Leonard Verhoef

Dr. Leonard Verhoef,
applied cognitive psychologist.
For designing complex things.
Not a designer.


Updated June 2017


After primary school and teacher training college he studied educational psychology (University Utrecht) and applied experimental psychology (University Utrecht). Leonard Verhoef started his career as a cognitive psychologist investigating the development of human thinking. Now he is a psychological designer of ultimate cognitive psychology based interfaces for complex systems people use to perform cognitive tasks.

Research on human thinking He started with research on the development of human thinking and the implementation of that knowledge in mathematics at school, a mathematics test. He took tried to find an answer on the question what is really wrong with today's interface design and interfaces like GUI's and Windows (and the Mac as well!). The answer is not: designers are to blame (as Norman suggests). Nor are the managers to blame (as Cooper suggests). He suggests to look at psychology.The University of Leiden nominated Thomas Cool and Leonard Verhoef for with their proposal for a
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Application of cognitive research
GUI and webgrammar graphics statistics futur next generation infographics

Icon designverkeersbord spoorwegovergang pictrogram

Public info public transporttrain ticket vending machines

Toekomst geldFrom buttons for fingers towards graphics for brains, past and future of ticket vending machines

rekenonderwijs optellen aftrekken basisschool computer diagnostiek remedial teaching

GUI and webGUI graphical user interface command user commandline prompt MS-DOS

GUI and webnavigatie met menu of tabel startpagina desktop

GUI and webmetaforen antropomorf denken begrijpen

Icon designconcreet of abstract afbeelden icon pictogram bewegwijzering bord infographics

Leren rekenenrekenonderwijs optellen aftrekken basisschool computer diagnostiek remedial teaching

Leren rekenenleren rekenen optellen aftrekken basisschool nieuwe intelligentie algoritme

Psychologietoekomst van de toegepaste cognitievecognitief denkpsychologie

Psychologie denkenicon design pictogram bord bewegwijzering

Psychologie denkentoegepaste cognitief denkpsychologie

Psychologie denkenhoe denken mensen emotie toekomst psychologie

Psychologie denkentoegepaste cognitief denkpsychologie

Public info public transport

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Interface requirements As a psychologist he participates in the development of systems for professionals (process operators, traffic controllers, high speed train drivers) and public information systems (travel information, ticket vending machines, travel planners). His focus is not readability but performing a task with complex systems.He changed from a psychologist observing the problems after a system has been built to a psychologist specifying in advance how to build a system. As a consequence it is right from the beginning, there is little discussion and the system is effective.An example of such a system is Another well known design in which psychology was dictating the interface is the Netherlands Railways touch screen train ticket vending machine. This vending machine has not the traditional sequential and hierarchical (menu) structure but a parallel n-dimensional and orthogonal structure. That is unusual and sounds complicated, but people 92 years of age can use the machine without explanation and help of any kind.
The way he applies experimental psychology is made public in the course and in the course
boek, cognitief, gui, webdesign, psychologie, gebruiksvriendelijkheid, ontwerp, usability
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Interfaces based on psychology in the first place

As a one man company he is able to develop his ideas on interface design with psychological processes as the only standard. By now he has developed several designs in which technology, marketing, Design and opinions of users do not disturb compatibility with psychological processes. So, userfriendlyness is no problem. What is next? Technology changes. It is difficult to predict what technology will offer. Psychological processes do not change. For him it is easy to specify requirements that fit psychological processes. The fundamentals of these processes do not change easily. Consequently, an interface based on these processes is sustainable.
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Applications of cognitive psychology:

x Invoer Morsesleutel Toekomst        multidimensionaal graphic   

Public design

 NS treinkaart automaat b100 betalen openbaar vervoer NS treinkaart automaat b8060 betalen openbaar vervoer  IMO international maritime organisation muster station sign plattegrond IKEA water vaar verkeersbord maximaal hoogte water vaar verkeersbord maximaal drie dik aanleggen water vaar verkeersbord maximale doorvaart hoogte 3 meter experimenteel vertrektijden bord openbaar vervoer structuur openbare ruimten experimenteel vertrektijden bord openbaar vervoer atb etcs snelheidsbeheersing aandacht trekken water vaar verkeersbord verboden aanleggen water vaar verkeersbord maximale hoogte water vaar verkeersbord verboden 3 dik aanleggen met meer schepen trein vertrektijd perron NS CTA OV openbaar vervoer betalen ov-chipkaart toekomst grafische bestemmingen lijst metro ondergrondse lijn  structuur hoefijzer winkelcentrum 

Icon/sign design

  3-d, perspectief,drie-dimensionaal verkeersbord toekomst parkeerverbod verkeersbord toekomst verboden inhalen verkeersbord toekomst maximum snelheid bepaalde 


helderheid voor betrouwbaarheid hersenen limgisch systeem en cortex aandacht trekken en aandacht sturen gebruik van de kleuren rood oranje en geel gevoeligheid van het oog voor kleuren humunculus mensmetafoor een mens in de zaadcel 

Toekomst volgens psychologie


Leren rekenen

leren rekenen basisschool MAB rekenblokken toekomst onderwijs leren lezen leren rekenen supermarkt leren rekenen basisschool tellen op de vingers aftellen leren rekenen vleksom puntsom rekenonderwijs basisschool tientallig stelsel tellen op de vingers rekenonderwijs basisschool computer diagnostiek remedial teaching graphics for quantitative data next generation 

Hogesnelheidstrein (ERMTS)

  ERMTS hoge snelheidstrein hsl ATB experimenteel interface voor machinist ERMTS high speed train control driver mmi ERMTS hoge snelheidstrein hsl ATB experimenteel interface voor achinist ERMTS hoge snelheidstrein hsl ATB experimenteel interface voor achinist 

Wetenschappelijke verantwoording


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Paper press

Beaten M. (1991). Koffieboon kan het woord koffie niet vervangen, Interview met L. Verhoef. Trouw, no. Zaterdag 16 februari 1991.

Berckel, F. van, (1990). Pictogram staat voor concessie en compromis, Interview met L. Verhoef. Design, vol. 4, no. 1, pag. 32-33.

Bie, R. de, (1997). Treincomputer dingt mee naar designprijs. Koppeling, no. 354.

Bowen, D.J. (1994). Dutch Eurodisplay may presage standard for HSR Cab Displays. High Speed Transport news, vol. 3, no. 4.

Commijs, H. (1988). 't Is niet eenvoudig geweest om het zover te krijgen, De Silhouette is simpel te bedienen. Rotterdam: Van NelleVan Nelle Grootverbruik Zakennieuws, vol. 3, no. 2, pag. 3.

Kwant, J., (2009). Snap je machine, Flow.

Noë, F. (1993). Software-ergonomie blijft missiewerk. Automatiserings Gids, no 23 juli.

Ordelman, T. (1989). Een mens heeft meer dan alleen handen en voeten, Interview met L. Verhoef. Siemens Interview, trends in computers en communicatie, no. 34.

Velden, A. van der, (1990). De Kaartenmaker wil te veel en durft te weinig, interview. Het Parool, no. Zaterdag 6 oktober 1990, pag. 31.

Verkaik-Smeets, (1991). Ergonomie van het gezonde verstand. PC+, no. 18 december, pag. 18-20.

Vrijenhoef, H. (1979). Rekenonderwijs de kwantiwijzer: een diagnostisch instrumentarium voor het rekenonderwijs O4, maandblad voor de verzorging van het onderwijs. Vol. 9, no 11. pag. 2-5.

Weststrate, P. (1988). Er moet nog veel veranderen, Interview met L. Verhoef. Haagse Courant, vol. Zaterdag 30 april.

