Making National Women’s Day meaningful with information design lecture
National Women’s Day is not only an occasion for getting flowers and gifts from men. It’s a perfect day to learn new things! That’s why I seized the moment and went to a free lecture at AFA Katowice. Its title was “Information design and systems approach” and it was prepared by prof. Rupesh Vyas from Aalto University in Helsinki. He’s a professor of the practice of visual communication design with 20 years of experience and he’s the leader of the information design major at the Department of Media.
The lecture lasted one hour and had two noticeable parts – the scientific part and the case studies in which Vyas explained the best approach to design information in a specific context.
Human biology is the key to good information design
Rupesh Vyas wanted us to remember that designing isn’t detached from reality. Context is really important when we are creating visual and informational layers of products. Surprisingly, these are not only cultural and social references. It’s also the human body’s context and the way it works that still counts in a world full of technology and innovative solutions. Why? The human body (especially the brain) is a place where people process information, so Rupesh Vyas referred to the mind-clarifying systems created by Daniel Kahneman. They are:
- Feeling – fast, automatic, reacts immediately; an intuitive mind approach which is more influential when it comes to decisions
- Thinking- the mind is slower, analytical
Kahneman’s research shows that the so-called cognitive bias (a systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment) may have two sources which are the same as the above-mentioned types of minds. A good designer should remember that people may react in two different ways to designed elements – not only analytically or emotionally, as it may change depending on the situation they are experiencing. It’s important to be aware of two types of reactions, especially since nowadays people are overwhelmed by information from all sides and don’t have time to focus on everything.
Design everything together, not separately
Information design does not only depend on presenting information to end users. It’s part of a whole system we are creating. It’s connected with either the interface and visual layer or interactions. All of these elements form a whole which should reflect the world of people who use the product (or could easily become part of that world). The design should be placed in a context otherwise it will be useless. Unfortunately, many graphic designers make the same common mistake and forget about this. They introduce as much information as it is possible, or on the other hand not enough info, to make their design prettier and they don’t care (or forget) about the informational aspect. A good approach is to be aware that product design should help to provide people with the proper information about a product, and not just have them guess and search for it themselves.
Maybe some examples
Even big companies can’t avoid making mistakes in the information design process. Rupesh Vyas told us about some good examples of real design problems he was trying to redesign with his students at Aalto University.
The first case was an attempt to design a system to help the Aaalto University students find and choose classes. Rupesh Vyas wanted to use a real design challenge to explain to his students what designing a product meant in context and according to end users’ goals. The end users were the students themselves, so it helped them to solve the problem and decide what was the best way to present all the necessary information. They prepared a student’s life cycle in user journey and thought about what is most important for a student who faces the choice between different types of classes. The next steps were visual and information design with a prototype at the end to show their ideas for students’ experience improvement.
The second case he added to his lecture consisted of posters with bus stations and lines placed at the bus stops. The problem which he noticed was that the same posters were hung up at every bus stop in Helsinki. They have the same information with lines and stations, no matter where the bus stop is located. As a result people waiting for a bus probably don’t even know where and what information refers to their position! Rupesh Vyas accepted it as a challenge and brought students with different stakeholders into one room at the university to consider some visual and information changes. They tried to empathize with bus travelers and elaborate their user journey. Students went to the bus stops to see how they look in real life and tried to redesign the posters as part of the classes with Rupesh.
The lecture wasn’t long but raised an important topic about information design and context which is often forgotten by creative people. Design is not only made up of visual elements like font types, weight or their colors. It’ also has an informational function which should answer users’ goals and needs. Prof. Rupesh Vyas has got a wonderful approach to design and huge knowledge which he shared with the lecture participants. Luckily, I had the possibility to be a part of this experience on National Women’s Day. And I must say, it was a great gift for me.