What is Information? Why is the way in which information communicated so important?

Information comes to us in many forms, both verbally and non-verbally, and the WAY in which that information is communicated greatly effects how a message is received and understood.  Watch the video below to learn just what information really is and the many ways in which we receive that information and subsequently draw conclusions.

The ability to take information and data and communicate it in a way that is clear and concise and facilitates proper decision making is called information design.  Information design is defined as the “practice of gathering, filtering, and presenting information in accordance with effective design principles in order to understand—and communicate to others—the essence, the meaning of that information.”  It comprises analysis, planning, presentation and understanding of a message – it is content, language and form.

Information design, be it good or bad, surrounds us in everything we do and can ultimately influence the decisions we make.  One of the most telling cases of information design gone awry is the case of the design of the Palm Beach, FL voting ballot used in the 2000 United States presidential election.  You may recall the controversy where many Florida voters mistakenly voted for an unintended candidate.  The ballots were designed in a way that was confusing to voters.  Whether a voter was supporting Al Gore or not, it is distressing to know that the outcome of something as important as a presidential election was influenced by a poorly designed voting ballot.  Those misguided voters were not able to re-vote and therefore their votes were lost.

Their constitutional rights were violated when their votes got tossed out of the election; all this because of an ambiguous and confusing voting ballot (below).  Quite a concept when you think about it, that people’s constitutional rights were compromised because of poor information design.

According to an article written by Bruce Tognazzini, not only did 4,000 Floridians make “the error of punching the second hole on the ballot in the mistaken belief that the second hole represented the second candidate, more than 19,000 people made the error of punching more than one hole, since both were directly alongside their candidate.”

It is evident how influential and far-reaching the field of information design is.  The level of skills and knowledge required to provide effective information design to communicate to audiences of all kinds can be difficult to find.

Terry Irwin, a designer/educator/consultant in the area of information design appropriately describes information designers as “very special people who must master all the skills and talents of a designer, combine it with the rigor and problem solving ability of a scientist or mathematician and bring the curiosity, research skills and doggedness of a scholar to their work.  I think they’re the unsung and often unnoticed heroes of [the] profession.”

Information Design is an approach to designing clear, understandable communications by giving care to structure, context, and presentation of data and information.

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