All posts about
Information design

Information design is the skill and practice of preparing information so people can use it with efficiency and effectiveness. (source: Wikipedia)

The psychology of design

Knowledge of perception, cognition and emotion is the foundation of design.

“This paper analyses major social shifts in reading by comparing publishing statistics with results of empirical research on reading. As media statistics suggest, the last five decades have seen two shifts: from textual to visual media, and with the advent of digital screens also from long-form to short-form texts. This was accompanied by new media-adequate reading modes: while long-form content invokes immersed and/or deep reading, we predominantly skim online social media. Empirical research on reading indicates that the reading substrate plays an important role in reading processes. For example, comprehension suffers when complex texts are read from screens. This paper argues that media and reading trends in recent decades indicate broader social and cultural changes in which long-form deep reading traditionally associated with the printed book will be marginalised by prevailing media trends and the reading modes they inspire. As these trends persist, it may be necessary to find new approaches to vocabulary and knowledge building.”

Jon Yablonski a.k.a. /jon-yablonski | @JonYablonski ~ A List Apart

Reading in a post-textual era

Only reading sharps the mind.

“This paper analyses major social shifts in reading by comparing publishing statistics with results of empirical research on reading. As media statistics suggest, the last five decades have seen two shifts: from textual to visual media, and with the advent of digital screens also from long-form to short-form texts. This was accompanied by new media-adequate reading modes: while long-form content invokes immersed and/or deep reading, we predominantly skim online social media. Empirical research on reading indicates that the reading substrate plays an important role in reading processes. For example, comprehension suffers when complex texts are read from screens. This paper argues that media and reading trends in recent decades indicate broader social and cultural changes in which long-form deep reading traditionally associated with the printed book will be marginalised by prevailing media trends and the reading modes they inspire. As these trends persist, it may be necessary to find new approaches to vocabulary and knowledge building.”

Miha Kovač and Adriaan van der Weel ~ First Monday 23.10

Designing documents for people to use

Essays, posts and messages. All types of documents needed to be designed for use.

“This article reports on the work of Communication Research Institute (CRI), an international research center specializing in communication and information design. With the support of government, regulators, industry bodies, and business—and with the participation of people and their advocates—CRI has worked on over 200 public document design projects since it began as a small unit in 1985. CRI investigates practical methods and achievable standards for designing digital and paper public documents, including forms; workplace procedural notices; bills, letters, and emails sent by organizations; labels and instructions that accompany products and services; and legal and financial documents and contracts. CRI has written model grammars for the document types it designs, and the cumulative data from CRI projects has led to a set of systematic methods for designing public-use documents to a high standard. Through research, design, publishing, and advocacy, CRI works to measurably improve the ordinary documents we all have to use.”

David Sless a.k.a. /david-sless | @davidsless ~ She Ji 4.2

Pace layering: How complex systems learn and keep learning

From buildings to complex systems. Nice addition to Donatella Meadows kind of thinking.

“Pace layers provide many-leveled corrective, stabilizing feedback throughout the system. It is in the contradictions between these layers that civilization finds its surest health. I propose six significant levels of pace and size in a robust and adaptable civilization.”

Stewart Brand a.k.a. /stewart-brand | @stewartbrand ~ Journal of Design and Science (Issue 3)

What went wrong in Hawaii, human error? Nope, bad design

The ultimate consequences of bad design: Three Mile Island, Challenger, and now Hawaii.

“The author and eminent design researcher Don Norman examines how poorly designed software spread panic in Hawaii–and offers tips for avoiding such incidents in the future. (…) To me, the most frustrating aspect of these errors is that they result from poor design. Incompetent design. Worse, for decades we have known how proper, human-centered design can prevent them. “

Donald A. Norman a.k.a. /donnorman | @jnd1er ~ FastCo.design

The Systemic Turn: Leverage for World Changing

Introduction to several deep thinking articles on the role, value and transformation of design related to ‘wicked problems’ a.k.a. grand design challenges. As discussed during RSD5 (2017).

