Web Design is Information Design | April 2, 2004
Graphic designers tend to concern themselves mostly with the aesthetics of design. Do the colours work well together? are the shapes visually appealing? does the overall piece elicit the desired emotional response?
A good graphic designer is more akin to a commercial artist. Creating beautiful, evocative pieces of work that could be seen as art in their own right. Is it any wonder then, that print designers often refer to their work as "Artwork".
Information design is seen as the poor cousin of graphic design. While the graphic designers are off creating beautiful artwork for posters, logos or glossy brochures, an information designer is more at home designing airport signs or end of year reports.
Whereas the graphic designers job is usually to make something look good, the information designers job is to make something as logical and as easy to understand as possible. The information designer is less artist and more information architect and usability expert.
Designing information isn't particularly sexy (which is probably why so few people do it), but in an age where time is short and information is everywhere, Information design is critical.
And this is where the web comes in. The primary reason people use the web is to find information. If a web site has been designed well, it's easy for a visitor to find and digest the information they are looking for. Conversely, a badly designed web site will frustrate the user and make the content much less accessible.
I believe web design has much more in common with information design, than it does with straight graphic design. In fact, I'd go as far as to say, web design is information design.
This was hammered home to me the other day while working on a small redesign job. I was sat in front of Photoshop tasked with redesigning the home page for an e-commerce site. Knowing which elements were needed on the page, I started adding them one at a time. I'd start by adding the most important elements first, and when they were in the right place, I'd add the less important elements.
Once the page hierarchy was more or less right, I'd move things around within the hierarchy in order to promote certain bits of information and demote other bits. When things needed emphasising I'd emphasise them, when things needed separating, I'd separate them.
The design started out with a basic concept, but the end result was pure information design. Elements were placed on the page because that's were they made the most sense, not because that's where they looked the nicest.
I'd always associated web design with graphic design, but it really is much closer to being a subset of Information design.
Posted at April 2, 2004 12:55 PM