In June 2007, I attended the 12th Vision Plus IIID Conference in Austria. The four day conference was held in a small alpine village called Schwarzenburg. The village is set amongst the most lush green hills and breathtakingly beautiful mountains I have ever seen – the kind of place where you’d imagine Heidi eating cheese, or Arnie pumping iron.
Speakers from the international design community with a specific interest in information design were invited. The title of the conference was Information Design – Achieving Measurable Results. I submitted a synopsis and was excited to be asked to give a 40 minute presentation. I represented the Communication Research Institute at this conference�in my former capacity as a Research Fellow.
My presentation was the first session on the second morning of the conference. After a 30 hour journey and more than a touch of jetlag, I was glad I wasn’t presenting on the first morning as I may have been the first person to ever fall asleep during their own paper.
Using examples from professional projects, I discussed how measuring a design’s performance can improve the design process and deliver superior design outcomes.
The presentation was well received, I received invitations to visit Coventry, Reading and Santiago Universities, requests for contributions to overseas design journals, and the possibility of working with overseas studios on project work. It was exciting to see how much the work I have been doing was valued by my international peers – information design is a lonely world in Australia.
Papers at the conference discussed how and to what extent we can measure the success of design, how the role and impact of design can be quantified, the techniques and technologies that can be used to obtain measurable results, and how designers are building these into their projects.
Projects discussed covered the whole gamut of information design – from signage and wayfinding systems to the more complex representation of financial and health communications. Highlights for me were :
1. Jose Allard’s typeface design for Santiago’s transport system based on the hand-painted typography of Chiles personalised buses (each bus driver tended to make his bus all his own, at least visually) showed that even under the crushing conformity of modernisation, individual expression – albeit standardised – still has a place and a very loud voice.
2. Krzystof Lenk’s students’ work from Rhode Island School of Design based on Harper’s Magazine’s Annual Index – a page of statistical data on American society – where various statistics were represented in an immediate and visual way.
3. Paul Stiff’s discussion of rudimentary wayfinding maps – an ephemeral collection of hand-drawn notes, maps and diagrams on pieces of scrap paper, napkins and on the back of cards – that demonstrated that in everday life most people create both cognitive and tangible aids for navigating.
Not to mention, meeting and talking with the amazing people from this industry that are doing such interesting work all over the world.
It was obvious from the conference that there are many differing views and levels of competency in the design industry when it comes to measuring design. While some speakers expressed concern over the difficulty of measuring design, others including myself, demonstrated that not only is the measuring of a design’s performance a straightforward process, but is also a key stage or component of any design process that achieves the best outcomes for our clients, and more importantly for the users of the designs we produce.
I learned a lot from this conference and hope to bring some of this inspiration to my work here in Australia.