What Is Information Design? (Plus Uses and Best Practices)
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Information design is an aspect of marketing that can help organizations communicate with their audiences. Understanding how an audience interacts with the data you present can help you figure out how to target that audience more effectively. Understanding how information design works can help you incorporate the principles into your marketing practices. In this article, we discuss what information design is, explain how it works, list the different uses for information design and review best practices.
What is information design?
Information design is the practice of using data to communicate with your audience. it's a marketing technique that relies on the legitimacy of the data collected and the logic behind the analysis of that data to communicate specific ideas with your audience. Often, information design creates a storyline for data that provides the data with a purpose and clear conclusions to help the audience engage in an activity that benefits the organization presenting the data.
For example, if a toothpaste company wants to promote their product, they can use information design to create an infographic showing cavity decline in their customers over a period of time. This infographic can encourage new customers who may struggle with cavities to use their product.
Related: Digital Design vs. Graphic Design
How does information design work?
Information design works by putting the user's needs first and catering their design to present data according to those needs. Here are some information design principles that you can use to create information design that is engaging, easy to read and informative for your audience:
1. Research your audience
The first step is to imagine what problem the audience of your information is experiencing. Identifying this purpose can help you focus your design elements and decision-making around the audience. Once you understand the problem, you can focus the rest of your design process on solving that problem.
To empathize with your audience, engage in audience outreach and market research to discover what your target audience is talking about and how they engage with your product currently. By interacting with your audience, you can learn about any questions or common topics mentioned repeatedly. You can focus on the needs of your audience to make sure the design you create addresses what you've learned through your interactions.
2. Create ideas
Once you understand your audience's needs and the problem you want to solve, you can begin to think of ways to present the data you have access to in a way that addresses that purpose. Tools like mind maps, free association and storyboarding can help you organize how the information should flow through your design. You can use various techniques to think of new ways to organize data and explain it so that it is easy to understand.
Understanding how other people visualize or conceptualize information can give you new ideas. You can leave this stage with an outline for how the audience can interact with the data and in what order. You can also reach out to other coworkers and experts for inspiration.
3. Develop prototypes
Prototyping is where you create models of your ideas to see which ones are the most successful at addressing the problems you've identified. You may want to prototype more than one option to ensure that you have opportunities to discover the best possible solution. If you're working for a client, you may also want to present options to choose their favorite.
A prototype can be a low-budget copy of the final product with fewer details, so focus on how the visual hierarchy of your prototype tells a story and communicates the data. Share your prototype with people who can provide valuable feedback. At this stage, you can make changes and improve your approach before committing to the final design.
4. Test your design
Once you have a design plan and you've developed it with your client and trusted colleagues, you can complete development, share it and collect feedback. When showing the final design to testing groups, like coworkers or market testing groups, ask questions about the storyline and design to ensure the narrative is coming across through the design. Ask questions about the data to test if it's easy to understand and presented accurately.
When gathering feedback, consider waiting a few days to allow the testers to sit with the information you've provided through your design. When you receive feedback, consider what changes you can make while focusing on the original problem you set out to solve. Keeping this focus can help you determine what feedback is helpful and what changes can improve your product.
5. Release and refine
Once you release the final product, you can continuously check in with your target audience to ensure that you're solving the problems they addressed and that your data is updated and accurate. As situations grow and more information becomes available, you may need to update your information design. You may also need to change your design as new issues or questions arise in your target audience. Keeping a strong and ongoing relationship with the audience is essential for success.
Uses of information design
Here are some common uses of information design:
Encyclopedias: Before the internet, books like encyclopedias provided organized data that was easy to find and absorb through pictures, labels, and summaries.
Infographics: Infographics are visualizations that describe data sets, usually using graphic design and chart-like organization.
Websites: People use websites to communicate or gather information from each other, so the design of how they present that information is essential to the website's success.
Explainer videos: This is a multimedia example of information design because they tell a story as they provide information through multiple senses. They can also make calls to action.
Museum exhibits: Museums specialize in providing educational experiences and views of different topics using multiple senses and mediums. They organize each item in a specific way with carefully selected context provided to communicate a message with the audience member.
Best practices for information design
Here are some best practices for information design:
Design for a specific audience. The more specific your audience is, the clearer your purpose for data organization can be during your brainstorming and prototyping phase.
Conduct your audience research. Building a relationship with your audience that you can continuously mine for information about their needs can help you improve your targeted designs.
Provide context. Explaining the data you provide, why it's important and where it came from can help build trust between you and your audience.
Use different mediums. You can present data in various ways, and different mediums are effective for different audiences, consider all your options when creating a design plan.
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