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Information Design

1 May 2006
Keren Trostler
Dr. Moria Levy
graphs, coffee cup and pen

Information design is a field which deals with planning and design content and the 'environment' in which it is presented in order to improve the manner in which information content is transmitted to the reader. The field deals with the optimization of data, information and knowledge so that it can be utilized comfortable and productively in the organizations' day-today lives involving clients, suppliers and partners. Naturally, information design uses the user's perception as central tool. It might seem as a doctrine solely based on the information's external form. This is however false. Real information design focuses on two complimentary sides in order to create a content solution which suits the organization: external information design and internal information design.

External information design deals with accessibility and includes components which assist in leading the user to the required information page:

  • Taxonomy, i.e. the organizational dictionary, the language 'spoken' by the organization; the professional jargon. It serves as a basis for the two other (hereby described) components.

  • The navigation tree, i.e. the website menu (AKA a knowledge tree). The navigation tree should be organized in a manner which will enable the users' orientation and allow them to reach required items and content with minimal cognitive efforts, even if they have never encountered the content and/or do not know its location. A navigation tree is an important component in information design since the human brain tends to think hierarchically, similarly to the tree's structure.

  • The organizational knowledge attributes are the subject according to which the organizational information is catalogued. The attributes are a collection of values from the taxonomy that are organized to groups (each group consisting of some attribute). The attributes serve as filters and support a focused, direct and quick search.

Internal information design deals with presenting the information in the page/document/item we've reached and presenting it in a manner which enables to comprehend its content quickly and easily. Templates are typical implementation of internal information design. They define fixed rules regarding the work format. The advantage of using templates is the cognitive conservation when mapping the received stimuli. There are two kinds of templates:

  • Presenting the information in a structured manner through fixed fields and according to defined logic. Smart templates also enable bringing the information closer to the reader using simple or complex links and Macros which 'suck' information from complementary systems.

  • Using virtual templates which are documents without fixed fields arranged according to a certain logic which makes orientation and locating information in a document easier.

Internal information design has an additional layer: Concise, effective and marketing-oriented writing. This aspect deals with writing rules which are defined in order to ensure that the content being read will also be understood and implemented quickly.

Undoubtedly, in an age in which we are flooded with information and are short of time, designing the information is essential in order to make content reception easier.

The designer is required to present advanced skills in various fields and subjects: he/she must think both innovatively and methodically; must be versed in theories, standards, principles and rules in the graphical/lingual field, in the communicational indicators which affect the reader and the human communication abilities regarding privacy, cognitive processes and responding to sensual stimuli; must possess official yet attractive and interesting; must be familiar with the population he/she is serving, the content with which they deal and the technology accessible to them in order to present them the relevant knowledge in the correct design.

As Richard Griff, head of an American art design institute, said: "design is the mediator between information and understanding".

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