The Thesis

Thesis Topic:

This Pattern Language is the outcome of a PhD thesis titled 'The Design of Pictorial Assembly Instructions'.

The thesis was undertaken at the Australian National University in the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (CPAS).


This thesis examines and develops knowledge for the design of effective Pictorial Assembly Instructions (PAIs). PAIs are an important element of products requiring assembly by the consumer as the success of the product relies on the consumer’s ability to interpret and enact the instructions correctly. However there is very little research published about their design, particularly with regard to the creation of effective illustrations.

The thesis examines the academic literature in the area of pictorial instruction design in western and developing countries. The positivist reductionist approaches used for the research are critiqued and alternate approaches to research appropriate for PAIs are presented. The method used for this thesis is one of designerly research to develop grounded theory expressed as a pattern language and concepts.

The research is expanded via an examination of existing practice and discussions with practitioners regarding how they develop and encode their knowledge for PAI design. This knowledge is set out as a list of guidelines.  A project to design PAIs for a flat-pack wheel chair for distribution to developing countries is undertaken to further investigate and develop the knowledge for PAI design. 

This thesis concludes with a pattern language for PAIs and the description of factors to consider in the creation of illustrates for PAIs.


Professor Sue Stocklemeyer

Director of the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science. 

Professor David Sless

Director of the Communication Research Institute

Project Partner:

The project was conducted with Motivation, an international disability charity organisation that provides wheelchairs and programs to disabled people throughout the world.

Read the Thesis:

If you would like a copy of the thesis please email me and I will arrange a DropBox transfer. I cannot make it available via this website as the file is too large for this setup.


This page has the references used directly as part of the pattern language. See the thesis for a complete reference list.

Papers Published From the Thesis:

Schumacher, P. (2007) ‘Creating effective illustrations for pictorial assembly instructions’ Information Design Journal v 15 no 2 pp97-109

Schumacher, P. (2008) ‘Capturing Emergent Knowledge from Design Practice for Human Interaction Usability’ HFEAS National Conference: Sustainable Performance: Human Factors, Ergonomics and Work Environment UniSA, Adelaide, South Australia. 17-19 November, 2008

Schumacher, P. (2009) ‘A Pattern Language for the Design of Pictorial Assembly Instructions’ 17th World Congress of Ergonomics IEA 2009 August 9-14, Beijing

Schumacher, P. (2009) ‘Pictorial communication in developing countries: a literature review‘ Visual: Design: Scholarship v 4 no 1

This is an image from the thesis explaining the outcomes of user trials of PAIs created by the author.

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