Information Design: The Understanding Discipline

“Information design is the integrator that brings other disciplines together to create excellent information solutions.”The term information design (ID) is a topic of some confusion and uncertainty among practitioners involved with information solutions. This is, in some part, a result of the rise and evolution of information architecture (IA), which evolved with the explosion of the web. Information architecture has increased both its momentum and its critical role in successful web solutions, to the point of general confusion (and is further complicated by the similarity in the terms information architecture and information design).

As recently as 1998, Richard Saul Wurman (who coined the term information architecture) and other leaders in the information design/information architecture field treated ID and IA as synonyms. At the same time, other people were taking the moniker information architecture in a different direction—very rapidly—to specifically address issues of content and structure in web development. Today, while the key people involved in the IA community have stretched into more diverse interests, it is still widely accepted that—at its core—information architecture is a discipline grounded in issues of structure and content (particularly for websites), with a strong connection to the library sciences. Information Design, meanwhile, has not enjoyed a similar evolution.

Which leaves the question: What is information design?

About information design

There is not consensus on exactly what information design is. Definitions of the discipline from stakeholders who associate themselves with the field are consistent only in that they are typically high level, not very concrete and do not offer much in the way of direct practical application.

Consider these definitions of information design taken from a broad cross-section of authorities associated with the field:

  • Complex ideas communicated with clarity, precision and efficiency

  • The point of intersection between language disciplines, art and aesthetic disciplines, information disciplines, communication disciplines, behavior and cognition disciplines, business and law and media production technologies
  • “Sense-Making”
  • The structure through which visual disciplines are expressed
  • Contributed to by writers, researchers, aestheticians, popularizers, collectors, inventors, systematizers and analysts, as well as universalists
  • The defining, planning and shaping of the contents of a message and the environments it is presented in with the intention of achieving particular objectives in relation to the needs of users
  • How we interact with and represent information
  • A design that supports the goals of the user and the creator

Another notable characteristic of information design is the broad range of fields that associate themselves with it. There are meaningful groups within graphic designers, writers and information architects that all make some claim to the term information design. Typically, disciplines are easy to define in at least a basic tactical way. Graphic designers provide visual solutions. Writers provide written solutions. Information architects provide structural design solutions. Information design ostensibly comes down to a broad set of information deliverables, not any single type or particular component of other disciplines.

Information design as integrator

In the past I have written that information design is the director of other disciplines, borrowing the metaphor of a movie director that Beth Mazur and a number of others have used in this and related contexts. In retrospect, I do not think that analogy is correct. Rather, information design is the integrator that brings other disciplines together to create excellent information solutions.

Information design addresses high level information problems to provide the most possible clarity, understanding and effectiveness. It is not important what tools are used to achieve it, but rather that the final deliverable provides the greatest possible degree of understanding. In order to achieve that ambitious end, information design must be open to any and every discipline or field of thought. It must also encourage the implementation of systemized processes for the design of successful information, synthesizing the established processes in the myriad of information disciplines.

Even more, information design must actively encourage and participate in research that increases our understanding of information and the effect that it has: how and why people respond to information, how the human brain processes information and builds knowledge, as well as how humans organize knowledge and convert it into improved behavior and operation. Better understanding of these factors will enable us to create the best possible information, interfaces and communications.

Information design serves as a resource for other disciplines engaged in the creation of better understanding and the building of human knowledge. By identifying relevant disciplines, networking with thought leaders and tactical practitioners, and participating in the creation of a body of knowledge, information design informs the activities and improves the capabilities of anyone engaged in creating information.

Think of it this way: graphic design (or information architecture or technical writing, etc.) is to information design as geometry (or algebra or calculus, etc.) is to mathematics. Each of the different disciplines is important and advanced in their own right, but they are also part of a greater, integrated whole. Mathematics is not more important than geometry; it is simply the area of endeavor that geometry falls within. Information design is a macro approach that clarifies relationships between different disciplines participating together as part of a powerful chorus. It provides valuable causality and helps clarify relationships between the areas that fall within its domain.

