Chunking: Design for efficient learning


Chunking: A technique of combining many units of information into a limited number of units or chunks, so that the information is easier to process and remember.



this is actually from a series of wallpaper. Have been trying to find the original source/author for a while. I love the composition.
A chunk of Minecraft diamond. :)


This is post is part of a series: A brief look into Universal Principle of Design. I am not affiliated with the authors or Rockport publishing. I am simply a fan of their work, revisiting and expanding on some principles that will aid me in my designs and my writing. Interested? You can start here. Would like to have all 125 principles at your fingertips? Check it out here first. Feel free to comment, share, and enjoy!

When I first came across this principle, I immediately thought back to a book called Josh Foer’s “Moonwalking with Einstein.” Foer describes his experiences with the world of Memory championships and about the art of memorization.

At one point, he describes a “Memory Palace.” In order to memorize a deck of cards, a string of numbers, one has to decide the blueprint of your palace -a room, a park, a route through town, an entire house so that you may mentally “store” them into your memory.


“The general idea of most memory techniques is to change whatever is boring thing is being inputted into your memory into something that is so colorful, so exciting and so different from anything that you’ve seen before that you can’t possibly forget.”

– Joshua Foer



It got me thinking: our minds remember better visually and in relation to other things. So looking at the following image, which group can you recall better, faster? Top or bottom? Or are they about the same?


Lovely shapes

 “The principle of the memory palace… is to use one’s exquisite spatial memory to structure and store information…”




“Content chunking is a lot like the chapters of a book. If books weren’t divided into chapters, it would make it hard for readers to remember certain points in the story and follow the story from beginning to end. “

-Anthony from UX Movement


Take the Kindle Fire, for example. The first ebook I purchased was a Spanish grammar book. What I loved about the Kindle app was it’s customization of text, background and the ease of accessing the dictionary and the web and I immediately took to reading.


And yet…

…there are no pages, instead locations. Notes taken and bookmarks made had no way of being sorted or color coded (grammar books are kind of dry readings. I need the notes to keep me going). The physicality of the book in which I relied for my location in the book was non existent. Though there were “chapters” in the book and chunking of some sort, but the virtual design took away my ability to create my own chunks so that it may be easier to digest and retain the information. Limited customization alone is not enough to “chunk” text.




Most people absolutely hate being put in front of a computer for purposes of e-training modules. Usually, there is a lot of information, there’s no one-on-one interaction and you’re usually left alone to decipher the information needed. This is why it’s more important to use chunking more liberally when designing an e-training module .


designed by Jesse Sutherland
Chunk the learning


Chunking coupled with good design elements makes this module less overwhelming to a person coming in as a new hire, a person learning about a new topic in teaching, etc. Reduce the noise, chunk related information, and make the information visually appealing.


“Chunking is also ideal in environments where an interface must compete against other stimuli for the attention or working memory of the end user (car navigation systems, cell phone, public kiosks).”

-Interaction Design Foundation




Good content is king but good, formatted and thoughtfully designed content rules. The human brain usually can make out patterns and visual information easier than mess or disorienting text. In your next design project involving any amount of information, think about how the audience will perceive the end product. What do you want them to take away from it? What do you want them to remember?


Want to learn more? Check out my Readlists: Chunking!