What different types of visual and written 'instructions' are there?
January 10, 2016 5:31 AM   Subscribe

I am working on a project that relies on different ways to present instructions. I want to collect as many ways as possible. These can be visual, written, or otherwise, but each 'type' of instruction must have a design aesthetic or formulaic quality that is particular to it. So, for instance, recipes are usually laid out in a certain way; architectural blueprints have a design that we all recognise, as do maps, exploded diagrams, algorithms, technical schematics, toolkits... Can you help me think of more?
posted by 0bvious to Media & Arts (36 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
The one that springs to my mind are the Ikea instructions. Since they're all over the world, they're all pictures, no words, no translation.

Another is instructions meant to be understood by people thousands of years in the future.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:37 AM on January 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ikea assembly instructions.
RGB/HSV values (which are basically recipes)
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:38 AM on January 10, 2016

Video tutorials, recipe gifs, assembly instructions printed on the object to be assembled.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:38 AM on January 10, 2016

The Book of Common Prayer.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:39 AM on January 10, 2016

Airline safety videos (especially the ones that try to hold passengers' attention with gimmicks).
posted by ocherdraco at 5:41 AM on January 10, 2016

Tax forms and other fill in the blank type forms that tell you how to do calculations (subtract box 412 from box 45 etc.)
Checklists are kind of a cross between instructions and safeguards.
Those little pictures that tell you which way to insert batteries.
Sheet music.
The little stick/tabs they put in potted plants to tell you how to care for them.
Decision-making flow charts.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:41 AM on January 10, 2016

programs (software)
posted by andrewcooke at 5:43 AM on January 10, 2016

Gps systems that are now so ubiquitous on phones and in cars are very detailed forms of instruction.
posted by pearlybob at 5:43 AM on January 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Cross-stitch patterns
Crochet or knitting patterns
Sewing patterns
Paint by number.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:43 AM on January 10, 2016

Cairns, painted trail markers.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:44 AM on January 10, 2016

Origami instructions (different kinds of lines mean different kinds of folds).
posted by ocherdraco at 5:45 AM on January 10, 2016

Elementary school type experiment instructions: Question/Hypothesis/Apparatus/Procedure.
Various kind of fire signage (think of the little things you see in hotels telling you where all the fire-related things are -- exits, extinguishers, alarms, hoses etc.)
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:46 AM on January 10, 2016

Origami diagramming? A visual language so clear that a monoglot British folder can succesfully follow the instructions in a Japanese origami book.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 5:48 AM on January 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

As a former music teacher, sooooo many songs I taught were instructions in disguise. "clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere " , "put your left arm in, take your left arm out..." Etc.
posted by pearlybob at 5:50 AM on January 10, 2016

Command paths for changing software settings:

Google Chrome > hamburger > Settings > Show advanced settings... > Privacy > check "Send a 'Do Not Track' request with your browsing traffic"
posted by davcoo at 6:02 AM on January 10, 2016

Instructional lesson plans written by and for teachers are essentially instructions on how to deliver the material and have recommended formulas to follow.
posted by NoraCharles at 6:02 AM on January 10, 2016

Google Maps (turn by turn and/or overview)
posted by nkknkk at 6:05 AM on January 10, 2016

mathematical proofs?
circuit diagrams
guitar tabs
posted by crocomancer at 6:39 AM on January 10, 2016

lego instructions
posted by crocomancer at 6:40 AM on January 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

Cooking videos, like this
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:27 AM on January 10, 2016

Trouble shooting instructions or call center scripts. Both read like a choose your own adventure book. If this light is on, see step 2 / If customer says x do y.

Computer code is another form of instructions, just not for humans to read.
posted by nalyd at 8:10 AM on January 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Here's a tough one: instructions on dance. I'm not good at learning dance steps at all; the way most teachers seem to work is to instruct assuming you know _what to notice_. Most non-dancers will, for example, put their right foot forward when instructed, but they may not notice at what angle to put it, how far forward to place it, whether to put down the toe, ball of foot, or heel, whether the knee is angled, how much the knee is angled, whether the hip moves forward also, whether the arm is then in front of or behind the hip, and so on and so on and so on.

Singing is similarly difficult, except that the number of things going on is smaller (but still large), while the whole thing is complicated immensely because the mechanisms involved are completely invisible and must be described almost entirely by inscrutable analogy. So frustrating at first.
posted by amtho at 8:59 AM on January 10, 2016

Architectural blueprints
Software development diagrams such as BPMs, LDMs, UML, or wireframes
Software user manuals
The tags in your clothes specifying laundry/dry cleaning instructions
Signs in the airport security line
Sex manuals such as "The Joy of Sex"
European & other international road signs that are primarily pictograms
Sheet music & tab charts
"Please curb your dog" signs -- they're different in different places
Recycling symbols on recyclables
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:18 AM on January 10, 2016

Dance notation
posted by jedicus at 9:30 AM on January 10, 2016

Chants, songs and epic poetry have always been used for oral history and passing along guidelines and instructions. In this usage, they're essentially mnemonic devices.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:35 AM on January 10, 2016

Lego instructions are, to me, the gold standard. I've built dozens of huge Lego models and remember finding exactly one error in all that time (and it didn't affect whether I could complete the model). I've built models produced in limited runs and as much care is taken for instructions that are only going to be seen by a few hundred people as for mass market ones. My two-year-old can follow Lego instructions and so can my dad. You need literally zero training.
posted by town of cats at 10:51 AM on January 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Labanotation is used to record and convey information about movement, and can be used as "instructions" by both animators and performers. It can describe speed, direction, duration, flow, and many other properties. Eshkol-Wachman notation is apparently similar, though I'm not personally familiar with it.

Instructions for juggling that I've seen combine written descriptions with diagrams showing the path taken by each ball and catch/throw points.

Programming tutorials usually have a distinct aesthetic, with code blocks in monospace font.

In the bike industry, many modern components have torque specs written near nuts and bolts to tell you how tight they should be.

In some mechanical references exploded diagrams serve as assembly/disassembly instructions, rather than going step-by-step.
posted by sibilatorix at 10:59 AM on January 10, 2016

DOT Hazmat placards.
posted by yesster at 11:22 AM on January 10, 2016

For that matter, DOT-standard road signage is an instructional language.
posted by yesster at 11:24 AM on January 10, 2016

Metes and Bounds describe the boundaries of a property in words, starting from a known point (usually a survey marker) then proceeding by bearing and distance. It's like a textual description of a GIS file.
posted by scruss at 11:33 AM on January 10, 2016

The instruction that come with a new computer are now all pictorial.

Instructions that come with electrical appliances all have similar safety earnings on the front.
posted by SemiSalt at 12:18 PM on January 10, 2016

Clothes washing labels - no words, but clear instructions about how to care for the item.
posted by twirlypen at 12:25 PM on January 10, 2016

Musical Notes

Typing manuals
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:22 PM on January 10, 2016

Animal training includes hand gestures, body language, and words to instruct non-human animals.
posted by yesster at 1:41 PM on January 10, 2016

Immigration forms! Even across the world, many of them are pretty same-y. Also the signage you get at airports and other ports.
posted by divabat at 7:27 PM on January 10, 2016

Scientific protocols (at least for biosciences)
posted by randomnity at 8:13 PM on January 12, 2016

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