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Designing Information: Human Factors and Common Sense in Information Design [Hardcover]

Joel Katz

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Book Description

16 Oct 2012
“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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From the Back Cover

The essential, full-color guide to understanding information design and how to make it better Featuring hundreds of full-color problems and examples, this comprehensive guide discusses and illustrates approaches to designing complex data and information for meaning, relevance, usability, and clarity. Described and analyzed in lucid text and over 500 illustrations, examples include successful, compromised, and failed designs covering everything from parking signs and road and statistical maps to explanations of the appropriate use of line, color, and form. The book provides incisive and useful insights into the process of visualizing complex information and communicating it in a simple, honest, and accessible form. Some of the many topics covered include: The nature of information How we perceive, communicate, and understand Dimensionality, proximity, numbers, and scale Organization and typography Movement, orientation, and situational geography Praise for Designing Information "This is a terrific book. "I began working with Joel Katz 40 years ago. We learned from observing each other, which allowed us to discover maps that lead to understanding. "This volume is just that. "The journey from not knowing to knowing is from ignorance to understanding, from complexity to clarification. This book was done by one of the few who have mastered what I used to call 'information architecture,' and what I perhaps should have called 'understanding architecture.' "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

About the Author

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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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  20 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BOUND TO BECOME A CLASSIC IN THE FIELD 24 Oct 2012
By David Keymer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This fine book, half textbook and half just fun to read, will sit on my bookshelf next to Edwin Tufte's classic The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (1983), Tom Kelley's The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America's Leading Design Firm (2001), and Henry Petroski's The Evolution of Everyday Things: How Everyday Artifacts -from Forks and Pins to Paper Clips and Zippers -Came to Be as They Are (1994). That's how good this book is, even for the non-designer like me.

The layout of the book is itself a model of what Katz preaches, from the eminently logical placement of the page tabs (they're in color, a different one for each chapter, and they move down the page as the book progresses from start to finish) to the presentation of alternative solutions (which include his students' solutions to problems posed to them), to graphic design problems, to the minimization of extraneous text on each page.

Katz has a robust sense of humor which he deploys to make points that might otherwise be lost to view. Thus he quotes Miss Piggy on one page (p. 79): "Never eat more than you can lift." The quotation is both funny and illuminating because he is talking about information overload there. (The two other highlighted passages on the page are a quotation from Bruno Martin - "Data-rich is often information-poor."--and Katz's own question of the reader: ""Would you rather have your audience read all of less or none of more?"

This stimulating and rich book is a credit to its publisher, Wiley. They must have assumed there was a market for it. I don't see how there couldn't be, it is so useful. Its attractiveness is just a side benefit of Katz's lively mind.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Giving It 5 Stars Because I Can't Give It 10 5 Nov 2012
By Jane Bozarth - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Three pages in I wanted to stop and write this review but forced myself to read the rest of the book before writing. My opinion was unchanged. "Designing Information" is a delightful, delectable, informative, visually rich, entertaining exploration of the business of making information more accessible. It's a remarkably broad tour of types of elements relevant to good design. I especially loved the sections on forms, signage, maps, and iconography -- things I find frustrating in my daily life. Information is not only useful for those who deal with visual design issues: those involved in instructional design will appreciate the discussion of noninformation and uninformation. (Those who work with compliance, policy, and HR training will recognize all too well the challenge of dealing with uninformation: probably true, probably not important, possibly interesting.) The book is bursting with examples, many supplemented with suggestions for more examples and additional readings. This may be the most visually exciting book I've ever seen, interesting for poring over and fun to just flip through. Also suggested: Don Norman's The Design of Everyday Things and Connie Malamed's Visual Language for Designers: Principles for Creating Graphics that People Understand. Katz's "Designing Information" is a HIGHLY recommended treat for anyone who works with information, instruction, graphics, or art.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A designer who knows how to write. 6 Oct 2012
By Sharon Ann Lefevre - Published on Amazon.com
Many great designers don't write well. Joel Katz does. The result is an enormously valuable book for both designers and educators and even more significantly, the rest of the population that daily engages in graphically designing their web-sites their memos, their proposals etc. etc. Katz's writing style is matter-of-fact at the same time that he offers sophisticated examples and insights. He is adept at finding the root of a design problem --showing how something looks is not the same as showing how it works, for example--and therefore offers the reader a wealth of ahaa moments. I teach writing, but these days that often involves teaching students how to present their writing in graphically engaging and informative ways. This book is proving a valuable resource for me.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Lot to Like but Some Nagging Problems. 6 Dec 2012
By mirasreviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Joel Katz is a much-decorated information designer and teacher who lives and works in Philadelphia -hence many of the examples in this book come from that city. "Designing Information" is his contribution to texts on the subject, intended for information designers and students. Katz likes to communicate in pictures, naturally, so this is a heavily illustrated course on the do's and don't's of information design where the "task of information designers today is to refine and reduce an overabundance of data into meaningful and usable information." Text is always on the right page with illustrative examples on the facing left page. Interesting quotes and recommendations for further reading are found in a narrow far right column.