Search in humanefficiency.nl

Examples of designs he contributed to

Complex data

graphic complex process presentation
Upper right red,
Close to disaster

complex process presentation
All OK.

complex process presentation
Upper right yellow low,
take care!

complex process presentation
Upper right yellow high,
take care!
Source: Verhoef Holslag,

onderwijs leerling prestatie
Source: LBS/Holslag Verhoef.

graphic complex ultidimensional data
Sourrce: Holslag Verhoef

smiley complex multidimensional data
How much information
can be in one smiley?
Source: Verhoef Holslag,

Design of tables

Graphics for aesthetics,
OECD house style.
Source: OECD quarterly
growth table.

No graphics, data only.
Same data as previous

tabel design
Same data as previous
Graphics for content.
OECD, adapted by
Verhoef for demo.

Design of scales

kleur rood geel oranje aandacht

betrouwbaarheid zekerheid
One variable,
six parameters,
233 milliseconds
perception time.

betrouwbaarheid zekerheid
An effective problem solving
Source: Holslag & Verhoef.

Portrait or

train traffic control information portrait orientation
What is better for a
train traffic
  • portrait ...
  • train traffic control information landscape orientation

  • ...landscape?

  • Source: Holslag & Verhoef.

    What is better
    for car driving?
    tom tom autonavigatie scherm
  • ... realistic landscape?
    Source: Tom Tom, 2010.

  • navigatie auto route reisplanner reizen
  • alphanumerical portrait
  • In this case the best
    orientation is ...

    Source: Verhoef, 2010.

    navigatie ermts mmi dmi planning
  • abstract portrait ...?

  • Source: ETCS/Verhoef.

    Train traffic

    How to present
    tracks and platforms?
    tracks and platforms train traffic controlers
  • This way?

  • tracks platforms train traffic controlers
  • Or this way?

  • Source: NS/Verhoef.

    Screen design
    public transport

    Design of train indicators

    Departure in 30 min.

    ov reis info bord trein
    Grey half circle:
    Go shoping.
    Departure in 30 min.

    Departure in 15 min..
    ov reism info bord treinYellow 1/4 circle:
    Go to train.
    Departure in 15 min.

    Departure in 30 sec.

    Source: Amersfoort, The Netherlands, 2008.

    ov reis info bord trein
    Orange half circle:
    Hurry up!
    Departure in 30 sec.

    Source: Experimental
    designs, Verhoef 2010.

    OV-verstoringsinformatie kan niet (beter) want de OV-denk- en computersystemen gaan uit van een papieren jaardienstregeling. Dat spoorboekje kent geen verstoringen. Dit uitgangspunt is goed te zien op de huidige borden.

    More, click and go to: OV kan reizigers geen verstorings’informatie geven, volgens de psychologie

    Trains indicator Amsterdam approx. 1990-2010
    ov reis info bord trein
    Experimental design destinations indicator.
    Source: Verhoef.

    Design ticket vending

    Check in/out Dutch electronic public transport ticket system (trip costs, debit remaining, bye bye ).
    OV-chip check paal
    Experimental check in/out device.
    Source: Verhoef
    NS touch screen train ticket vending machine
    NS touch screen train
    ticket vending machine
    Routing problems
    solved using ...

    Ticket vending machine.
    Language optionfirst step
    (hierarchical solution)?
    Source: Belgium Railways.

    ns screen treinkaart automaat
    Ticket vending machine.
    Change language any time
    (parallel solution).
    Source: NS/ Verhoef.

    Netherlands Railways touch screen train ticket vending machine.

    It looks like a menu.
    no hierarchical steps.
    What is the structure?"

    Which button is
    to help whizzkids
    and it-specialists?
    Source: NS/Verhoef.

    coffee drink vending machine, use of gray out.
    The train ticket vending
    machine solution is general
    applicable. It also can
    be used for complex drink
    vending machines.
    Source: Verhoef.

