Today, data and information are everywhere. Whether we’re online or off, we are constantly receiving, processing and transmitting packages of information that structures our daily routines, interactions and our lives. The goal of information design (ID) is to organize and communicate raw data in manageable, easily digestible chunks of information, so that it can provide clarity and meaning to users. To help them make sense of the world through what they’re seeing and reading.
While the products of ID are all around us, a single definition of what ID actually is remains elusive. This is largely because of the myriad of ways in which it’s interpreted. In its broadest sense, ID is the overall process of developing information that’s based on understanding the needs of users and the goals of the content creators. At the narrow end, it simply refers to what the information looks like on the page or screen in terms of layout, hierarchy, typography and colour.
Generally speaking, ID is thought to be the practice of presenting information in the clearest possible way, so that it is accessible and easily comprehended by users. Again, in the broadest sense, it is considered multi-disciplinary, benefiting from wide expertise from several different but complementary sources. A truly collaborative effort, ultimately involving a wide range of specialists — visual designers, writers, illustrators, data visualization experts and usability specialists — with the shared goal of conveying meaning to users.
Often, ID is closely associated with user experience (UX) design. Both set out to present information clearly and concisely in an engaging way. However, In the UX realm, information is designed from the point of view of the user and its creative process is tailored specifically with this in mind.
In her book, Just Enough Research, design consultant Erika Hall observed that information and iteration are the keys to successful design, suggesting that the strength of any ID project will be determined by the quality and depth of the research that’s behind it. In-depth knowledge about the client, their goals and the social dynamics of the end-user are critical sources of information. And when these are incorporated into the design solution, they will play a critical role in determining the end result.
Pivot Design Strategic Approach
Pivot’s signature Informed Design approach, which can be described as a slimmed down, more targeted ID solution, concentrates on the visual dimension. This allows us to focus client research and frame solutions based on user-centred design that can meet the needs of our clients. Through this narrower lens, users are both the source of inspiration for research insights and the target of our creative thinking. Through the Informed Design strategic approach, we have the tools and expertise to imagine and create better life experiences, with the potential to deliver quality results for our clients and greater satisfaction for their audiences.
Pivot has successfully applied its Informed Design approach to numerous client situations, two of which are summarized here: ALS Society of Canada and CANN-NET, a group of organizations in the Canadian kidney network whose goal is to communicate the latest kidney research to physicians and patients.
ALS Society of Canada
ALS is a fatal disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. As these are destroyed, muscles begin to weaken, which leads to gradual but progressive paralysis. ALS can affect people at any age and its non-linear symptom progression is very difficult to map. It is a relatively unheard of disease with little funding, yet the effects of living with ALS are profound and disturbing. ALS Canada approached Pivot to determine how best to provide patients and caregivers with the right information at the right time.
To determine the most effective way to accomplish this, Pivot took a Service Design approach to the project. We worked to understand who is affected, the people involved in their care and the effectiveness of the organization to support the front-line journey. With this larger service level perspective, our Informed Design methodology allowed project stakeholders to learn from our findings and to communicate with other agencies about the need for better support and information dissemination for people living with ALS.
With the release of new clinical guidelines on when to go on dialysis, CANN-NET approached Pivot looking to understand how best to design something that would communicate the latest information to their audiences.
User interviews and critical research became the focus of the “how” for this project. Strategic infographics were developed for each audience type (experts and patients) to ensure that design and language would resonate. Both information pieces were designed to emphasize patient-provider conversations with the intention that the pieces would work together at each stage of the decision-making journey to focus on choices and options along the way. In addition, Pivot also established a digital hierarchy for the website hosting the information, together with a paediatric version designed to make the guidelines more accessible to a wider audience.
Pivot’s Informed Design methodology works for us. It is embedded in our culture and ingrained in our creative process to produce the creative solutions we’re looking for. It is our path to inspired design and quality client solutions realized through a user-centric approach with the potential to take user experience to the next level.