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A Blue Perspective: Information, 75% OFF!

Information, 75% OFF!
19 January 2004

People are embarassed of information: when you're designing something for them they always feel like they have to make up for the information by putting in pictures of smiling people, a rainbow of colours, eye watering effects and Comic Sans. People don't notice while they're engrossed in their newly purchased Joan Collins novel that the only picture is on the cover and their choice in colours is black or white.

There is a time and a place for the more obvious elements of visual design. They can help draw a viewer's attention, illustrate a point or set a mood. But a lot of people think that good design can only be achieved with pictures and colour. They seem to forget that the last time they were pawing through an instruction manual they didn't want to see smiling models or text obscured by a 50% transparent background of circuit boards. They don't notice that the font is serifed, the line spacing is just right and the colours high contrast enough so that when their VCR starts beeping ominously they can find "ominous beep" while riffling through said manual.

No, some people tend to lose objectivity when they're involved in a project's design. They know the information intimately, but forget that the people using it don't, and hence they want a design that combats their own familiarity with the subject, not present the information as best as possible.

Information should never be undervalued. 99% of the time it's what people are looking for, so why sell it short? Sometimes you're looking for art, sometimes you're looking for information. It's a designer's job to know the difference – and I thank God most people aren't designers.

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