Information designer as consultant and tactician

Given that information design is the integrator of other disciplines, who is an information designer? The role can manifest in either a general or specific way:

  • As a consultant, an information designer is someone who evaluates information problems in order to recommend the best possible solutions. A generalist with a broad yet solid understanding of human and social factors, information, communication, experience, organizations, systems and delivery platforms, this person guides people and organizations toward appropriate solutions.

  • As a tactician, an information designer is anyone with a deep, specialized knowledge of one or more tactical disciplines that individually (or as part of a team) creates information solutions. They use the title because they consciously embrace information design as a guide for maximizing understanding through the communication of their deliverables.

Of course, one does not need to call himself an information designer in order to benefit from the discipline. Anyone engaged in the creation of meaningful information, of any title or disciplinary background, can gain value from it. The title simply underscores a focus on multi-disciplinary, information design-based methods to solve information problems. Calling oneself an information designer is a tacit statement that, regardless of the tools you use, your focus is on creating the most effective possible communication. That is why so many people, from such diverse disciplines, use the title. What binds them together is a focus on creating understanding.

Information design: practical application

Anyone involved in the creation and communication of information can glean immediate benefit from learning more about information design. While the basic approach is rather intuitive—staying mindful of the big picture, using any approach or tool that would best accomplish your goals—the specifics of integrating it may not be.

To utilize information design when solving your own information and communication challenges, try integrating these simple techniques and principles into your process:

  • Remember that information only has value when it is successfully communicated. If it cannot be accessed or understood it does not have value.

  • Identify and stay true to the goals that your information is intended to support. Setting and achieving the correct goals is the very purpose of the eventual information and the reason why information needs strong design. Take the time to make sure your goals are sound, and remain focused on them throughout the process.
  • Be mindful of how you create and disseminate information during development. If the information and communication with the client or internal team is not well designed, you are more likely to end up with an information deliverable that does not promote the most understanding. The design of good information is not limited to the final product.
  • Understand how the information you are creating will be experienced or communicated by the participants. Who is the intended audience? Which of their senses will/should/could be engaged? How will the context of that experience, or the situational variables involved, influence the information itself? Knowledge of the interaction and exploration of different experiential factors will make the information as meaningful to the eventual participants as possible.
  • Understand the information domain. Valid and thorough context is critical to providing strong information solutions. There is a lot of focus and scholarship on usability but precious little attention given to the rest of the relevant domain in the design process. Participants are influenced by history, by the market and by cultural factors. Some information disciplines actively account for these, but many do not. Information design insists that they must.
  • Seek out the information that you need. No one synthesizes everything that goes into well-designed information. The Internet provides us immediate access to information on every topic germane to information design. Be aggressive in learning more, asking questions and seeking out answers. While the Internet is the easiest medium for answers, you should also read books and—best of all—seek out and cultivate relationships with others who have the knowledge and background that you need.
  • Make certain the information promotes understanding. Be sure that, as much as possible, it is:
    • Relevant: immediately valuable and appropriate. Consider relevance not only from the perspective of what your participants want, but also from the perspective of what they need in order for your overall goals to be realized.

    • Clear: easily integrated and understood. You must eliminate as many barriers to understanding as possible. Clear information successfully addresses the needs of the participants and as many of the operating factors within the information domain as possible.
    • Memorable: makes an impact and leaves a lasting impression. In a world of true information overload, the information you design needs to stand out. It needs to get attention and it needs to promote memory and recall. There is so very much information (or, more accurately, data) competing for limited attention and interest that you must rise past the noise surrounding you.

These steps are appropriate for everyone engaged in the creation of information, regardless of discipline or approach. You probably incorporate some or many of these steps already, but approaching the process in a more formal, procedural way will help you stay focused on what is important and remain mindful that the different tactical components that contribute to successful information solutions are part of a larger, more complex whole. It is difficult to create information that successfully accomplishes its goals with definite relevance, clarity and memorability, but incorporating information design makes it far more likely that you will achieve that success.

By participating in the general information design community, as well as the communities of our own specific disciplines and media, we gain access to a network that will enlighten our work.

The understanding discipline

Information design is not the same as information architecture; it is not merely an “enlightened” version of graphic design; it is not somehow a niche component in interface or experience design; it is not technical writing. It is a broad and exploratory discipline that encourages research and development, understands that a galaxy of disparate tactics are bound together in creating successful information solutions, endeavors to understand people and the world as thoroughly as possible to enable better design and endeavors to identify and synthesize any discipline that contributes to better understanding.