“Both systems thinking and contemporary design practices are insufficient, on their own, to transform the complex continuous problems our institutions have sustained through a rapidly morphing modernism. Leading practitioners in both core disciplines have quite similar motivations for envisioned outcomes in the world. This is clear in projects developed in flourishing communities and organizations, effective human-centered health practices, fully functioning democratic governance, citizen-centered cities and services, and so on. Practice-led research and reflective practice have taught many of us that the silver bullets of recent design ideas, such as multidisciplinarity and human-centricity, are also insufficient to the complexity and scale of these tasks. Systemics lends design thinking an explanatory theory that integrates principles with the power tools of disciplined method. Design lends systems thinking the pragmatic applications of integration, the transformation of human activity, and the surprising power of observing human experience in design research.”

Peter Jones a.k.a. /peterhjones” | @redesign ~ She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation 3.3

Why information matters

Philosophy doesn’t mean ‘vague’. It means reflective thinking on important questions, issues and beliefs.

“When we use a computer, its performance seems to degrade progressively. This is not a mere impression. Over the years of owning a particular machine, it will get sluggish. Sometimes this slowdown is caused by hardware faults, but more often the culprit is software: programs get more complicated, as more features are added and as old bugs are patched (or not), and greater demands are placed on resources by new programs running in the background. After a while, even rebooting the computer does not restore performance, and the only solution is to upgrade to a new machine. Philosophy can be a bit like a computer getting creakier. It starts well, dealing with significant and serious issues that matter to anyone. Yet, in time, it can get bloated and bogged down and slow. Philosophy begins to care less about philosophical questions than about philosophers’ questions, which then consume increasing amounts of intellectual attention. The problem with philosophers’ questions is not that they are impenetrable to outsiders — although they often are, like any internal game — but that whatever the answers turn out to be, assuming there are any, they do not matter, because nobody besides philosophers could care about the questions in the first place.”

Luciano Floridi a.k.a. /luciano-floridi | @floridi ~ The New Atlantis (special issue Information, Matters, and Life)

Information in the ecosystem: Against the information ecosystem

Deep thinking on the meaning, impact and context of information a.k.a. info.

“The “information ecosystem” metaphor is widely used in academic libraries and has become nearly ubiquitous when speaking of the information systems that support scholarly communication and varied forms of data sharing and publication. The trending use of this language arises from non-academic applications — for example in big data (the Hadoop ecosystem) or software development (the node.js ecosystem) — and there remains little critical examination of the use of this metaphor. Indeed, the definition of ecosystem as the set of relations between living organisms and their surrounding non-living environment is apparently not directly a part of the metaphor. This paper first describes the emergence of ecological thinking and how it was influenced by early information science and then explores how different ‘ecologies’ are used within the academy, including in the emergent field of information ecology. A short critique of the metaphor is then posed and the paper concludes that the information ecosystem metaphor is useful, yet at the same time there are dangerous elements that render aspects of human societies and natural ecosystems invisible.”

Timothy B. Norris and Todd Suomela ~ First Monday (22.9)

The decentralization of knowledge: How Carnap and Heidegger influenced the Web

In the end, everything connects. The web and philosophers as well.

“Does the centralization of the Web change both the diffusion of knowledge and the philosophical definition of knowledge itself? By exploring the origins of the Semantic Web in the philosophy of Carnap and of Google’s machine learning approach in Heidegger, we demonstrate that competing philosophical schools are deeply embedded in artificial intelligence and its evolution in the Web. Finally, we conclude that a decentralized approach to knowledge is necessary in order to bring the Web to its full potential as a project for the spread of human autonomy.”

Harry Halpin and Alexandre Monnin ~ First Monday 21.12

Changing routines: Designing projects for meaningful work

The more meaning, the better.

“We need a deliberate and constant investment in routines involving learning, improving, and maturing as part of integrated practices and a clear identification of the project roles necessary so that teammates can build trust with one another, help others on the team, and keep the team together over time. This effort may include defining a well-understood, comfortable, open, inviting project language. When a team defines a project’s purpose and artifacts together then iterates them over time and even across successive projects, the learning environment matures iteratively as part of the project experience.”

