Disclaimer: written in a hurry (and my pyjamas) so my usual diplomatic tone my have been lost.
For the first time in about 10 years I’ve got myself to what, as an information designer, you would assume would be the first event in my diary each year: the Information Design Conference, held at the University of Greenwich, complete with a 30ft elephant outside the front door.
I won’t do a run through of all the speakers. If you were there, you’ll know what they said. If you weren’t there, I can’t possibly try and explain here. A few worth mentioning though.
Per Mollerup’s opening keynote focused on the definition of information design, and the necessity to keep the way we explain and communicate information design in keeping with the principles of the field itself – keep the definition simple (I’m going to come back to this in a moment).
Caroline Jarrett focusing, specifically, in detail, on the minutiae of the location of buttons on forms.
Rupesh Vyas and Sangeeta Balasubramani talking about their work on collecting data for the Indian census through 300 million forms, and the representation of this data (I actually missed this talk but have heard so many good things about it I think it’s worth mentioning, and hopefully I can get a reprise of it in day 2).
Sally Bigwood having the guts to stand up during the infographic craze and say ‘Hey, you do realize that sometimes a table does the job just as well’. For those who got cross about this, the important word in there is ‘sometimes’ – nobody is talking about taking away your charts.
I’ve picked out these four presenters in particular because they are professionals, offering examples and opinions based on their work in the real world.
A majority of other speakers were from academic institutions, and this made me worry that information design as a service could be working itself into a viscous circle.
For me, conferences like this are about inspiring people with great work and new ideas so the information design community can take these ideas on board, and collectively move forward.
If the majority of information we present on the rare occasions we get together is academic research about stuff we already kind of know, we simply find ourselves talking more and more between ourselves about the things we already know (in contradiction of Per Mollerup’s ‘keep the definition simple’ message) rather than taking the opportunity to go and tell the world about the basic principles.
Ok, enough of the deep thinking. Time to get dressed and see what day 2 has to offer.