D4RL: Information is Power

‘Information design is the skill and practice of preparing information so people can use it with efficiency and effectiveness. Where the data is complex or unstructured, a visual representation can express its meaning more clearly to the viewer.’

What I have learned, a quick history of information design:

The first use of the term was in a London Graphic Design company, Pentagon, in the 70’s. It meaning their graphic design was distinct from other kinds of design, however since then the term has been used in presenting information effectively and not just artistically. Even though the term was founded in the 70’s there has been evidence of this for thousands of years. Going back to cave paintings and hieroglyphics. A notable case which I find fascinating is one by Florence Nightingale about Causes of Mortality in the Army from 1858. She efficiently shows how and when these deaths occur by using colour and shape to show certain data. Another two I enjoy for the same reason is Napoleon’s March to Moscow by Charles Minard 1869 and John Snow’s Spot Maps on the cholera outbreak in 1850s.  

There are 4 main ways to best present your information; infographics, data visualisation, models & diagrams and visual thinking. Infographics is the visualisation of facts, events or patterns and are best for storytelling. They can be subjective unlike data visualisation which is the visual representation of data. This takes the form of an easy to process, clear outcome and is ideal for understanding data at a glance. Models and diagrams are more self-explanatory. Visual thinking is more broad it is just expressing the information in a visual way which can be more personal.

One artist who’s visualisations really stood out to me were those by David McCandless. They hold so much information but are easy on the eye and make learning about the topic effortless. This will be so important in my own brief. Some of the ways he divides information effectively is through colour and image, which seems to be a common theme even with the examples from many years ago. This gives the pieces a lovely look while also dividing the information into distinguishable data. McCandless uses minimal text as well, it makes his pieces look a lot less daunting. These are ways I will consider when creating my outcome. They fit well as the my piece needs to be aphasia friendly, so block text will need to be minimal or not existent if I can help it.

After the presentation we were given the task of creating a quick diagram to convey some information from our own briefs. I was given the category data visualisation. Finding some data within the brief was actually quite hard as there really isn’t much. I did however find this piece of information about being given your license back for a set number of years which I did use. I think I did an ok job of visualising it. I’m not sure if the drawing is recognisable as a road but I tried my best in the short time we were given. We then placed everyones work out on the floor to see what we had made. The ones that really stood out were the 3d ones and ones that had used bold colour, much like the artists research above. Colour definitely seems to be a theme for separating data and visually looking appealing. To improve I will need to find a better way to decrease the amount of text as it defeats the whole point otherwise. Adding colour is a must as well. It was a good practice though and something I will practice later in the project.

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