What is information design?

I’ve recently discovered that nearly everything I’m interested in can be captured under the title of ‘INFORMATION DESIGN’. Apparently this is now recognised as a field of knowledge in its own right.

Why is this exciting?

It’s a bit hard to explain. It’s the same feeling you get when you have a mystery ailment – an odd collection of symptoms that seem to have no connection – and you discover that this is actually has a name, for example, arachibutyrophobia (the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth). It’s oddly comforting to find that something has a name. It makes it more legitimate somehow.

Three reasons to celebrate

I like the fact that information design is a recognised field for three reasons:

  1. I am interested in a lot of different areas and it pleases me that these are all connected and that I am not just finding it hard to concentrate.
  2. It means that there are a number of good books on the topic that I can read and learn from.
  3. It means that there are conferences and websites where people exchange ideas about this very interesting topic.

What do information designers do?

Information designers turn complicated concepts into things that are less confusing and easier to comprehend. They help people get things done. They design forms that people find easy to complete, they write clear instructions for new products, they help people find their way around shopping centres and universities.

They also design:

  • Websites
  • Maps
  • Reports
  • Slides
  • Signs
  • Packaging
  • Menus
  • Infographics

 Why does it matter?

If you are trying to find out how your new coffee machine works and the instructions aren’t very clear, it’s hardly a life threatening situation, but it can be annoying. If you are trying to find the entrance to the emergency centre at your local hospital and the signs aren’t clear, it could actually be a matter of life and death. What both scenarios have in common is that they leave us feeling confused and anxious and we often blame ourselves for our failure to understand. We shouldn’t do this because more often than not, the problem is that the information itself is poorly designed.

People come first

Information design matters because it puts the focus on the people who are going to use the information, not on the information itself.

I think it’s a fascinating field and over the next few months I’m planning to learn as much as I can and extend my skills.

I hope you will share my journey.


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2 thoughts on “What is information design?

  1. OMG!! Thank you – I’ve just had your same epipheny! Wow. That’s what I do (or at least, value highly and want to do better) – information design! Awesome!

    1. It’s so lovely to get your feedback. I wrote this post seven years ago, so I had to go back and read it again to see if my views had changed, but of course they haven’t. It probably isn’t overstating things to say that now, more than ever, people need clear information.

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