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What is information design?

People who practise information design know what they do, but they can struggle to define it. Maybe a definition isn’t strictly necessary, but it helps.

Modern life is saturated with complex information and data. For information to have impact, it must be easy to find, simple to use, and instantly understandable.
In short, information needs to be designed!

That’s a pretty good summary. The JETdoc definition is that information design is essentially about explaining things clearly and effectively.

In everyday life, we need a lot of things to be explained — for example:

  • how to make informed decisions about our healthcare

  • how to take — safely and effectively — medicines that we buy or are prescribed

  • what we can expect when we need to visit hospital

  • how to find the hospital department we need

  • how to use our appliances and devices

  • how to lead a healthier lifestyle

  • how to understand our bills and financial statements

  • how to complete important forms

  • how to find our way around a city

  • … and many more.

When the information is well designed, and the explanations clear, we may not even notice. When the information is badly designed, and the explanations difficult to follow, we always notice — we waste time, we may resent the information provider, and we may not make the decisions that are best for us.

Good information design should start with finding out as much as possible about the people who will use the information, what they want to achieve, and the messages we want to give them. It then integrates:

  • clear, focused writing, appropriately targeted to the people who need the information

  • typography that makes information easy to read

  • illustrations and graphics that genuinely help understanding

  • design that pulls the information together, provides clear signposts, and generally makes it easily accessible

And when the designed information has been tested for usability, and improved using feedback, so much the better — especially when the testing uses a proven, economical methodology.

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