Definition of Information Design
"My own belief is that there is a unique design practice
that can be identified as information design. Its purpose
is the systematic arrangement and use of
communication carriers, channels, and tokens to
increase the understanding of those participating in a
specific conversation or discourse.
-Robert Jacobson, Information Design, p 4
What is Information Design?
Resource composed of 16 chapters written by many different
authors most of whom identify themselves as "information
What is its purpose?
To answer the following:
1. Is there such a thing as information design?
2. If there is, what might constitute a formal theory of
3. How can we implement this theory in a systematic
practice that can be described to others and taught to
new entrants to our field?
(Jacobson, Information Design, p 4)
Components of Information Design
2 Practice of
Design of Information
Because there are many topics covered in Information
Design, readers may find it helpful to read or refer to
chapters that are of particular relevance to them as
illustrated in the chart on the next page.
Chapter 5 Chapter 11
Signage & Interactive
Theoretical Designing for
Foundations Chapter 4 Chapter 12
Human- Meaning of of Information
Chapter 3 Design
Sense- Ambiguity in
Emergence Chapter 8 Chapter 14
of the Field Chapter 15
Chapter 7 Tools Chapter 9 Materials Web
and Public Design
of Information Collaborativ
Individual e Design
Concepts in Information Design
Because of the number of authors that contributed to the book,
there are numerous concepts and opinions expressed in
Information Design. I chose to focus on and create graphical
representations of the following three concepts:
1. How data takes on new meaning
3. Differences in Perception
When does data take on new meaning?
One idea expressed by several authors in the book is that
information architects design data in order to transform it into
Data Information Knowledge
Data becomes information when it is well organized and
classified. Information becomes knowledge when it is
integrated into a user's web of knowledge.
Another concept explained in Information Design is wayfinding.
It refers to the way in which an individual makes sense of or
navigates an area. As illustrated in the chart below, wayfinding
can be complicated because there is almost always more than
one way to get from point A to point B.
Task Decision Further Actions & Decisions
Airport Check Departures & Arrivals
To get to Terminal Look for Help Desk
Airport Get to the
Terminal Correct Take Elevator
Floor Use Stairs
through Look for a Map
security Observe and Follow Others
In order to effectively design spaces (virtual or otherwise) in
which people use wayfinding as a way to navigate, information
architects must study and understand the ways in which
individuals are using the spaces and where there is a
disconnect in understanding.
"To be efficient, wayfinding communication, should not just
follow the architectural conception of the layout and be
relegated to "mopping up the mess," but should be utilized from
the first to define the wayfinding problems future users will have
-Romedi Passini, Information Design, p 95
Differences in Perception
The perception of information is limited by several factors
including physical limitations, cultural differences, level of
engagement, etc. An information designer must compete with
all of these factors in order to make his or her design effective
Designers must recognize the user's Ability to Understand
level of awareness. Complex Information
For Example: A driver on the
road does not have very long to
read a sign which is why they understanding
must be as clear and noticeable
as possible. lo
in motion stationary
Lost in Translation
Only information that makes it through personal filters &
environmental distractions can become knowledge.
Differing Opinions in Information Design
One of the most valuable aspects of the book is the number of
different expert opinions of information design.
“Information design is defined as the art and science if
preparing information so that it can be used by human beings
with efficiency and effectiveness”
-Robert E. Horn, Information Design, p 15
"Information no matter what it is called--data, knowledge, or
fact, song, story, or metaphor--has always been designed."
-Brenda Dervin, Information Design, p 36
"Information cannot be designed; what can be designed are the
modes of transfer and the representations of information."
-Jef Raskin, Information Design, p 342
Who it is useful for
"This book is for information designers. And because all of us,
all the time, are both producers and consumers of information,
it is for you."
-Robert Jacobson, Information Design, p 1
Examples from the text:
● Graphic Designers
● Computer Programmers
● Technical Communications
What will you get out of it?
What it is
● A composition of many different theories and ideas about
● Different perspectives about theory, history, and practice
of information design
● Information is often more theoretical than practical
What it is not
● A How-to on information design
● Written around a single theory, idea, or definition of
Jacobson, R., Horn, R.E., Dervin, B., Cooley, M., Passini, R., Whitehouse, R., . . . Raskin, J. (1999).
Information Design. Robert Jacobson, (Ed.). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
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