The book is organized into six parts, the last of which contains credits and more examples. The first part, "Aspects of Information Design", imparts basic concepts regarding the purpose, pitfalls, and problems of information design. The second addresses "Qualitative Issues" such as using and misusing lines, shape, color, labeling, and conveying time. "Quantitative Issues" discusses usability versus completeness, dimensional comparison, substitution to indicate relative size or distance, and the perils of geography. Section Four is entitled "Structure, Organization, Type." It's about creating coherent forms that people can fill out and includes pictograms and fonts. Section Five, "Finding Your Way", is about maps, particularly public transportation maps.

The discussions of maps and representations of geography offer some interesting insights. The section on structure would be useful to anyone designing for public consumption, including web design. I found the content of other sections to be more scattershot, less cohesive. The suggestions for background reading are varied, interesting and not limited to design texts. I've read some of the books that Katz suggests; they're relevant, imaginative choices that won't bore anyone. I like the information in the right column a lot.

On the other hand, Katz tends to reduce the amount of information being presented in his diagrams, in order to simplify, more than, say, Edward R. Tufte. He has taken this approach with text too, with inconsistent results. It is not always clear what Katz is suggesting by his text or captions, and I was left puzzling over the examples. I found this in parts 1-3, not 4-6. This book is not as large as Tufte's books. It's 9.5 x 8 inches. Some examples are too small to make out the details, which is frustrating and hardly improves clarity of the ideas. Problems are sometimes presented without solutions or suggestions. And Katz's tendency to betray his political convictions in this choice of graphics and comment will irk some readers. Ironically, Katz does not always communicate well.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Information design to die for 17 Nov 2012
By Paul Kahn - Published on Amazon.com
Joel Katz is a great designer, and like many great designers he has worked in a variety of fields ranging from illustration to signage systems to photography to transportation maps. He is a great information designer. Information design is one of the design subdivisions that unites, rather than separates, the impulses of the field, a forced marriage of aesthetics and psychology dedicated to communicating complex information in ways that appear simple. It is a tough field to define and a tougher one to practice. As you read Designing Information you begin to understand that many people know with they like but few people like to know the truth. Reading this book may not invert that ratio, but it will supply those who want to communicate the truth a valuable set of principles and examples to apply to their task.

We are living in a time when data journalism and info graphics are in high demand. The exponential growth of digital data sets is driving popular interest in data visualization. Interactive devices on our desks and in our hand keep us pointing and clicking and tapping and swiping at symbols we hope contain the information we are looking for. Our embrace of mobile devices has filled our pockets with vast quantities of incoming data. Our every move is spawning a cornucopia of quantification, enormous numbers of little differences that want to be communicated.

Joel Katz has created a marvelous book on a difficult and important subject. He's done this by writing, selecting and designing over one hundred two-page spreads. There are two kinds of designers: ones who struggle to find a form to fit their content and ones who shape and chop their content to fit the form they want to make. It takes a master to make complex content fit into a simple format. It is why Katz's book is both simple and profoundly useful. Page after page presents a systematic collection of information design principles, problems, methods, samples, quotations and critiques. By illustrating each spread with a judicious and rich collection of examples from the field, combined with student work, he gives the reader the best of the practical and the imaginative. Each of the real-world examples illustrates principles and the way things really work. Anyone who has worked in this field will nod knowingly as Katz points out how, to use his own words, "every sliver lining has a cloud". In the real world, carefully crafted results are often changed at the last minute to fit the constraints of the client's taste, politics or budget. The student examples drawn from his teaching experience provide a counterpoint, giving a freer reign to the ideas he wants us to learn.

The book is also filled with instructive and memorable quotes from a range of design thinkers. Looking at the book, reading and re-reading its content, and reflecting on the results, I am reminded of a passage from "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower" by William Carlos Williams
It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.
Williams also described a poem as a machine in which every word and syllable is intended to communicate. We are surrounded by communication filled with uninformation, noninformation, misinformation and disinformation, and all we really want is the poetry of information. Reading what Katz has written reminds me that we suffer each day for the lack of it.

Designing Information will help you become a better designer whether you qualify that with services, products, graphics, user experience, interaction, urban planning, transportation or any of a dozen other epithets. Studying Designing Information will help you see the methods and craft that make information design succeed.
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