Contrast set labelling: Theoretical essentials and suggestions for good practice
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This chapter explores the graphical tools that information designers use to distinguish between the members of sets. Numbers may label the floors of a building, the hours of the day, or the pages of a book. Designers may use words to distinguish the different bus stops in a town, letters for the different sectors of a train platform, colours for the different keys to a building or office, and symbols for different types of restrooms. (There are other, less commonly used tools, too.) In general, designers use sets of contrasting graphic forms to label sets of contrasting ‘things’ in the real world. Those sets of things often have a built-in topology: the hours of the day form a metaphorical circle, the pages of a book a line, and the gates at an airport may be arranged in a branching pattern. That topology typically makes some labelling tools more appropriate than others. Information designers always need to choose labels that they are sure users will understand. This means that they are partly slaves to convention, but there is also room for a good amount of creativity.