For the longest time in my life if someone said the word design to my brain would go to either architecture or the concept of form vs. function. It wasn’t until after my MBA when I began to build business cases for websites that
I learned about Information design.
It makes me wonder how that person who was speaking in my overhear would compare this type of design. Would they say that people who can’t write go into informational design? If so, I would have to argue. Because, from the little I know of this discipline, it is at least as important, if not more important, than writing itself.
A useful article, Information Design: The Understanding Discipline, written by Dirk Knemeyer reveals the complexity of this important discipline. Here is a quote explaining its relevance:
“Information design is the integrator that brings other disciplines together to create excellent information solutions… There are meaningful groups within graphic designers, writers and information architects that all make some claim to the term information design. Typically, disciplines are easy to define in at least a basic tactical way. Graphic designers provide visual solutions. Writers provide written solutions. Information architects provide structural design solutions. Information design ostensibly comes down to a broad set of information deliverables, not any single type or particular component of other disciplines.”
So, for example, information design would suggest that I first need to clearly understand the purpose of my blog and then build the structure, look and feel, and even content around it. As such, the comments tool would be considered part of its’ design; as would pictures I use, links I create, sound /movie bytes I use, the formatting of my content and even the topics I write about. All of this and more go into a well designed information setting.
You can see then, that while critically important, using this discipline is complex and difficult. At the same time… the more we know as writers about how to make this happen, the better we will be able to take advantage of the new digital platform for presenting our material. A great example of this is a book written by Ryan Chin, Without Rain There Can Be No Rainbows.
He has successfully used interactive media to engage readers in his topic of New Zealand by allowing them to link out to video about his topic.
But, just like less is sometimes more when it comes to graphic design, this can also be true with information design. Many publishers are talking about how to use interactive tools in children’s books. Here I think care should be taken. The starting point for the book should always be the purpose of the information. If it is to entertain, than directing kids to fun tools works. If it is to encourage reading the same tools might distract from the goal.
The best thing we can do, then, as writers, is to clearly understand our informational purpose for what we are writing and then to be open to the many ways to affect it; be it the written word or a home-made movie. While a house without design may live for years, if the kid’s bedroom is open to the living room, no one will ever want to buy it. In the same way at some point I believe it won’t be enough to simply write a story, even a good one. We will need to present that story with the best possible design in order to sell it.