What is Information Design?

Information, as defined by the idX* group, “is the result of processing, manipulating and organizing data in a way that adds to the knowledge of the person receiving it“.

Design, as approved by the IIID General Assemblies 1993 and 2000,
“is the identifying of a problem and the intellectual creative effort of an originator, manifesting itself in drawings or plans which include schemes and specifications”.

Accordingly, information design “is the defining, planning, and shaping of the contents of a message and the environments in which it is presented, with the intention to satisfy the information needs of the intended recipients” (IIID definition modified by the idX* group).

High-quality information empowers people to attain goals

“High-quality information”: information, as defined by the idX group “is the result of processing, manipulating and organizing data in a way that adds to the knowledge of the person receiving it”. The attributes of high-quality information are: accessibility, appropriateness, attractiveness, credibility, completeness, conciseness, errorless, interpretability, objectiveness, relevance, timeliness, secure, understandable, valuable.

“to empower”/ “empowerment”, a term referred to by R.S. Wurman in his book Information Anxiety 2 (p. 191) as “the word of the new century” and the result of inspired instructions.

“people” are those who are expected to understand and make use of provided high-quality information for empowerment. There is a difference between transforming data for people and the transforming of data for other purposes, e.g. the automatic control of computers, machines, robots etc.

“attaining goals” = to accomplish something which otherwise would not have been able to be achieved. Neglecting the purpose underlying people’s interest in specific information can have the effect that the transformed data do not satisfy the information needs of the intended recipients.

It goes without saying that transforming data into high-quality information to empower people to attain goals requires the competence of experienced information designers.

*idX (information design exchange) Information Design: Core Competencies (What information designers know and can do) available at the IIID Library.

The qualities required of Information Designers

As approved/confirmed by the IIID General Assemblies 1993 and 2000:

To design professionally information designers should

  1. be able to think both innovatively and systematically,
  2. be as well informed as is necessary about the subject area they are working in,
  3. be knowledgeable about both the communicative features of the components of visual messages and their interrelationships,
  4. know the relevant customs, conventions, standards, regulations and their underlying theories,
  5. be familiar with the technical requirements of the communications media, specifically visual ones,
  6. be familiar with human communication capabilities with regard to perceiving, cognitive processing and responding to information using all senses,
  7. be able to consider the possible benefits of the communicated information to the users,
  8. be knowledgable about the creation of pictures and text, static and animated, as well as information other than visual, for the facilitation of task related activities and how they can be balanced to achieve optimal effects,
  9. be able to design information in a formal interesting and attractive way to conjure attention highly adequate to the communicative purpose of the message,
  10. understand to make information and information systems interactive in such a way that adjustments governed by changing requirements can be made, should this be desirable to safeguard the continuing use of the information,
  11. be able to communicate effecively in both their mother tongue and English,
  12. understand the capabilities of support sciences – such as cognitive psychology, linguistics, social and political sciences, computer science, statistics – and be able to co-operate with specialists to evaluate and improve the design of messages with due regard of different cultural sensitivities of the users,
  13. have a detailed knowledge of the cost factors relating to the various design stages and their implementation,
  14. render their services in a format that corresponds both with the value they represent to the clients and the conventions required by them,
  15. behave in a responsible manner with regard to the needs of the target users and society as a whole.