Today was our first day back in University after the Christmas break and we are starting the term off with David Wrenne on his field topic, The Significance of Information.
What is Information Design?
Information design is the preparation of information so that people can then use it more easily. When data is complex or unstructured, it can be difficult to comprehend. This is where a visual representation is a great idea to be used instead – they can often express their meaning much more clearly to the viewer. The term is commonly used for graphic design for displaying information effectively, rather than just attractively or for artistic expression.
Historically, information design has appeared throughout history. When thinking about it, some examples of information design throughout history that come to mind could be Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, or even prehistoric cave paintings done by cavemen around 40,000 years ago – both of these are technically information design; they are visualisations of data. One more recent example of information design could be: the London Underground Map, originally designed by Harry Beck in 1931. The first image shows what the underground actually looks like – as you can see, it is a bit of a mess and seems to be mainly squiggles. Although the design is not perfectly geographically correct and to scale in the second image, it was developed into a readable piece of information design for viewer’s to easily understand. The third image is what the map looks like to date; more needed information has been added but it is kept clear and concise.
In information design, it is not important what tools are used to achieve the outcome, instead designers focus on ensuring that the deliverable provides the greatest possible degree of understanding. Designers must remember that everyone is the reader and for this reason information design must be open to any and every discipline or field of thought.
Information design has also helped designers to see the behavioural reactions and responses that viewers have on seeing different pieces of design, thus helping them to decipher what works best in different situations and topics. It teaches us how the human brain processes information and builds knowledge, as well as how humans organise this knowledge and then convert it into improved behaviour and operation.
Overall, my favourite quote and definition of the term, ‘information design’ from this morning’s lecture with David is, “sense-making”. I love the simplicity and literality of it, because the process of information design is literally taking data and then putting it into a more creative and more interesting way of portraying and ‘making sense’ of it.