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Information design and data visualization are two big topics here at Visme. But most of the time we talk about data visualization and not so much about information design.
Now it’s time to dig into it and show you how information design exists in the world and why it's important. Both inside your Visme editor and the world around you.
First up, it’s possible that the term “information design” already sounds familiar. Do you instantly think of infographics?
You’d be right, in a sense. But there’s more. Much more.
Hold on to your seats, let’s go!
Information… data… what’s the difference, anyway?
One of the common misconceptions about information design is its similarity to data visualization. The line of distinction is actually pretty blurry, but this can help you better grasp the difference:
Information design is data used as a storytelling tool. It’s data with a purpose.
Therefore, Information visualizations are more about informing the viewer about a data set and it’s specific parts. Conclusions have already been made for that data, and it’s being presented in a snackable design.
Data visualizations are raw data visualized in a way that permits the viewer to make their own conclusions. Data visualizations can be ever-evolving visuals with new data and information being added regularly.
They can also include data from a specific point in time and can be organized in a way that inspires a distinctive reaction. Nevertheless, it can still be analyzed and direct viewers to their own conclusions.
And here’s where things get tricky:
It’s ok. No one will blame you for using information design and data visualization interchangeably. Thankfully there’s a term that encompasses both:
Before we dig deeper into the different types of information design and visualization, it’s important to note how user experience plays a part in the process of every information design project.
More often than not, information design goes hand in hand with user experience (UX) design. Not only must information be presented in a clear manner, but users also need to navigate the information without it being overwhelming or confusing.
That’s where the union of information design and UX design becomes inevitable.
Let’s take a look at how even a simple information design project follows the user experience design process.
Imagine for example, a large set of safety posters to be displayed on a factory floor.
The user research step is all about getting to know the user and what their needs are. It’s all about getting to know them in their environment and figuring out the best way to help.
The first step of user research is to empathize with the user. In our example, the information designer visits the factory floor where the posters will be displayed. They will meet the workers and talk to them about what their days and movements in the factory look like.
In cases where it’s not possible to do such deep research, the designer asks more questions to get a sense of what the factory floor is like. If they are only talking to the floor manager, the designer insists on talking to the union leader of the workforce.
This is the stage where the problem to be solved is defined. It’s likely that the problem as a whole has been presented from the beginning.
In this case, “we need safety posters on the factory floor.”
But only after the designer communicates with the client and the factory workers, will the real problems show themselves.
For example, a few problems that could arise are:
After the user research, it’s time to come up with some ideas for the safety posters project. The questions to answer could be:
Once the questions have been answered, the designer puts together a first draft or prototype. It’s displayed in a specific place, for example, the hall outside the bathrooms. They are placed at a general eye-level, laminated, and full of visual instructions.
No information design project is finished until it has been tested by the users. After a few days with prototypes on the floor, the information designer will ask for feedback.
One possibility is that the posters are placed on the wall next to the doors of the bathroom, therefore when the workers pass by them on their way to the bathroom they are usually in a hurry and don’t stop to look.
If the posters are put on the opposite wall, they will see them on the way out and will be in a more relaxed state to stop and study the posters. Of course after a while, employees will already know the information and stop looking.
Nevertheless, the posters must stay full of color and attractive for newly hired workers.
This process is followed by all information design projects big or small. It’s the number one proven way to make sure the visualizations do their job well.
Safety posters are not the only type of information design. In fact, the possibilities are far-reaching. Let’s take a look at some of the most common types.
Information and data are all around us. Everything we do collects data.
For example, our devices are constantly collecting data about how we shop, communicate, what we like to do, how our health is, and what our life, in general, is like.
Information design takes on an important role in this flow of data and information. It’s essentially a way of putting together chunks of relevant information to make it easy to understand for users.
Information design is often visual, but can also be sensory. Some types are even physically interactive through sound and smell. The best examples also take accessibility into account.
The different types of information design can be separated into different categories. Below are a few. You’ll be surprised at how many things fall under the same umbrella
Let’s take a quick look at a few examples.
Before the internet, encyclopedias were the best way to find information about anything, fast. Just how the Yellow Pages were the best for finding businesses in your area. Both of these are examples of searchable information design in a print format.
Our digital, online equivalent of encyclopedias and yellow pages are search engines like Google, Bing, Yandex, etc.
The first thing that comes to find for most people when they hear information design is infographics. These are visualizations that include a chosen set of data with a purpose.
Every single website is an example of information design.
They’re larger than an infographic but smaller than a search engine. The print equivalent of a website would be a brochure or catalog.
The manuals that come with new appliances might not be the prettiest but they’re still considered information design. IKEA and Apple manuals on the other hand are highly visual and emotive examples.
Explainer videos are another example of information design. They are moving infographics that tell a story plus incite the viewer to act.
The explainer video below is a how-to for creating ebooks.
Wayfinding is the term that applies to all types of information design which helps people find their way. From Google maps to subway diagrams, any visualization that helps a user find a place on a map is also considered in this category.
Every exhibit in a museum, especially the information panel, is considered information design. Examples of these range from a simple text panel to an interactive display. A highly sensorial example are the hands-on science and discovery museums for children
A bullet journal is a daily agenda that people can personalize to their liking. Every single bullet journal is different but their purpose is the same; tracking a person’s activities throughout the year. Bullet journals are personal information design projects.
Can you think of any more? Surely you can!
Without information design, life would be boring. It’s as simple as that.
We rely so much on it, that we don’t usually stop to think about how important it is.
At this point you might be wondering, are all graphic designers information designers? Well, that’s a tricky question. Most graphic designers study information design but don’t necessarily apply it to their work.
You could technically say that all graphic design is information design because they are working with information and putting it together in a design.
The thing is, information design is more about a data set with a purpose. A packaging label, for example, has information but it’s not a collected set of data that tells a story.
Information design is more about using collected data that helps users understand something better or more efficiently.
Furthermore, as the term “information design” is used more and more, it’s becoming widely incorporated in all design fields. Many universities offer courses, career paths, and Ph.D.’s in this discipline.
You’ll be witness to more conversations around information design as the design thinking and user experience community expands into all design fields.
This is an exciting time for data and information. There’s so much around us that the possibilities of how to use it are endless.
Here at Visme, we believe that information is beautiful. Data doesn’t need to be boring to tell a story. That’s why our templates and editing tool are designed in a way that will help create your best projects.
These are some types of information design you can create with Visme:
When working on information design projects, remember these important things:
If you need some inspiration, follow our information design board on Pinterest.
Create your own information design projects today! Visit our templates page to find the perfect starting point for your next design.