On clarity and information design

PreRamble:  My favorite, go-to curator of all things interesting, Maria Popova presents her expertly filtered findings on information design, citing Nate Silver on the Three Keys to Great Information Design. She points to Silver’s recent effort with editor Gareth Cook, The Best American Infographics 2014.

Here’s an excerpt … Popova quoting Silver, quoting Edward Tufte …

Silver points out that at the dawn of information design – as, for instance, in the heyday of the disciple’s little-known godfather, Frtiz Kahn – these constraints were largely practical, imposed by factors like the cost of materials and the availability of physical space for printing the infographic. But with the rise of the internet, the chief constraint became the audience’s attention. Pointing to the legacy of anti-“chartjunk” crusader Edward Tufte, Silver writes:

Tufte and others have long spoken to the importance of minimalism in information design. But it proved to be more important as design was translated onto the web, where attention spans are measured in seconds and the next graphic is but a mouse-click or hand-swipe away. More isn’t always better: no more in information design than in poetry, or painting, or product design. A superfluous axis on a chart, an extra dimension of information, can distract from the focal point just as much as an extraneous word in a sonnet or an unnecessary button on a tablet. It can reduce the signal-to-noise ratio and leave the viewer less well informed.

Successful examples of information design can sometimes be highly intricate, but these cases usually involve a layered approach. The most essential elements of the graphic – the most essential parts of the story – jump out immediately.

The Take-Away:  Invigorating to see that the clarity found at the intersection of information, design and communication continues to be as critical, relevant and fascinating as ever.