Information transfer

At an intense moment in the storyline, characters exchanged text messages on their smartphones. Generally, reading a text message on the television screen does not make for good viewing, but in one particular case the reply to a message was a large emoji. It perfectly expressed the depth of emotion of the respondent and the impact has stuck with me ever since. That is the power of images. Their ability to effectively convey a message is enhanced if they also evoke an emotional response.

The use of images for communication is widespread: from logos and emojis to photographs and artwork. The BINDT graphics convey a better understanding of
non-destructive testing (NDT) than the words themselves.

It may be a sign of my age, but I find emojis simplify instant messaging and, although I use them sparingly (I think!) in emails, they can ensure that the dry text is not misinterpreted. I do not want to ramble on about the downsides and merits of emails, of which there are many, but I would highlight that brevity and the inability to see the sender’s body language can often mean that their content is open to dispute.

Just before writing this, I read an article expounding the difference between the language of communication and the language of expression. The former aims for clarity and is the main vehicle for conversation and science. The latter seeks to go beyond this into our emotional being. Poetry and art use the language of expression, as does body language. While the areas of application of the two languages can be distinct, in the workplace there are instances when both have to be utilised. Since lockdown, video calls have become commonplace. Cameras are switched off for a number of different reasons, but it is necessary to see the video if we want to utilise the language of expression and obtain verifiable confirmation that the recipient is indeed receiving the information.

There are many other useful findings and recommendations to consider and there are still improvements to be made. I am sure you will be able to think of a few to test out. 🤔

Please note that the views expressed in this column are the author’s own personal ramblings for the purpose of encouraging discussion within NDT News. They do not represent the views of Jacobs or BINDT.

Letters can be mailed to The Editor, NDT News, Midsummer House, Riverside Way, Bedford Road, Northampton NN1 5NX, UK. Email: or email Bernard McGrath direct at

Relevance to NDT
In the application of NDT, the most important communication is the inspection procedure. The language of communication is required to ensure clarity on what is needed to reliably apply the inspection technique. Too often, procedures are thought of as a quality assurance document and, as a consequence, they can be opaque and ambiguous. The needs of the operator are not always considered in their authoring.

I have had an interest in the construction of procedures since the Programme for the Assessment of NDT in Industry (PANI) projects in the early 2000s. PANI 2 used what I considered an ‘improved’ procedure in the trials, but when used in PANI 3, the human factors consultant identified a number of deficiencies in it. (My language of expression at the time was 😒). However, it did allow a number of more effective improvements to be recommended for adoption going forward.

Bertovic and Ronneteg made further advances on these recommendations and it is worthwhile reading their report: A few examples from the findings are:
  • Tasks presented in a stepwise and numbered manner
  • Information clearly separated – one-action-per-step rule
  • Increased use of subtitles to separate types of information
  • Increased consistency in the use of bold for emphasis
  • Use of square boxes for notes
  • Notes clearly separated and in grey square boxes for increased emphasis.

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