A New Perspective on Visual Design within Information Systems

A New Perspective on Visual Design within Information Systems

Daniel A. Peak (University of North Texas, USA), Victor R. Prybutok (University of North Texas, USA) and Chenyan Xu (Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6256-8.ch007
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This chapter proposes that the Information Systems (IS) discipline can serve as a reference discipline for the Visual Design discipline and that visual design can reciprocate as a reference discipline for IS. To this end, it offers a pluralistic framework of Visual Systems Design (VSD) where the primary focus is on how the Visual Design discipline utilizes the intellectual know-how of IS concerning systems development. Because visual design is part of the aesthetic paradigm where interpretivism rules and IS is contained in the positivist paradigm, the chapter employs a multi-paradigm, theory-building approach to bridge these two paradigms and their constituent disciplines. The implications of VSD are discussed in the remainder of the chapter.
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In the past decade, system interface design has become an increasingly relevant topic in IS. This is evidenced by a plethora of relevant studies (e.g., Benbasat, 2010; Prestopnik et al., 2010; Zhang and Li, 2005; Zhang et al., 2009; Zhang et al., 2002). Generally, there are two research streams addressing system interface design (Cyr et al., 2009). One of those streams holds that interface usability is the key, emphasizing a behavioral or cognitive focus (Babu et al., 2010; Palmer, 2002; Reber et al., 2004; Teo et al.2003; Venkatesh, 2006). The second research stream contends that attention to hedonic aspects of human-computer interaction, with human needs such as emotion, affect, and experience is important (Agarwal and Karahanna, 2000; Beaudry and Pinsonneault, 2010; Schrepp et al., 2006). Hedonic IS research shows that the well-executed visual design of a website or any other information system has the potential to evoke responses in users, which subsequently impact their cognitive processes and behavioral intentions (Campbell et al., 2009; Cyr et al., 2010; Cyr et al., 2009; Cyr et al., 2006). Because visual impressions are both instantaneous and persistent in memory (Lindgaard et al., 2006), practitioners are encouraged to manage the visual impressions of their websites, because essentially, “… there is no second chance to make a first impression (Tractinsky et al., 2006, p. 1080).” Together, visual designers and IT developers use their expertise to build more visually-appealing information systems.

Historically, visual design and IS were philosophically and functionally independent from each other (Tractinsky, 2006). Specifically, the former is rooted in aesthetics with loose links to science, whereas the latter is positioned as hard science, taking positivism as its dominant research approach. Examination of the visual design discipline produced insights.

First, aesthetics contends that people exhibit a fundamental preference for all things beautiful (Beryls and Lopes, 2006; Copleston, 1962; Graham, 2003; Hofstadter and Kuhns, 1976; Runes, 1977), where advocates have arrived at this conclusion through observation and reasoning. In practice, designers create visually appealing products based on classic principles derived from this innate human preference, conditioned by the personal taste and requirements of the client (Lidwell et al., 2003; Krug, 2006). When the visual designers are called on by IS developers to provide a visual interface, they apply the same aesthetic principles, conditioned by the requirements of the system user. User requirements are conditioned by the users’ own experiences, and research indicates that users are continually increasing their visual sophistication through cumulative exposure to technology (Hartmann et al., 2008). As a result, a democratization of visual design has occurred through media exposure, because the public has gained a sense of the language of graphic design, delivered by technology (Postrel, 2002). The more visually sophisticated users become, the greater their demand for quality visual design (Tractinsky, 2006). Therefore, with the ever-increasing number of design-savvy users, research suggests it imprudent to overlook prospective users’ informed visual preferences, lest the system fail to reach its potential (Cai and Xu, 2011).

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