Given the complicated information problems that we will face increasingly in the years ahead, the need for information design could not be more profound. By establishing a shared recognition of what ID is and how it contributes to the work we do, we will continue to make progress in our efforts to bring clarity and understanding, and perhaps even more broadly to improve the state of, the world.

Thanks to Nathan Shedroff, Peter J. Bogaards, and the team at Thread for their generous input.

Dirk Knemeyer is the Chief Design Officer for Thread Inc. in Toledo, Ohio, where he is responsible for corporate Design, vision setting, and strategic planning, as well as providing various Information Design services for key client projects. Previously a college professor and media personality, Dirk has designed a variety of brand experiences for corporations, including the leading North American manufacturer for the former Mannesmann AG, headquartered in Schwaig, Germany.

Posted in Methods, Workplace and Career | 16 Comments »

16 Comments

  • Andrei Herasimchuk

    July 16, 2003 at 1:59 pm

    “Information design is not the same as information architecture; it is not merely an “enlightened” version of graphic design; it is not somehow a niche component in interface or experience design.”

    I doubt anyone truly experienced in interface or prodcut design would think that information design is a “niche component.” Not anyone who understands the depth of the field at least.

    Graphic design is as equally deep as information design. Interaction Design is also equally as deep. All of these fields, graphic design, information design and interaction design are enormous in scope and depth. To think any one of these as niche to the other is simple false.

    I personally think you incorrectly stated this analogy:

    “…graphic design (or information architecture or technical writing, etc.) is to information design as geometry (or algebra or calculus, etc.) is to mathematics.”

    The analogy I draw is this:

    Graphic design, information design and interaction design is to interface design (or product design if you disagree with an old school term) as algebra, geometry and calculus is to mathematics.

    This is the only grouping of the fields that I have found that are practical and work in all areas of tehcnology. From web site application design, to desktop software, to integrated hardware/software solutions.

    Andrei

  • Andrei Herasimchuk

    July 16, 2003 at 3:16 pm

    One of these days, I’ll learn to type. Never let your children learn how to type on a touch pad keyboard, like I did with a Timex Sinclair at the young age of 10, learning how to program BASIC. Bad habits learned young die very hard.

    Andrei

  • Maria Acosta

    July 16, 2003 at 4:36 pm

    I strongly disagree with this statement:
    “Graphic design is as equally deep as information design. Interaction Design is also equally as deep. All of these fields, graphic design, information design and interaction design are enormous in scope and depth. To think any one of these as niche to the other is simple false.”
    As I understand it Information Design is an integrator and a controller of all communication disciplines so it can not be equally deep as the others.
    Graphic designers, interaction designers and other practitioners of communication disciplines will look at ID as the guidance for success on communicating their messages clearly and effectively. I think ID is way deeper than graphic design and interaction design.
    :-)

  • Andrei Herasimchuk

    July 16, 2003 at 8:14 pm

    Care to give your reasons on why you believe graphic design is not as deep as information design? Or that interaction design is not as deep?

    Would you claim the work of somone like Paul Rand is lesser in depth and scope than the work of someone like Edward Tufte?

    If you are, and if this article is implying that notion as well, then I’m all ears on the details on why one would think that is the case.

    Andrei

  • Dirk

    July 16, 2003 at 9:26 pm

    Hi Andrei,

    Your latest questions stemming from Maria’s post dovetail nicely into addressing some of your earlier comments.

    I consider both Edward Tufte *and* Paul Rand information designers. While Tufte’s manifestation of ID is more linear to understand – he is very literally taking what we popularly consider data and synthesizing it into information – Rand was really doing the same thing. He was attempting to achieve certain goals, considering a variety of different contexts in order to understand and be successful within the domain (identifying data), and then condensing (carefully selecting the appropriate data – in the form of letters and graphics) to produce information (UPS logo, for instance) that communicated with high density and promoted understanding.

