Cognizant Layout

Pattern number within this pattern set: 
R Y Shah
The Galatic Institute of Root Journalism

Contemporary society tends to beat itself up over civilians apparent inability to plow through blocks of dense text like their forefathers used to. This failure to read voraciously has been attributed to our shortening attention spans, which is in some fuzzy way tied to the clipped pace of modern civilization. But we tend to forget that there is far more information out there today – whether in reality or the ether – then there was back then. Our forefathers read a book or a newspaper every so often whereas we are constantly encumbered with omnipresent information. Surely it is us, not they, who should be attributed with voracious comprehension.
Isn’t it about time we developed other alternative strategies for learning in an era of over-abundant knowledge?


With so much information being presented to the contemporary homo sapian, engorging streams of text is almost a Herculean task. I am not arguing that we should devise new methods of information-gathering to replace reading, but that we should develop alternatives to reading that will stimulate other ways of thinking. The art of cognizant layout will attempt to increase the reader


The idea of combining pictures with text is often frowned upon and scorned by serious professionals. Comic books are not considered actual literature by esteemed literary institutions - or parents, for that matter. But there is something about assembling text and images within a given space that should be spoken for. Although I have absolutely no scientific backing, I believe that the way one assembles knowledge can increase comprehension.
Reading several paragraphs can be neurologically straining (especially when the writing is bad, and so much of it is) much like exercising is a physical strain. In the past, when books were seldom and information was attained firsthand through other venues or spoken by parties with relevant knowledge, this wasn’t a problem. But things have changed. Reading is the primary way we get information and there is a lot of it. I suspect we are approaching the point where the human mind is overstressed in certain areas and underdeveloped in others, that is if we haven’t surpassed that point already.
Journalism has recognized this neurological strain to a degree, because occasionally the journalism student is advised to break up her story into smaller yet well-proportioned paragraphs to make it easier for the reader to mentally digest. I suggest we go one step further, incorporating the science and art of graphic design and comic book layout.
This is touched upon in another Root Journalism pattern, Explain Systems in place of Random Facts, which recognized that it takes an incredibly knowledgeable, skilled and deft writer to explain entire systems of society. That is most likely because such a task would demand block after block of text, and the details would be complicated and difficult to understand. Anything less than light, simple, clarifying prose would push the incomprehensibility of the article to insufferable extremes.
As suggested in the Root Journalism pattern, Explain Systems, there are other ways to present information. One of these ways is through charts and graphs. Another way is through comics. There is an infinite amount of possibilities for how to combine visual elements and text to increase comprehension.


If news people honestly care that news reach the masses, they should be willing to explore new ways of disseminating information. The goal is to present information that is as clear and comprehensible as possible. In this way, news has pedagogical aspirations. The potential for visual elements and text is still untapped. Only by boldly presenting information in new and stimulating ways can we ever hope to better inform the news audience.

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