Between life and death: There are just three design principles

Students love to ask this question: “Is there any common strategy to design?”. Then I usually reply: “Yes, clearly there are three simple common strategies!”. They are:

  1. Creating order from chaos
  2. Creating chaos from order
  3. Copy from the best examples

Information designers usually have to create order from chaos. Information overload does not mean “too much information” but more precisely “too much information one can handle”. The information designers job is a) attach handles to the information (restructuring, contextualization and renaming) and b) reduce information that is not needed. This always is at risk to go too far and snuff out the life that was there.

Whereas the graphic designers job often is to animate dead things: Information that does not speak much. Attach handles and add context that make information live up. This is always includes the possibility to go too far as well: things turn back, start to live on its own life and hardly help anyone getting anywhere with it.

The problem is: there rarely is just graphic design or just information design. Mostly both ghosts sitting on each shoulder whispering into the designers ears.

That is where principle #3 kicks in: “copy from the best examples” does not mean stealing, but it means to look as closely as possible at how to balance life and death, so neither one can win.






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