Information and Interface design. Revisited.

During the international Designing for Children’s conference, my first conference at that scale, which I really enjoyed, I had a  lot of people asking me what I did. In my previous life (as an engineer) I would have blankly mentioned that I have a degree in comp science and engg. and the listener would have assumed I am an IT professional. I was used to this and dint bother questioning what I really did.

At the conference one would ask me what I did. To which I would answer that I am a student, and that’s where the problem started. What do you study ? Information and Interface design. Oh, websites ! NO. not only. Obviously it was a horrible Information design if the course title dint give the listener a brief idea of what the course consisted of. And that’s because I had said something but not given the listener the information one asked for. As such information has no form. We give it form. Through stories, by writing it down, drawing it or verbalizing it. Information design is about giving form to information. And the problem arises when we confuse information with its form. A calendar communicates the date. Information is in the message the calendar communicates to us.

The last time I was asked the same question I pointed out to my HMT watch and explained to them how the watch communicated information to me and through a particular medium that can be called the interface.

I thought of this for a while and came to a conclusion that what I liked doing was telling stories. Somehow I found this medium gave good form to the information I wanted to convey. Stories through various mediums. It could be a film, a photograph, a line which starts with a dot, becomes a plane and finally pretends to be the roof of a house.

Stories are well designed Information blocks,  they convey the theme and plot there by placing the listener in the same frame as the story teller is, exhausting the imagination of the reader/listener. Now one has to be a creative genius to be able to do that. Story tellers thus can be called the best information designers ever.

Designing for children is a big task. Products and services intended to children have suddenly become the next booming industry. They all have a good motive. How to educate the kid and still allow the kid to have his creative freedom. But, throughout the entire conference we never thought about the old grandma we all have seen at some point of time who convinced you and empowered  you to imagine that a sparrow could make himself s cup of paysam ( flavored milk) picking up that one grain of rice it could with in its small beak.

Who taught the grandma how to be a good information designer?  At times, knowing very well that the kid cant even understand what the grandma is saying, she still continues to narrate a story somehow grabbing the kids attention.


8 Responses to Information and Interface design. Revisited.

  1. Jonathan says:

    I agree with you on giving form to information. But I could have gotten that from the video that you embedded.

    “Story tellers thus can be called the best information designers ever”
    I know you like telling stories, but I think you may have jumped the gun. Stories are just one kind of information form. All these forms of information have different objectives and maybe only in the case of designing for children, might storytellers be the best information designers.

    For example, typeface designers and typographers can be counted as information designers too. They give form to the spoken and written word. Each typeface has representative character and a specific objective when it is used.
    Now, I’m not saying that typeface designers are the best information designers. Far from it. I’m merely saying that different information has different objectives and that declaring anyone to be the best information designer regardless of the others is wrong.

    Also, I’m sure you mean “didn’t” instead of “dint”. Spellcheck?

    • notnarayanshankar says:

      thanks a lot for starting a conversation.

      Story telling being the best form of information design was intended keeping in mind designs that are specifically targeted to children.

      Calling it the best form of design may not be the best (as much as I don’t wish to use this word) thing to do, but again who does not like listening to a story ?

      Discussing what makes a story such a good expressing to give form to information blocks would be a better.

      • notnarayanshankar says:

        Moreover, whether it is a typeface or a book, a poster or a film they are all telling a story. Some story.

        Maybe I am still in a state of confusion when it comes to understanding the difference between the form given to information and the information itself.

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  3. Vaibhav Jain says:

    i agree with Jonathan that you cannot declare anyone to be the best information designer or any method as a best information design method regardless of the context.

    For me, ‘Information design’ in itself is a wrong phrase to use. It is ‘DATA’ which is designed to communicate ‘information’ and ‘Data Design’ is what we do and not information design.
    You cannot design ‘information’ as you cannot design ‘experience’. This is where NID has got it spot on, when they named the discipline – ‘Design for retail experience’ and not ‘Retail experience design’.
    Though ‘Experience design’ is a widely used term along with ‘Information design’, both do not seem to sound RIGHT.

  4. notnarayanshankar says:

    you may like this book review.
    its called “The girl with the brown crayon”

  5. Angie says:

    I think it would help us to see what a story really means. Here’s what the dictionary told me –

    ‘a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader; tale.’

    In this sense, it is the intent that makes a story a story. The way the frames in a movie switch, the way signage tells you where to go. Aren’t they telling stories…some detailed, some more precise.

    If story-telling can be thought of as framing, positioning, presenting information specifically for the purpose of sense-making, then yes, information design is story-telling…and children are just one segment of consumers by this definition.

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