    High speed train driving
    ETCS, (European Train Control System)


    Analog classical
    experimental clock design
    Train speed: 192.
    Maximum permitted speed
    200. Next target permitted
    speed 40. Good for general
    maintain speed task,
    bad for planning and when
    close to intervention.

    Analog design, screen

    Diagrammatic design,
    vertical version.
    Braking curve should
    not touch maximum
    permitted speed curve.
    The tongue below should
    fit in the pipe above.
    Good for planning and
    insight, bad when
    close to intervention.

    Diagrammatic design,
    horizontal version.
    Comparable with
    vertical version.

    Animated design
    Braking curve should not
    touch max permitted
    speed curve. The “vehicle”
    in front should not be too
    close. Good when close to
    intervention, bad for
    planning and insight.

    etcs mmi, ermts, high speed driving speedometer
    Speed and
    safety information
    for high speed train
    The one that is now
    Source: ETCS/Verhoef.

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    Cab with inconsistent
    interfaces. Visible, even
    at low resolution.
    Inconsistent presentation
    and input of:
    date, time, numbers, colours,
    enter procedures, control of

    Cab with consistent
    interfaces. No differences in
    presentation and input of:
    date, time, numbers, colours,
    enter procedures, control of

    Consistent icon design.
    The graphic elements can
    be combined for current
    functions and for functions
    to be developped. The
    graphic elements are like
    words. Designers can create
    new sentences. Drivers
    knowing the elements can
    understand new
    combinations of


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    Use of colours

    Same use of colours for all
    information. Colour is used
    for control of attention.

    Use of colour, white: no
    braking curve.

    Use of colour, yellow:
    brake shortly.

    Use of colour, orange:
    brake now!!

    Use of colour, red:
    brake too late, intervention.

    This use of colour for
    control of user's attention
    can be used for any systems,
    for instance for passengers
    and teachers.

    To top of mmi concepts list.


    At the right maximum train
    speed profile ahead. Lower
    maximum speed at 1000m.

    The planning design was
    based on the experimental
    diagrammatic design
    (see above).

    Time to intervention

    The small square at the top
    left shows that there is
    sufficient time to safety
    system brake intervention.

    Train braking curve is
    close to safety braking
    curve. The square top
    left shows time to
    intervention of the
    safety system. Time
    to intervention depends
    on maximum permitted
    speed minus current
    speed and the traction/
    brake application. When
    looking outside the
    square is in the visal
    periphery but will be
    noticed when it comes
    up because: the
    periphery is sensitive
    for changes, for high
    contrast changes and
    the square is at the
    top of the screen.
    This design was based
    on the experimental
    animated design
    (see above). Nautical screens

    Current signs,
    European standard(Cevni)
    signs, experimental signs.

    Underwater tresshold
    in lock

    The problem
    Several markers for
    keep clear from doors.
    Source: Lock Kiel canal, 2011.

    A clear text and sign for
    the cill problem.
    Keep clear from the door.
    Source: UK.

    An other clear sign
    for the cill problem.
    Keep 1 meter clear
    from the lock door.
    Source: experimental demo design,
    Verhoef, 2011

    . Underwater tresshold
    under bridge

    Source: Amsterdam,
    near Central Station, 2011.
    This is a Cevni sign.

    A lateral tresshold sign that is understood.
    Source: experimental demo design, Verhoef, 2011.

    Mooring sign

    Current sign.
    Source: Enkhuizen,
    The Netherlands, 2011.

    Source: Vienna, 2011.

    Source: Verhoef demo, 2011.

    Dam sign

    What is the meaning
    of this Cevni sign?
    Source: Belgium Ardennes, 2011.

    This sign stands for:
    dam in 100 meter.
    Source: experimental demo design,
    Verhoef, 2011.

    Shallow shore sign

    What is the meaning
    of the black arrow
    pointing left and the
    white arrow
    pointing right?
    Source: Hamburg, 2011.
    Cevni sign.

    Keep 5 meter from shore,
    shallow shore.
    Source: experimental demo design,
    Verhoef, 2011.

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