Information Design Conference

Last Thursday to Friday, a very interesting and (I’d say) important event took place in Greenwich, London. No, I’m not talking about the filming of Les Misérables with (Russel Crowe and Helena Bonham Carter as lead roles why hello there! Ahem). I’m talking about the Information Design Conference 2012.

I arrived a bit late due to very inconvenient flight delays, which made me miss the wayfinding session, with, amongst others, Per Mollerup as a speaker. The following talks did not disappoint, however. These are some that I found particularly interesting:

Information design for interaction:

Inclusive and accessible information design for self service terminals
Jenny Darzentas, University of the Aegean, Syros, Greece.

Challenges in developing the interface for SSTs (eg cash machines, self-checkouts, ticket machines, etc.). What the user is feeling and thinking often doesn’t correspond with the intentions of the designer. The designer may want the system to be engaging and absorbing – in reality users are afraid of this. They just want to get their tickets / withdraw money / whatsoever.

 

Data visualisation:

Seeing is believing: the comparative effects of textual vs visual presentation of the health impacts of climate change on attitudes and behavioural intentions of the UK general public
Will Stahl-Timmins, European Centre for Environment and Human Health.

Will Stahl-Timmins presents of some of his work for the ECEHH: Informative graphics (I refuse the term ‘infographics’) that were undeniably intriguing, visually appealing and – above all – understandable. The work concerned communication environmental and health issues; particularly climate change

(Animated) graphics with a cause: Neurath, Rosling, and data visualisation in contemporary documentaries
Yuri Engelhardt, Ekaterina Yudin, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Yuri Engelhardt deserves credit as one of the conference’s most charismatic speaker. A gripping speech about graphics with a cause. Graphics that concern political, social, economical or environmental issues. Graphics that communicate efficiently and effectively, and clarifies. Graphics that aim to make a change attitudes and behaviour. Hans Rosling’s work today can be compared to Otto and Marie Neurath’s work in the 1930’s.

Beauty and the beast: a critique of data visualisations
Sally Bigwood, Plain Figures, Wakefield, UK.

Another very charismatic speaker. Sally Bigwood has three criteria for determining a well designed data visualisation:
(1) Does it reveal a trend/pattern?
(2) Does it organize/summarize the data?
(3) Does it communicate with ease?
Tables are often the easiest way of presenting data – the numeric table should be a default, the starting point (though this depends on the complexity of the data). Bigwood ends with a quote, which I believe should be given emphasis in the midst of the beautified infographic-wave: If your numbers are boring, don’t decorate them. Go find some numbers that are interesting!

 

Language and content:

Turning conscripts into revolutionaries: Introducing clear English and basic information design to a deeply resistant audience.
Abi Searle-Jones, Northants, UK

On how to communicate with underwriters, who sometimes can act like Saint George’s. Convincing them about the value of information design and a clear language. The keys in this communication are: adapt and keep adapting, respect the audience, be specific – and go easy on yourself.

 

Collaboration in design:

Two heads are better than one: a first-hand report on a collaborative approach to information design and sciences
Marek Kultys, Independent Designer and Researcher, London, UK

Marek Kultys has collaborated with scientists, and attepmted to clarify the meiosis and mitosis processes, and ‘immunographics’.

 

Information design for health:

Effects of deliberately puzzling HIV and AIDS billboards in South Africa
Carel Jansen, University of Groningen, The Netherlands; Stellenbosch University, South Africa.

Carel Jansen looks at various approaches to informing people about HIV and AIDS, and eventually how to change their attitudes. HIV/AIDS is still a big problem; people are not informed, or even misinformed. One goal is creating more openness: getting people to talk to each other about it.
Has fear-appeal messages worked? Teenage slang? Exemplifying approaches, like ‘Take John, for instance…’? From ‘drinking leads to irresponsible behaviour’ to ‘abuse boose, you loose’ – a mixture of various textual and graphical representations.

The whole health-session was very interesting, IMHO. I guess I can’t write about them all I should be prioritizing my dissertation work from now on instead.

As an end note: at the conference I worked as a student helper, and me and a few classmates came up with this idea for the t-shirt:

Though mine was a bit big, neat idea, eh?