Friday, September 11, 2009

a new definition for you

Here’s a new definition for you to ponder.

Information Design is not only the appropriate use of plain language, color, typography, the organization and logical grouping of content and the effective management of white space, BUT a clear and comprehensive understanding of the audiences for which the communications is intended.

Writers write, designers design, programmers program, testers test, etc, but who combines it all? I say I do as an Information Designer.

Although I’m still not sure what to call this thing I do, I think the definition is more concise, usable and understandable. In my mind it encompasses it all; graphic design, plain language, implementation, user testing, etc.

If any step in the process is left out, how do we know the document is successful?

In a recent post, Ginny Redish, made a very interesting observation about different types of materials when she referred to research done in the 70s and 80s. She said that they were put into two categories – “reading to learn” and “reading to do.” She goes on to say the “reading to learn” are textbooks whereas “reading to do” are documents in the workplace and in our functioning in every day life. They are used as reference documents and are skimmed and scanned to appreciate the types of information in them and then are returned to check specific information as the need arises.

Our lives are full of these “reading to do” documents. Unfortunately, most are confusing.

Most companies and organizations don’t want to spend the time and money to do testing of their critical documents. The reasons vary from cost to we know what is right. This is all well and good, but in reality it is the users who need to find information and act on it. And that brings up another point – users.

The definition of users is ALL of the people that touch or interact with a document, NOT just the outside customer. Take for instance, an invoice, yes, the customer must receive, review and pay it, but customer service people need to use it when answering inquiries, the payment coupon needs to be handled and read by someone within the organization who receives it and then acts upon it.

good information design encompasses many disciplines.

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