The science and practice of designing online learning has similarities with many fields. Information Design is one of them. Information design involves preparing and shaping information so people can understand and use it. Sound familiar?
Authors Jen and Ken Visocky O’Grady give you what you’d expect from a book in this field—it’s effectively organized, informative and has a nice touch of creativity. It’s an excellent introduction to the topic.
What’s Inside the Information Design Handbook
The initial introductory chapters present the need for Information Design, its history and definitions. Then the book explores the cognitive, communication and aesthetic principles of Information Design. This makes up the core or center of the book. The final chapters include some excellent case studies.
In the Cognitive section, the authors delve into design principles that focus on visual perception. They provide tips for creating visual hierarchies and assisting in discrimination. They also discuss wayfinding—how we spatially orient ourselves in the environment.
The Communication chapter briefly introduces readers to diverse theories and models, which I find fascinating. Some theories discussed include: Saul Wurman’s LATCH system of information design, inverted pyramid writing in journalism and the Uncertainty Reduction theory. This latter principle states that when uncertain, we seek information because uncertainty is unpleasant.
One of my favorites is the Principle of Least Effort. This is the brainchild of a general reference librarian at the US Library of Congress. The principle states that, “most researchers will tend to choose easily available information sources—even when they are low quality—in preference to pursuing higher-quality sources that require a greater expenditure of effort.”
The remainder of the core deals with Aesthetics, presenting concepts for beginning designers. This includes grid system basics for creating hierarchy; principles of grouping; color and typography; how to avoid eye strain; cultural considerations and so on.
Finally, the case studies at the end of the book provide a practical application of the theories and concepts. Here the reader is taken through such projects as signage in a botanical garden, the visualization of data on the socioeconomic causes of crime, and the simplification of the NY city subway map, to name just a few of the many cases.
What’s in it for you?
Having a solid foundation in Information Design can help eLearning designers and developers create better learning experiences. In addition to increasing one’s awareness of the best ways to present information, information design might help designers better support informal and unstructured learning.
Information literacy refers to the ability to recognize when information is needed and to have the skills to find, evaluate and use it. As organizations move toward free-form alternatives to structured learning, a person’s information literacy is increasingly important. Instructional designers need the skills to provide meaningful resources and structured information to facilitate independent learning.