespread in nature and in art. Visual patterns in nature are often chaotic, rarely exactly repeating, and often involve fractals. Natural patterns include spirals, meanders, waves, foams, tilings, cracks, and those created by symmetries of rotation and reflection. Patterns have an underlying mathematical structure. In art and architecture, decorations or visual motifs may be combined and repeated to form patterns designed to have a chosen effect on the viewer. In computer science, a software design pattern is a known solution to a class of problems in programming. In fashion, the pattern is a template used to create any number of similar garments. 

Now a days, it is all about capturing the attention – be it advertisement or potential customer. According to some research, the  average attention span of a user on a website is 8 seconds. Users want to skim through content quickly, with minimum friction, and minimum timed used. They scan through the page and decide in seconds whether they want to dive deeper or leave.  The larger the element, the more attention it will attract, compared to smaller elements. Think of a newspaper headline. The newspaper uses that (large font) header text to signal what the rest of the text (in smaller font) will deliver.  When there is a  “breaking story” – the content writer tries to get the eyes of the potent viewer right on the headline, dominating and spurring them to read more.   

In websites with a low level of text content (e.g., websites that act as small advertisements for a business or a product rather than delivering volumes of information), the Z pattern of eye scanning is common. The user sees the “text-lite” page and scans from the top left to top right, then glances down through the content (following a diagonal) to the bottom left, before moving to the bottom right. Designers usually apply the F pattern on websites that include text-heavy content and/or video content. With the F pattern, users begin by scanning left to right along the top, but then scan down the left side of the page, looking for visual clues to the information they seek. When they find such a clue, they scan from left to right. They repeat this process until they reach the end of the page. This scanning pattern often produces a heat map that looks like the letter “F”. 

The human eye perceives information visually rather than as blocks of data. Unlike computers, we’re at the mercy of our eyes’ natural tendencies. The reading material we likely encountered as young children featured many pictures and larger print. Whether these were comics, colouring books, or story books, we could take in what was going on because we perceived the illustrations and interpreted the sequence of events alongside the easy-to-read text.  Content in every digital page layout will follow a specific hierarchy. Headers appear above body text. Menus go at the top, bottom, left, or right of the screen (or any combination of these). Designers try to organize content so that they present the highest priority content on any given page first. Then, they deliver the rest of the content from highest to lowest priority. 

“Hierarchy” is simply a nicer way of saying organized from most to least important.  Reports from Copenhagen confirm that more designers, especially web designers, are appreciating the need to engage users more directly. Reaching back into their art school days while working a little psychology into the mix seems to do the trick. 

Now here is the photo and you may comment on what you liked here – the pattern or the simple sparrow. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
27th Mar 2022


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