    I am not trying to imply value or worth in this article; in fact, I was very careful to try and avoid doing so. It is a question of classification and domain. The larger umbrella – and I think where our disconnect on mutual understanding – is that the overall domain of design is not classified in any generally accepted way, so we do not share a common vocabulary. While I imagine that we both understand the different components of creating effective information we do not perceive boundaries and classifications the same way.

    At the risk of oversimplification, I am actually saying that Information Design is a *broad* classification; the *depth* is provided by the components that go into the design of successful information, such as writing, structure and organization, sensorial interface. What integrates them is information, that they are each a component and need to be appropriately balanced in their given context for that information to be effective.

    I did not catch the original typing error you mention, but it is past midnight and I am bleary eyed. :-) However, your reminiscing about programming in BASIC hits close to home. Ah, the days of the Apple II+ and creating textual “choose your own adventure” games!

    Dirk

  • Andrei Herasimchuk

    July 17, 2003 at 12:21 pm

    “I consider both Edward Tufte *and* Paul Rand information designers.”

    Wow. That’s a fairly bold statement. Maybe someone should ask Tufte himself what he thinks. I pointed Tufte to the Raskin article last month on the notion there is no such thing as information deisgn on his site and Tufte said that maybe “information design” was really more “analytical design.”

    Is Paul Rand an “analytical designer?”

    I don’t buy that. Paul Rand was very proud of the fact that what was once known as “commerical art” became to be known as “graphic design” and was very much a vital business unit in the organization. Much of having to do with his work and what he thought in the field.

    Rand’s work is very different from Tufte’s work. The end results they produce are different beasts. Pull out their books, read what they focus on. Flipping through them and you can see that what they focus on, where their work goes, are very different things.

    I would agree there are overlaps in what each does, but the end goal, where they are driving their work, is entirely different.

    “At the risk of oversimplification, I am actually saying that Information Design is a *broad* classification…”

    I realize this. I find that classification incorrect and a bit presumptuous (to be blunt).

    In real world use on the job, if people in our field try and switch the classification of graphic design into something like information design, what will occur is yet more chaos in the field for how others in the business organization understand what it is we do. And IMHO, it won’t have helped because the end work being done isn’t classified or sectioned off in that way.

    It is vital that the field of interface/product design get a single voice on what it is that we do to fit into the business. Too many awkward titles and classififcations are occuring in this field sicne 1996 and the browser became popular, and what is happening as the end result is that the design teams inside the business organization are losing their authority and power due to confusion on “who does what.”

    Andrei

  • Dirk

    July 17, 2003 at 2:59 pm

    Andrei wrote:

    “In real world use on the job, if people in our field try and switch the classification of graphic design into something like information design, what will occur is yet more chaos in the field for how others in the business organization understand what it is we do. And IMHO, it won’t have helped because the end work being done isn’t classified or sectioned off in that way.

    It is vital that the field of interface/product design get a single voice on what it is that we do to fit into the business. Too many awkward titles and classififcations are occuring in this field sicne 1996 and the browser became popular, and what is happening as the end result is that the design teams inside the business organization are losing their authority and power due to confusion on ‘who does what.'”

    We agree on the goal – we need clarity and defined domain to empower Design. We just disagree on the classification and manifestation. I would be interested in your justification of what and why “interface/product design” is the better approach. What are the other domains that are above, parallel to and below “interface/product” in your model? What is your definition of Design? etc.

    We are speaking different languages, even if only by different perceptions of the same words, and it is unlikely that we will achieve any sort of agreement from that position. That is one of the reasons that I do not find your perspective “presumptuous” at all, despite the fact that I do not agree with it. In fact, I respect it.

    Andrei wrote:
    “I would agree there are overlaps in what each does, but the end goal, where they are driving their work, is entirely different.”

    Tufte is trying to create information that results in, for example, the Challenger Space Shuttle not being launched. He has identified an action that he wants taken (don’t launch; avoid catastrophe) accumulates data to support that, applies various tools to the data (graphics, structure, layout, etc.) and organizes and presents it in a way that he believes has the greatest possible chance of effectively creating the desired action.