Daniel Szuc, Jo Wong, Michael Davis Burchat, and Jennifer Fabrizi ~ UXPA Magazine

On information design (.pdf)

InfoDesign is alive and kicking.

“The book you have before you is sediment, an old-fashioned document that registers an event that, in Slovenia, could well represent a utopian or at least
an optimistic step into cutting-edge thought, while, in its English version, it contributes important knowledge to the existing, internationally recognized discipline we call information design. In late 2009, Slovenia’s Museum of Architecture and Design began its fourth series of lectures in the theory of architecture and design; like the ones before it, this lecture series was founded on the idea that when talking about professional disciplines on the local scale we need to speak from the experience of what is happening globally and must open new doors and seek ideas more at depth than at breadth.”

Edited by Petra Černe Oven and Cvetka Požar ~ courtesy of @pco_paralaksa

Architects of information

Information intensive environments have not been this popular in Interactions Magazine.

“We live in a world where information is part of our everyday lives, where we don’t dedicate time to “doing computing,” where information is ever present and leaves a digital footprint, and where notions of online versus offline have become almost meaningless. As mentioned, we are heading toward a state where we will stop using computers and instead inhabit interactive and information-rich architecture. Many exciting challenges lie ahead. For example: How will we design the architectural interfaces to information and interaction to create relevant inhabitant experiences? How will we give inhabitants access to how their data is being captured, manipulated, used, and stored? What role can architecture play in protecting people’s privacy and security? What does an interactively augmented environment mean for how we perceive our environment when we already know that mind, body, and environment co-shape this? Given the large number of signposts in both HCI and architecture, we suggest that the only natural expectation is stronger ties between the worlds of information and the design of physical spaces to address the challenges we now face.”

Sheep Dalton, Holger Schnädelbach, Tasos Varoudis, and Mikael Wiberg ~ ACM Interactions

Why is sketching (still) important (to design)?

First visual contours of the design, a sketch.

“(…) if we think of design as a sequence of iterative phases that progress towards final production, we are then able to identify an open or fuzzy phase of design. In this we contrast a divergent conceptual design ideation with a more convergent, specific and detailed design phase. We do this as much to contrast the different aims of design at these different phases of the process, as to highlight the kinds of design work involved or tools used at any given stage.”

James Self ~ Core77

Three powerful lessons I have learnt as an information designer

When you start with three, more will follow.

“Designing information effectively is a wonderful and complex challenge. I feel grateful that in the past ten years I have had the opportunity of working with extraordinary teams of scientists to the end of communicating complex data. These three lessons are among the most precious lessons I have learnt along my journey.”

Angela Morelli a.k.a. /aamorelli | @angelamorelli

How cybernetics connects computing, counterculture, and design

Some really deep and historical thinking on design and systems.

“Beginning in the decade before World War II and accelerating through the war and after, scientists designed increasingly sophisticated mechanical and electrical systems that acted as if they had a purpose. This work intersected other work on cognition in animals as well as early work on computing. What emerged was a new way of looking at systems – not just mechanical and electrical systems, but also biological and social systems: a unifying theory of systems and their relation to their environment. This turn toward ‘whole systems’ and ‘systems thinking’ became known as cybernetics. Cybernetics frames the world in terms of systems and their goals. This approach led to unexpected outcomes.”

Hugh Dubberly a.k.a. /hughdubberly ~ Dubberly Design Office

Towards a definition of serendipity in information behaviour

Finding something unexpected and very relevant is a moment of wow!

“Serendipitous or accidental discovery of information has often been neglected in information behaviour models, which tend to focus on information seeking, a more goal-directed behaviour. (…) By including serendipity in information behaviour models, the frameworks arrived at should help further research in this area. A working definition of serendipity in information behaviour is a starting point for other researchers to investigate related questions in the area.”

Naresh Kumar Agarwal ~ Information Research Vol. 20.3