FIT5900 : Lecture 6 – Information Design

In the previous lecture:

In this lecture:



Mijksenaar, P.: Visual Function: An Introduction to Information Design, Princeton Architectural Press

Tufte, Edward: The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Graphics Press, Cheshire, 1983, also Envisioning Information and Visual Explanations (same publisher).

Mullett, K. & Darrell Sano, Designing Visual Interfaces, SunSoft Press, California, 1995


What is Information Design?

Presenting information about motion, process, mechanism, cause and effect.

How do we present Information in a way that:

Clarity and Excellence in thinking = Clarity and Excellence in Data.

Graphics reveal data.

Some examples:

Graphing Data

The use of abstract, non-representational pictures to show numbers (statistical graphs invented around 1750-1800).

Graphs allow us to reason about quantitative data.

Transport Maps

London Underground Map, Designed by Henry Beck in 1933.

It achieves a reduction of complexity through simplified geometry and topology.

A focus on connections rather than geographic accuracy (users are interested in the sequences of stops rather than the precise direction of travel or distance between stations).

Too much reduction makes the representation too abstract and reduces understandability.

New York City Subway map (1977-78, 1979 onwards).

Challenger Disaster

The space shuttle Challenger exploded, 73 seconds after launch, on January 28, 1986, killing the seven astronauts on board.

The shuttle failed because two rubber O-rings leaked fuel.

The O-rings lost their resiliency because the ambient temperature was very low.

Before the flight, engineers knew of the problems of O-ring damage with low ambient temperatures and recommended that the shuttle not be launched.

Was the information presented in a way that did not make the engineers claims clear?

Road and Transport Signage

Comparison of different signage systems.

Swatch Watch

Design style outweighs utility and functionality. A multitude of designs allows personalization for the buyer. The same methodology has been applied to a number of consumer products.

Air Traffic Control System

Original design used single colour vector display.

Extensive colour research allowed designers to come up with a perceptual-based system to help ease fatigue and draw operators attention to critical data.

Web Examples

Thinkmap web site (Java).

Fuse98 web site (DHTML).

This lecture's key point(s):

Presenting information in ways that reveals the information content clearly and encourages analysis can have often critical advantages for multimedia design.

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©Copyright Alan Dorin & Jon McCormack 1999,2000