    Rand is trying to create information that results in, for example, people around the world spending more money with UPS. He has identified an action that he wants taken (trust the brand, buy the product), accumulates data to support that, applies various tools to the data (in Rand’s case, the representation of the data is more *abstract* but fundamentally still data) and organizes and presents it in a way that he believes has the greatest possible chance of effectively creating the desired action.

    Neither one would necessarily use those words, or lay it out the same way, but their contextualized self-perception is ultimately academic: their perspective of their place within the domain is extremely subjective.

    Yes, their processes are different – because they think differently, see their tools differently, have different backgrounds – but at the end of the day, what they are doing is quite similar. And what they have in common is that they are designing information deliverables.

    So lets say that Tufte is an “analytical designer” because his information deliverable is more driven by representations of numerical and analytical data, whereby Rand is a “graphic designer” because his information deliverable is more driven by representations of color, shape, form, perspective. That is fine – they can have those titles. Nonetheless, at the end of the day what both of them have designed – while different to some degree – remains information and share some level of similar thought process. They are both information designers. Despite their differences, they have ID in common.

    I suspect from your comments and word choice that we will not agree on this classification regardless of our respective analytical presentations. And that is OK. I *am* pleased that we share clarity of domain as an ultimate goal for our industry in general. This, more than anything, is the barrier preventing designers of all stripe from realizing appropriate influence within the operating paradigm.

  • Andrei Herasimchuk

    July 17, 2003 at 3:39 pm

    As a note, I should say I completey agreed with you on this article:

    http://experiencethread.com/articles/intel_artcl.cfm

    Which now confuses me, as your thoughts in this current B&A article seem to be changing what I *thought* you meant in that article.

    But maybe we can discuss that some other time. You asked:

    “I would be interested in your justification of what and why “interface/product design” is the better approach.”

    I already stated the classification I see: graphic design, information design and interaction design folded into a larger field known either as interface design or product design. I’m not picky on interface versus product terminology, and actually think product design would be a more pragmatic model when thinking about the future of the field.

    The justification?

    It has to do simply with what I consider the most efficient way to assign tasks to people inside a design team, how to build a team with the neccessary key components and strengths, what the person or manager in charge should know in order to make the correct decisions and/or compromises when needed, and what breakdown in a team would work for the largest number product types (like a web enterprise application versus a hardware/software device like a Palm Pilot versus a traditional desktop client application like Adobe Photoshop.)

    The difference between various types of products will become less defined as high-tech moves into every aspect of the products and services around us. In this worldview, I see people who need all the skillsets in the three areas I classified.

    The intent behind each of the three activites is probably more where my classifications come from. The intent of a Rand versus the intent of a Tufte is different. In that, I see the need to have the strengths of those very two different intents called out. There is a third intent as well, the interaction piece.

    One of these days, I’ll finish a white paper I started on this topic… Every time I sit down to write more on it, I realize it might be a big as a book, and I have no desire to spend time wriiting a book right now.

    By the way, I disagree with the statement:

    “Rand is trying to create information that results in, for example, people around the world spending more money with UPS.”

    Rand did no such thing, to my recollection. He never stated his goals as such in any of his books in this manner. I don’t have his books at work with me to find the quotes, but will try and do so later.

    In the end game, we probably do agree on much. But the devil is in the details, as always. I’m concerned with how the Design team lives in the business of the future, and even more concerned with how ill-prepared so many design students seem to be coming out of school these days.

    Andrei

  • Eric Diamond

    July 18, 2003 at 7:35 pm

    Andrei wrote: “It is vital that the field of interface/product design get a single voice on what it is that we do to fit into the business. Too many awkward titles and classififcations are occuring in this field sicne 1996 and the browser became popular, and what is happening as the end result is that the design teams inside the business organization are losing their authority and power due to confusion on “who does what.”

    I completely agree. Within design there are always subspecialties, but the practice of design as a discipline should not become so specialized that it discourages the influx of new ideas. Some of the best graphic design I have ever seen has come from architects, painters and even electrical engineers. (The masterpiece London Underground system map was done by an electrical engineer, Harry Beck).

    I am beginning to see this kind of overspecialization present among some information architects. When developing Rich Internet Applications, they are so tied to defining usability in terms of HTML and the browser, they are completely unprepared to design a system that has no navigation. Does an RIA really need a site architecture?

