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An information designer analyzes the placement of the yellow school bus markings About a year ago, I found myself sitting in traffic a few cars behind a school bus. My


A By Shmuel Bollen


eye was naturally drawn to the message in the top center section of the back of the bus, which told me in large bold capital letters something I already knew; ”SCHOOL BUS.” And I thought, “Yeah, I know that. But I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with that knowledge.” I rarely come across a bus that is actively taking on or letting off passengers, so I have


almost no experience related to it. Yes, I learned about it in Driver’s Ed, but that was a long time ago. In that moment, I realized that other drivers probably also suffer from the same lack of knowledge, which translates into increased risk for passengers. It occurred to me that my training and experience in information design might be used to improve the messaging and reduce the risk. Information Design is about creating an interface that supports a specific task or pro-


duces a desired behavior. With any given interface, there is a similar goal and a similar challenge. Te goal is to allow a human being to interact successfully with a human- made object. Te challenge is in guiding the user’s attention effectively to the right signal at the right time. Fewer distractions between the user and the information mean that more attention can be devoted to understanding the key signal. Distractions are a problem because they require effort to process. In general, we are designed for physical and cognitive efficiency, which means that we


naturally avoid exerting ourselves. Te back of an average school bus has at least five or six messages on it, each of which has to be seen by our eyes and processed by our minds so that we can select an appropriate response. Designing for this delicate interplay be- tween our eyes and our minds is a process of attention management.


42 School Transportation News Magazine October 2012


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