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Designing Information: Human Factors and Common Sense in Information Design

ISBN: 978-1-118-42009-6
224 pages
August 2012
Designing Information: Human Factors and Common Sense in Information Design (1118420098) cover image
"The book itself is a diagram of clarification, containing hundreds of examples of work by those who favor the communication of information over style and academic postulation—and those who don't. Many blurbs such as this are written without a thorough reading of the book. Not so in this case. I read it and love it. I suggest you do the same."
—Richard Saul Wurman

"This handsome, clearly organized book is itself a prime example of the effective presentation of complex visual information."
—eg magazine

"It is a dream book, we were waiting for…on the field of information. On top of the incredible amount of presented knowledge this is also a beautifully designed piece, very easy to follow…"
—Krzysztof Lenk, author of Mapping Websites: Digital Media Design

"Making complicated information understandable is becoming the crucial task facing designers in the 21st century. With Designing Information, Joel Katz has created what will surely be an indispensable textbook on the subject."
Michael Bierut

"Having had the pleasure of a sneak preview, I can only say that this is a magnificent achievement: a combination of intelligent text, fascinating insights and - oh yes - graphics. Congratulations to Joel."
—Judith Harris, author of Pompeii Awakened: A Story of Rediscovery

Designing Information shows designers in all fields - from user-interface design to architecture and engineering - how to design complex data and information for meaning, relevance, and clarity. Written by a worldwide authority on the visualization of complex information, this full-color, heavily illustrated guide provides real-life problems and examples as well as hypothetical and historical examples, demonstrating the conceptual and pragmatic aspects of human factors-driven information design. Both successful and failed design examples are included to help readers understand the principles under discussion.
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10 Introduction

12 1 Aspects of Information Design
The nature of information

14 The nature of information

16 Self-referential vs. functional

18 When it doesn't work

20 Non-wayfinding cartography

22 Learning from Minard

24 Simple and complex

26 Worlds in collision

28 Dispersed vs. layered

30 Anatomy and function

32 Metaphor and simile

34 Emotional power

36 Is it really urgent?

38 The branding fallacy

40 2 Qualitative Issues
Perceptions, conventions, proximity

42 Lines

44 Unintended consequences of shape

46 (Mis)connotations of form

48 The middle value principle

50 Connotations of color

52 Color constraints

54 Color and monochrome

56 From color to grayscale

58 Generations of labeling

60 Connections among people

62 Connections in products

64 Consistent and mnemonic notation

66 It's about time

68 Point of view

70 Navigation: page and screen

74 Interpretation

76 3 Quantitative Issues
Dimensionality, comparisons, numbers, scale

78 Information overload

80 Too much information

82 Too many numbers

84 Dimensional comparison

86 The pyramid paradox

88 How big?

90 Substitution

92 Numerical integrity

94 Meaningful numbers

96 Perils of geography

98 Escaping geography

102 Data and form

100 Per capita

102 Data and form

104 Apples to apples: data scale consistency

106 Relative and absolute: ratios of change

108 Multi-axiality

110 Measurement and proportion

112 4 Structure, Organization, Type
Hierarchy and visual grammar

114 The grid

116 Organizing response

118 (Dis)organization and proximity

120 Rational hierarchies

122 An intelligible ballot

124 Understanding audience needs

126 Staging information

128 Synecdoche

130 Is a picture worth 1,000 words?

132 Visualizing regulations

134 Focus and distraction

136 Language and grammar

138 Sans serif

140 Serif

142 Font efficiency

144 Typographic differentiation

146 Size matters (weight, too)

148 Legibility

150 Expressive typography

152 5 Finding Your Way?
Movement, orientation, situational geography

154 What’s up? Heads up

156 Signs and arrows

158 Scale and adjacency

160 A movement network genealogy

162 Map or diagram?

164 Guiding the traveler, then and now

166 Information release sequence

170 Isochronics 1

172 Analogies in painting and sculpture

174 The road is really straight

176 Transitions and familiarity

178 Service, naming and addressing

180 (Ir)rational innovation

182 Perils of alphabetization

184 The view from below—or above

186 Urban open space

188 6 Documents
Stories, inventories, notes

190 Credits

214 Inventory: Paris

216 Inventory: Italy

218 Bibliography

221 Gratitude

222 Index

224 About the author

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Joel Katz is an internationally known information designer and authority on the visualization of complex information. He teaches information design at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia. His design work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, New York and the Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo and Kyoto. His photography has been exhibited in the United States and Europe. He is coauthor, with Alina Wheeler, of Brand Atlas and is a founding member of AIGA Philadelphia.

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