The Weekly Pill Planner: Design and the Importance of Spatial Views of Time

I’ve been writing about all of the interesting ways in which people visualize time in spatial form: images of the day, the week, the month, the year, and story lines.

I think that spatial visualizations of time help with memory, and that they help make us better at remembering the past and preparing for the future. I also think spatial visualizations of time can be learned, and that history teachers should think about ways to use them in class.

Spatial visualizations of time are useful for more than information recall and organization; they also have practical applications.

Consider the weekly pill planner. The standard one in


the United States contains 7 boxes from left to right, with Sunday on the left. This seems natural for many of us, but is still not fool-proof. Yet, this seems to be much less dangerous than the circular (septagonal?) pill planner below.  This planner is confusing for a number of reason. First, it moves clockwise, when some people might reflexively think of time as going counter-clockwise. The two T’s and two S’s can easily be confused, so that you might take your pills twice on Saturday or confuse Tuesday for Thursday and take the pills again or in the wrong order. Even the “M” could be confused for a “W.” This seems to be a dangerous design.

Plenty of other designs are possible, such as the monthly pill planner below. But the one shown is also confusing (at least to my mind), since time seems to originate in the bottom left coordinate and move vertically for four days, only to restart at the bottom of the next column. I would have a high probability of making a mistake here.  And what is the 32nd day for? Is that a prize you get at the end of the month for not having accidentally overdosed on your pills?



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