what information designers do

I often find myself explaining what information designers do and not finding the exact words to make myself clear. Related to this, I think that the Special Report about Information Design, included in the last grafik magazine edition, gives a bit of light to this subject. Paul Stiff, Mike Esbester and Paul Dobraszczyk describe the term ‘information design’ as an orphan that keeps being ignored in libraries subject headings, Yellow Pages, and other directories. I find this statement particularly interesting. Although, information design is not a completely new discipline at all (examples of information design printed documents dated from long ago), there is still too much to do. It is true that conferences specifically addressed to information design are increasing year-by-year. It is also undeniable the importance of journals about information design (i.e. Visible Language, Information Design Journal). However, many people, including designers, do not exactly know what it is about, they have a limited idea of it, or they are unaware of its potential.

To define information design, Stiff, Esbester and Dobraszczyk prefer to use the term ‘designing information’ instead, because the core of this discipline is to design to the reader or ‘design for reading’. They add that this discipline is devoted to plan, write and design together, rather than as individual actions, having in the first place content and users. This makes the stage of information organisation essential to this discipline. In addition, often information design makes possible to work with interdisciplinary teams, which enable designers to make appropriate decisions over unknown subjects.
Readers and users are not the same. Usually, (graphic) design is more related to users rather than readers, while designing information is the other way round. As a result, information design projects don’t tend to be as flashy as graphic design ones. Designing information is about creating comprehensible visual outcomes over aesthetic ones. Its main objective is to make the complex understandable, and not to make it beautiful. However, that does not mean that designing information ignores aesthetic concerns, but it deals with aesthetics in a different stage of the design process.

Information design printed documents are everywhere and are part of everyday life. Below some examples.

Bus stop. Roma, 2004 (Photo©SP)

Table of contents. Diagraphics II. Japan Creator's Association. JCA Press Inc., Japan

Infographic explanation. Amsterdam, 2008. (Photo©SP)

Style manual for designing a book. (©SP.2004)

– Grakic. The Magazine for Graphic Design. Special Report: Information Design. N184. April 2010. pp. 46-51

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