Thursday, June 25, 2009

information design - definitions?

Well, here I am again. I will try every few days to keep adding my thoughts to this blog and hope that you will react and add yours too.

I have enough topics to last for a while and you will see random thoughts but they will all be centered on this thing I call “information design.”

I hate to get into a discussion about the definition since all of us have our own. But maybe that is one of the problems. If you go to any of the websites: PLAIN. CPL, IIID, CRI, IDA, Wikipedia, etc. you will find different definitions. If you talk to information/graphic designers, writers/plain language experts, usability experts, user experience experts, etc., you will find different definitions, but we are all dealing with similar issues and are looking for the same end.

I’ll put my definition out there, but be forewarned, it is long and wordy. I have been struggling with this for many years. The reason for its wordiness is twofold, one – I am trying to incorporate many aspects and two – I’m not a writer!

“Information design is the result of a clear and comprehensive understanding of the businesses and audiences for which the communications is intended. And the appropriate use of plain language, the organization and logical grouping of information, the appropriate use of color and typography, and the effective management of white space.”

I warned you it was wordy!

Here’s another way:

“Information design is communicating effectively by providing the right information to the right person at the right time in a tried and tested way that it is easily understood.”

Again, I’m not sure it is the best. When it comes down to it, we, as communicators, need to be able to explain it, simply, clearly, understandably. When I was strictly a “graphic” designer, I used to open presentations by saying that it took my mother 10 years to understand what I do! Now, it is almost impossible!

I don’t want to get stuck on definitions, although at sometime we need something to put out there that easily explains our expertise. So if any of you want to chime in, please do.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

first time - many questions

I'm new to this blogging thing and i thought it would be interesting to get like minded people involved in discussions about what i call "information design." Now i know there are other sites, blogs, etc., but i hope that i will be coming from a different perspective.

First, i'm not sure if information design or plain language or anything else for that matter, is the right title.

Most of us are doing the same thing, that is, trying to get information to end users in a way that it is easily understood and acted upon. But, we come from all different walks of life, experiences, backgrounds, etc and although we agree on the end result, we disagree on how to get there.

There are writers (plain language experts), graphic designers (those more visual), user experience experts, software developers, psycologists, sociologists, usability experts, etc. the list is long and, to me, confusing. Some of us work online (user interface), some with paper documents (me), some in small formats (PDAs,) etc, yet somehow we are all trying to do the same thing.

Many people i meet think that what they do is the solution. I disagree. My premise is that in order to deliver information clearly and effectively, all of our expertise needs to come together.

I often tell plain language experts that if they show me a document where the language is terrible, i will make it seem to the reader that they understand it because of the way i organize the information within the document. On the other hand, it you give me the same document written in very clear plain language, i will make it so it will be totally unreadable.

My point is that it all has to work together. My hope is that with this blog, contributions from others and a meeting of the minds, we can create a unifed powerful industry working together.

i hope that this blog will set up a dialogue among the many different practitioners.

Let me hear from you.