What is Information Design?

Vicki Watson

The skill of information design involves creating an effective system to present data and communicate it in an understandable fashion for an intended audience. Information design is used in a wide variety of areas, including cartography, content management, technical communication, and knowledge visualization. The practice of information design gets applied in many practical ways, such as in printed materials and on websites.

Charts and graphs are often used to present data in information design.
Charts and graphs are often used to present data in information design.

When incorporating information design to website creation, a variety of skills are required. First, a thorough understanding of the intended message must be achieved in order to effectively communicate it to the viewing public. When relating such information as financial analysis, the benefits of a service, or intricate information about a product to potential site visitors, technical savvy and an artistic touch are required to make the site visually pleasing in a clear, understandable format.

Infographics are a prime example of how information design can be used to present information in a more simplified way.
Infographics are a prime example of how information design can be used to present information in a more simplified way.

Written communication is another vital aspect of information design, whether in documents, presentations, websites or other forms of formal communication. Well-crafted text gets the intended message across to the target audience more effectively and utilizes psychology to present the data in the best format. Clarity in writing acquaints people with a product or service offered and inspires confidence about the business or organization represented in the presentation of data, whatever the format may be.

In many cases, technical writing and painstaking analysis of data is involved in information design. For example, the task of creating ingredient lists to appear on food product labels requires scrutiny of the elements included in the merchandise. Additionally, creating the listing in the appropriate manner, making sure to follow all required legal guidelines, is vital.

Cartography, the science of map making, utilizes information design to create maps and geographic data that is accessible and easily understood by the general public. Information designers in the field of cartography analyze research statistics and interpret analyses before translating their findings into visual representations. Among the tools involved are aerial photography, spatial study, computer software reporting and aesthetic skills. Cartographers combine all of these factors to create practical maps and globes.

Information design is often part science and part art. Those involved in the process must understand the technicalities involved in the genre being addressed and apply them to the letter, making sure the requirements are met while also addressing the need to make the presentation simple enough to be followed by the target audience. This being the case, a team of people with strengths in a variety of areas may be required to properly complete each task and ensure the success of the overall project. The ultimate goal is to present a message in an understandable, accessible manner.

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