Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What is Information Design?

     Like many subjects in the world today, information design has no universal definition. But that doesn't mean that information design is difficult to understand. In short, information design is exactly what it sounds like: the design of information. We experience information design every day on roadside signage, on web pages, in advertising, in the newspaper, in brochures, in the little instruction pages we get in the packaging of our latest gadget, on social networking sites, in atlases and dictionaries, and so on. Information design is the underlying way that information is presented from color to layout and just about everything in between.

     How do we design information? One may design information however one chooses to. But for information design to be effective the designer must understand certain components, and consider several factors.

Components and Their Use in Information Design 

     What components are involved in information design? There are many. But for an introduction, there are concepts of typography, color, graphic elements, use of space, and structure of information.


       Typography has changed dramatically over the years as technology has advanced, but its' core elements have stayed the same. Typography encompasses the layout of text and the use of different fonts and sizes of fonts. Using appropriate typography concepts in information design can make information more desirable to specific audiences, as well as make information easier to navigate and read.

  • COLOR 

       Color affects most people. Effective information designers understand color theory and know how to use color to attract people to their designs, make designs more readable, and draw attention to specific portions of information. The use of color is probably most important in the context of Internet-based publications, since the computer screen captures more colors than most publishers of printed matter could ever dream of capturing.


        Graphic elements play a huge part in present-day information design. Graphic elements can be as simple as a border around a block of text or more complex than an interactive 3-D map. Graphic elements can be used to convey information, enhance information, or to more effectively display information, among other things.


       A good information designer uses space wisely. He doesn't fill every inch of a page with information and rarely prints a single word on a blank page to get the message across. There is a balance where the designer is able to convey information in an organized manner without causing confusion, overwhelming the reader, or making the text difficult to read.


       The structure of information is also important. If in conveying information, the designer starts with the final step in a process and ends with the first, the reader may become confused and get lost in the process of trying to follow the information. Care must be taken in structuring information in such a way that it is useful for the reader.

Factors that Effect Information Design 

      What factors need to be considered? First, a good information designer must know who he is designing information for. For instance, if a designer is designing information to be read and appreciated by teenage girls in a fashion magazine, this designer will use an entirely different set of design ideas than he would were the designer creating an Internet-based learning environment for students of Microbiology at the graduate level.

      In addition to considerations of audience, the information designer must know the capabilities of the medium in which she is going to publish her information. If the designer works for a newspaper, there are constraints of space which are different from a web page. There are also differences in color processing, and the designer may or may not have the ability to design the entire layout of the publication if said publication is partial to the layout they have been using.

      In conjunction with these factors there are also considerations of professional expectation, type of information (financial data vs. instructional materials for instance), accessibility of information, and so on. A good information designer doesn't just know design, she knows audience, presentation styles for various types of information, and sometimes must have a mastery of the language the textual content is presented in, as well.


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  2. I really like your design. You kept it “clean” and attractive. Gray is a nice color for a background and compliments your graphic. The graphic promotes the effectiveness of information design. It set the tone for your “Components and Their Use in Information Design” section. Your writing is organized and well written. Your entire post flows.

    The font type for the headings TYPOGRAPHY, COLOR, GRAPHIC ELEMENTS, USE OF SPACE, and STRUCTURE OF INFORMATION allowed me to skim through quickly and then focus my attention on each idea.

    Your blog is forming nicely. Thanks for sharing it!

  3. I like the dark contrast with the brighter images, it really seems to make them stand out. For me the darker background and type is much easier to read ( minimal light hurts my eyes). I found the font easy to read and not too big or small for the page. I think your post has many elements of information design without taking away from the text.

  4. Nice layout and color scheme. As a whole an attractive and inviting design. I also like the use of the photo to give the visual summary of information design. I look forward to seeing your page evolve and seeing it in its end of course form.

  5. I like your straight forward layout and dark background. The bulleted sections keep it easy to read and the sections broken down help the reading flow. The last section was informative and I agree with what you wrote. -Tom Scofield