Have been talking to a couple of very senior design practitioners this week and sharing my thoughts on the future of information design. Information design was never considered an important aspect in our societies or businesses. The digital revolution has changed our everyday lives with the constantly increasing volume of information in all shapes an forms. As new behaviors emerge as social technologies advancements in an unprecedented was resulting in the overall changing of our communication patterns and attitude towards privacy.

The context of the social media and technologies presents both opportunities and challenges. Information design can be a true competitive weapon for companies who understand the power of social information design. Most people don’t really see the disruptive nature of social information design.

Think information design the first name that pops up in the mind is Edward Tufte. He is a statistician and Professor Emeritus of statistics, information design, interface design and political economy at Yale University. The New York Times called him the "the da Vinci of Data". I love that title. His interest is in what he calls “forever knowledge,” like his intellectual hero, Galileo. Tufte argues that principles that matter transcend time and culture. The illustrative principles that Galileo used – careful, clear, and accurate portrayal of data he observed are among the forever knowledge to which Tufte adds with his work in what he calls information design. MIT Sloan Management Review just published an interview with him titled “How Facts Change Everything (If You Let Them)” and here’s an excerpt:

On the (Very,Very Bad) Design of Corporate Web Sites

The front page of a good news site will have 300 links on it. That's great. And so the question is: How come your corporate Web site has only seven links on its opening screen, and the links are called "sharing our values," "participation" and so on? No user has ever asked Google to show him all the Web sites about sharing your company's values


A corporate Web site should do what a good news Web site does. If you look at the really successful Web sites where there are millions of hits, especially nonfiction Web sites, the New York Times and Google News, they all have 300 links on the opening page. How come businesses don't do that?

The kind of conformity toward flabbiness in corporate Web sites is astonishing, and they're imitating one another in their content and design flabbiness. It's silly. People are inherently distrustul of them. And yet most of those sites are, in fact, about reporting facts. But they get softened up by the marketing people. You get all these pressures that tend to normalize design, that tend to make it like other corporations and that make things intellectually flabby and visually flabby. They turn into pitches. 

Marketing and the bureaucratization of design approval are the big enemies of design. There are probably 20 special interests that want to leave their thumbprint on every design. There's accommodating to ISO [International Organization for Standardization] standards. There's accommodating to people whose eyes are getting old. There's adjustments to what the competition is doing. And then there are, alas, the marketers and the lawyers. Many of these special interests have worthy claims, but when they all pile on, it results in compromised, vague and generic — but very expensive — designs.

Design excellence has to defend itself and make appropriate adjustments without losing the integrity and coherence of the hands-on work. In large corporations, it's very hard to get control of design. Thousands of employees are putting vast amounts of visual material up for public consumption: forms, advertising, interfaces, manuals and on and on. This material represents and exemplifies the corporation. It's the direct expression of the corporation.

In his opinion, "Great design is not democratic. It comes from great designers." How much truth is there? I will let you decide.

Original Post: http://mootee.typepad.com/innovation_playground/2009/08/edward-tuftes-on-the-very-very-very-bad-design-of-corporate-web-sites.html

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