Friday, March 21, 2008

Information Design: What does it take to be successful?

All of the examples that I have given are of poor information design. Some of them have had more or less success, but they all had substantial flaws. There's a reason I'm saying that information design is a missing profession.

Why is it so hard? First off, true information design projects are fairly rare. BI is usually about straightforwards reporting and ad-hoc analysis. People don't get much of a chance to practice the discipline.

Information design requires a lot of other disciplines. It takes statistics but isn't limited to statistics. Data mining can help but can easily bog down a project in complicated solutions. It requires being able to think about information in very sophisticated ways and then turn around and think about information very naively.

It requires knowing the nuances of an organization. Who are the clients? The users? What is the organizational culture? What does the organization know about itself? What does the organization strongly believe that just isn't so? It's not impossible for an outside consultant to come in and do information design, but it is impossible for a company to come it with a one-size-fits-all solution. When it comes to information design, one size fits one.

Because the profession of information design hasn't been developed yet, it isn't included in project plans and proposals. For two of the projects above information design wasn't even thought of and for the third it wasn't done well because the clients true needs weren't uncovered.

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