Make it easier to understand – and placative

We all remember when we were at school how tedious it was to learn things by heart. And it didn’t stop there. A lot of things, especially if they are abstract, are difficult to absorb or to remember. And teachers didn’t always make it easier. Some might even have reveled in making difficult things even more difficult. Or maybe they didn’t know better. They might have something in common with designers and engineers, says Morinosuke Kawaguchi.

Remember the periodic table and what it meant to memorize dry information? To the human brain it is far more difficult to remember information that is not linked to more, let’s say, organic and placative concepts. People with excellent memory often develop techniques to connect information with a story or emotion. Our brain loves metaphors.

Periodic table

Using anime characters is a fun way to spice up a boring sheet of information. It uses comics – the idea of a person reduced to a placative picture that the brain can even more easily absorb than a that of a real person – to give each element a face and associate the girls’ personalitites with the characteristics of each element. If you search the internet for an anime periodic table you will find many versions done by fans, and there is even a book that manages to get the hardboiled sciencific information across much easier. The book –a favorite of Morinosuke Kawaguchi–was written by Miyuki Mitsuda, a chemistry teacher at Tokyo’s Musashi Institute of Technology.

As a designer or engineer, if you can’t make things easier, think of ways of how to make them more easily absorbable. There is no way students can avoid memorizing the periodic table. But someone came up with the idea to make it easier, more fun and with a good chance that the information becomes long-term rather than short-term knowledge.