    I also agree with him that Product Design is a better model for interface design than graphic or environmental design. Graphic designers have long held an anymosity toward research that product designers do not share, and I think ther developmet process of design protoype test build is closer to what we do than thumbnail, comp, mechanical and print.

    Eric

  • Maria Acosta

    July 23, 2003 at 6:26 pm

    Andrei Herasimchuk said:
    “Care to give your reasons on why you believe graphic design is not as deep as information design? Or that interaction design is not as deep?

    Would you claim the work of somone like Paul Rand is lesser in depth and scope than the work of someone like Edward Tufte?

    If you are, and if this article is implying that notion as well, then I’m all ears on the details on why one would think that is the case.”

    Andrei, first let me justify the simplicity of my comments, English is not my native language so is often hard for me to put on words what I think . It would be easier for me to comment in Spanish but I am afraid that not a option in this discussion. :-)

    Going back to your request I am not trying to let down graphic design, or worst, rest importance to this practice, I am a graphic designer myself and I understand how deep it is. If you do not buy the description of Information Design being a *integrator* I will try to put it in other words.

    Every graphic designer, interface designer, product designer, etc., no matter what background, style, thinking or process they follow if you they are doing their job right can be cataloged as Information Designers, in fact I consider myself and Information Designer. Currently my title reads as “Graphic Designer” but I do not think that is relevant, what is important is when I design I follow different parameters that I used to. Instead prioritizing visuals and leaving the Information in a lover level of importance, Information design is like a reminder on how to achieve the balance between Information and Design, helping to create the best solution, clear, understandable and visually attractive.

    Although Information Design is being around for a while now is coming towards us very strongly and is not because a few have agreed on, it is because we needed it. Customers demand it without even knowing it, they need better results that can separate them from their competition.

    Any action where:
    1. Anlazing data
    2. Search of solution
    3. Translation of solution through a communication language, visual, oral…(five senses)
    is taking place needs to be guided by Information Design to be successful, out of the borders of Graphic Design or Interface Design, that is why Information Designer is way deeper.

    Another think to add is that many people would think when they read this is that graphic designers are well aware of the importance of the “Information” contained on every piece they design, but everyday and see something that proves otherwise.

    Something else that is brought by Information Design is the open possibilities that this discipline brings to designers, the opportunity to improve and be active in fields where they hardly have been before like “medicine” where the small real states available for instructions are an huge obstacle for clarity, but that is another discussion itself…

    I hope this clarifies my position a little better, let me now if you have any other questions.

  • Lin Wilson

    September 28, 2003 at 6:17 am

    re: the Rand vs. Tufte topic

    Here’s my take on this….

    Paul Rand was a brilliant designer, BUT, when creating a logo, this is branding, and branding is about selling something. It’s marketing.

    Edward Tufte, and his ilk, are about presenting clear FACTS so that the user can make an “informed” decision. It’s hallmark is truth. And marketing is not always about truth, it’s also about spin.

    That’s the difference, information design as influenced by Tufte and Wurman, has no spin. And branding and corporate identity, is about positioning a company and manipulating perception. This does not make Rand’s efforts shameful, I think he honestly tried to get to the heart of all of his client’s personalities. It’s what your client does with the design that makes the goals different.

    (this is not to say that an information graphic cannot be made to spin, if one hides the facts, or focuses on the wrong information, then it is spin – my point is the philosophy)
    Lin

  • David Locke

    September 29, 2003 at 7:02 pm

    I’m a writer and I design publications as in book design, graphics design, and information design. I’ve had art people ask me how I did some of the things I did.

    I do information design with one purpose in mind and that is to reduce the amount of time it takes for my readers/users to find what they need. The utlimate use is obvious and immediate. I use information design to save my employers and clients tons of money. It’s not a data dump. It’s a highly refined knife. If you need a spoon, then you need something designed differently.

    I read Wurman back when Wurman was just defining information design. Wrurman certainly practiced information design, but never defined it clearly, so we’ve been asking what is ID for a very long time.

    Tufte says he is analytical, because he never designed anything. He looked at what other people designed and built theory from that. I don’t know how Tufte came to define information design.

