The Impact of Information Design

an example of ISOTYPE; from a children's book "James Fisher's Adventure of the World", depicts various climates and what to wear for each
an example of ISOTYPE; from a children’s book “James Fisher’s Adventure of the World”, depicts various climates and what to wear for each

The actual definition of information design is an unclear concept and is still being debated. However, after recently learning about it, my understanding of what information design means is to design and manage the relationship between people and information so that it is easily understood and accessible.

I am writing about this topic because I believe that information design is a very powerful and vital thing that we use in our everyday lives. A historical innovation that caught my eye and made me think about this was the ISOTYPE (International System of Typographic Picture Education). Created by an Austrian sociologist and political economist Otto Neurath and artist Gerd Arntz, it was an attempt at delivering information through a standardized visual language that anyone could understand regardless of educational background.

In my opinion, I believe that this method was very successful. We can have descriptions and talk about every detail all we want, but if someone doesn’t speak the language its being delivered in then the design is pointless. I’m a firm believer that a picture says a thousand words, and all ISOTYPE used to deliver information were simple pictographic symbols and small descriptions of what the symbols meant. People could put two and two together of what information is being displayed by the pictures and the number ratios. Not only do I find the simplicity of the images successful, but also the fact that there was never an overload of information that could confuse viewers; only information that was needed was put into the design. Although ISOTYPE faded due to labour intensive and expensive production, it’s design elements are evident in todays nationally recognized symbols. Symbols in airports, museums and public transit originated back to the ISOTYPE concept.

I believe that understanding information design is beneficial to a graphic designer when designing anything at all; what makes a design successful or not is how it is perceived by viewers. Not only do information designers rely on this fact, but also designers in advertisement and logo design as well. Information design is something we don’t realize is all around us, and it is often something we underestimate in power and importance.


4 thoughts on “The Impact of Information Design

  1. Totally agree, ISOTYPES were definitely a ground point in visual information designs we see every day today and you’re right, we do underestimate the power of information design and often overlook its importance! I like the simplicity in this design to, its not overcrowded with unnecessary information and the pictures are the only thing we need to help understand it

  2. I like your point about relating the simplicity and clarity of ISOTYPE to the design work we do today. Even though that particular system isn’t in use anymore, it’s really impressive how much thought was put into creating a form of communication that can be so widely understood. Designing for clarity is something that is easy to overlook when we are trying to make something look nice, but our job is really to communicate and it’s great to keep that in mind.

  3. I’ve always enjoyed looking at the different isotopes in all different places and countries. There are definitely a lot that need to be improved so that people from all over can understand them. I’m looking to do a little bit of Wayfinding but I always wonder if theres a huge innovative jump that I can bring to the table, or have those possibilities been exhausted?..

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