Information Design: Something New, Something Old


Information Design: What is it?

Information Design is a new arena of activity. People will always use what they find easiest and what’s available to them at the time to make a point or send a message. Which is fine as long as they don’t stay in the dark or be afraid of advancements. We need to have the ability to adapt.


Prior to technological advancements, there was no pressing need for information design because information needed to only travel so far and it involved less people. The third industrial revolution is amongst us. It started with stone tablets and pap papyrus; it then moved to the printing press, and now finally the Internet. With each progression it has become more important to take the design of information into consideration as the audience size increases. Misrepresented information can have consequences; successful information transmission is timeless. Human beings’ ability to observe is our greatest strength, because if we’re not observing, we can’t make a valuable contribution to society, ”Information as a natural thing, potentially movable from place to place by natural means … only the fact that unnatural forces are at work”.

Digital information and the transmission of information over the Internet are completely natural to anybody who grew up with it. For example, I highly doubt my cousin’s six-year-old daughter would know what to do if the Internet went away or changed in a significant way. I do agree with the fact that everything that takes place now is growing to massive scales never before seen. No longer does a single rack of servers do an adequate job of storing information, companies such as Google need to build factory-sized buildings to accommodate all the information being generated and stored. Aside from scale, information design hasn’t changed much except the technologies used.

Can we do things in the information design field now that were never possible in earlier history because of the technologies we now have?

I’m sure we can do more with the technologies that we currently have, and we aren’t taking full advantage of the tools and techniques at our disposal.

Concepts of Information: A Brief History

First point of debate. ‘Information describes an ordered reality but can be “found” only by those with the proper observing skills and technologies.’ I agree and disagree with this statement. I disagree that it can only be found by a select few. Anybody who knows about Google can find anything they want. However, once found it takes somebody who is trained to utilize it correctly. Secondly, information imposes order on a chaotic reality. To me, the whole purpose of information design is to create order out of chaos, so it most certainly needs to be imposed. Thirdly, Information design is varied. It has to vary in order to appeal to a specific group of people with specific interests, goals, etc, but I like my order. Point number 4, “Information is a tool designed by human beings to make sense of a reality assumed to be both chaotic and orderly.” This statement is contradictory. In my opinion, something is either chaotic or orderly. If it’s chaotic, order needs to be brought about.

The Alternative Narrative and Its Implications

“…And a human power to observe that can accurately perceive that reality.” The ability to accurately observe reality is essential. If you fail to observe the bus that’s headed for you as you cross the street, you’re dead. I’m sorry; I had to make a snarky comment, as the quote above is obvious. The choice if reality is either orderly or chaotic is an impossibly simple one. Who doesn’t like really easy choices? I do. Ideally, reality would always be orderly. But, then again, life can be both orderly and chaotic. People are different. Everybody will always see things differently, and that’s ok. Without that, all info designers would be unemployed. Why’s that? Because you’d only need to get your message or point across once in whatever way that may be then be done. I’m all for ameliorating — meaning to make or become better , as I want to live in and create a world where things make sense. If we designate all humans as info designers, everybody could technically become an info designer. However, without proper training, they may not get the full meaning or understanding of what it means to be one. Moreover, the true professional, high quality work alone would surface. Information is all about presenting facts in an accurate and complete way.

If the word ‘fact’ means a reality that is, how can fact result in rebellion?

I’m thinking that if a fact were essentially truth, it would naturally have to take a long process or time to change what people perceive as truth (fact). It is true that having power helps shape an opinion or how information is designed. As long as information can be re-analyzed and re-evaluated, it’ll ensure all the power doesn’t stay in the hands of a select few. “In essence, our current design situation is one in which information is assumed to be natural but is in fact designed. And, because it is designed without attention to design, it fits the needs, struggles, and resources of the designers.” This sounds contradictory at first (the fact that information is designed but no attention is paid to the design), but upon further pondering, it makes sense. Here’s what I mean: Information is designed, but due to budget issues, time pressures, etc. not enough attention is paid to the details and the designer did their best with what they had. Arguably, living in a chaotic world is what makes us human and life interesting. It does make life more complicated as far as designing goes, but without challenges, life would be boring. Well, mine would be anyways. I’ve faced many a challenge but I learned from it and became better because of it. Example: I got a hockey net for Christmas that I had to assemble. I’m not good with complicated instructions and my dexterity could be better, but I stuck with it until it was done. Point being is because I stuck with it, I learned to persevere and not give up quickly. Anyways, because humans are different, it makes it difficult to make one-size fits all solution (lowest common denominator), which isn’t a bad thing in my opinion.

Some Principles for a Theory of Information Design

Design about design. Interesting idea. What does this mean? I think that the meaning is that design directly shapes people’s perception or outlook on life. It may even go as far as to turn somebody’s life upside down because they never thought of looking at a situation in the way that was presented.

If all humans didn’t make information collectively, would it loose its value?

I believe it would. In my mind, information transmission would fail if a committee designed it and didn’t take the target audience into consideration. The iPad may never have existed if Apple had successfully understood the information presented about how the Newton fulfilled a user’s needs instead of a board of directors building a product based on their wants and desires. Point: chaotic design that focused on only a few people’s vision won and a product was doomed because of it.

Sense-Making: An Exemplar Theory, Methodology, and Practice

Because information is incomplete as well as understanding, one’s world is understandably chaotic. Bridging the gap would be one step closer to a complete understanding (ontology) and know something as fact (epistemology). Sense making, as far as I understand it, is how someone defines himself or herself. Sense making is not all about facts or concepts, so it can be broadly defined, which makes it challenging to make sense of it. Pun intended.