    I also come from the world of software, pre-web software. The art and software communities practice differently. The art community is bringing humanness to the design of interfaces and interactions. The software development community is catching on, but is mostly stuck in a tradition of functionality. Interface comes last.

    But, both worlds design. And, the design process is the same in all domains that practice design. Design aligns and mediates between requirements and implementation. This is true in all media.

    The story I tell is Snow White. Long ago around Tuetonic camp fires, the priests told the story of Snow White. It took the priests years to learn it and tell it. Everyone told it the same way. There was no leaway in the oral tradition. But, the story was told on purpose (requirements) and was implemented via voice (medium). Somewhere long before it was told, it was designed.

    When the Brothers Grimm came along and wrote down all those Teutonic tales, they had to rework the story, because the implementation constraints of fairy tales are different from the implementation constraints of oral tradition.

    When someone put Snow White on film, again, the story was the requirements, and film the implementation constraints. The director and his crew, the screenwriter, and the producers all contribute design towards the artifact of that film. The screenplay was yet again another remediation, another satisficing of requirements through implemention constraints.

    So we end up with an animated version. Here animiation technologies provide the constraints and the story provides the requirements.

    Then, we end up with the metal lunchbox with the cell animations printed on the outside. Again, technical constraints from the medium, and story requirements being arbitrated by design.

    That’s what happens across all the mediums including manufacturing plants. Requirements are transferred to a new set of implementation constraints by design.

    So what of software design and software architecture? Architecture is a design issue. It is not separate from software design. Architecture may be seen as a higher calling, because of the risks involved and the need to coordinate the team of designers, so you see where more experienced designers become architects.

    Information design is similar in my view. Information archiitecture will only take you so far. Then, the information designers build on the framework laid out by the information architect.

    After reading this discussion, I can see where the dismissal of content comes from. So I would have to ask, what role does copy play in an ad?

    The person that wants to exclude writers and other non-art people from the definition of information design is making a mistake. Content is touched by many. Art possibly by few.

    Software programmers are losing control of the interface. But, this was their own fault by issolating themselves. People in art can make the same mistake. Diversity trumps exclusion. Information design has been bigger than art from the day Wurman defined it to the degree that he did.

    And, if you design without goal or purpose, don’t tell your clients. If you design without constraints, you know that your design will lack creativity. Creativity is intimately tied to constraints and that uber constraint, the budget.

  • David Locke

    September 29, 2003 at 7:12 pm

    One more point. In the art domain, the design process is taught as a craft. It is transferred through experience rather than description. This methodology is the way that tacit and implicit knowledge is tranferred. You can’t necessarily write it down. But, it can still transfer processes.

    When people learn they move through a gradient that runs: unconscious-unknowing, conscious-unknowing, conscious-knowing, and finally unconscious-knowing. Ulitmately, those things that we are each best at are things that we might not be able to articulate. So we say to ourselves and of others, “they never articulated the goal.” No, but their methodologies and results managed this implicitly.

  • David Locke

    October 1, 2003 at 10:50 am

    There are ways to market with facts. One is you teach them. Seth Goodin hints at curriculum marketing, or exposting prospects and customers to content over time. Another way is to control the criteria through which those facts are considered.

    A piece of information is designed for one or more information touchpoints. But, that is restricting the view to the artifact. A good information touchpoint is linked through enactment chains and spread across what I call the enterprise information touchpoint collection. This is a different architecture than what information architects focus on.

    Information touchpoints in the enterprise scheme include ALL such touchpoints whether they are branded, graphics design, print, web-based, experiential, rich media, telemarketing scripts, what have you. The business pays for them and expects business value in return.

    Ultimately, the information can be subjected to information design at the same time the piece is subject to graphics design and interaction design, or any other design. There is no necessity for a distinction between useful information and brand.

    The issue will be have I tuned the information to its ultimate and immediate use. Interaction design asks similar questions as does graphic design.

  • Andrei Herasimchuk

    October 1, 2003 at 12:05 pm

    I have abolsutely no idea what point you are trying to make David, in relation to the content in this thread.

  • B. Mendez

    February 10, 2004 at 7:19 pm

    “Design of information representation”, or “Information representation design” should be the term used when referring to “information design”.

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