Last Saturday July 3 took place in Chile Big Bang Data Conference, the first International Data Visualisation Conference. The conference starting point was the Chilean earthquake that took place last February 27.
This generated the creation and development of massive amounts of data and information coming from all different sources. In addition, a general chaotic situation in the whole country was also caused by transport and communication disruptions. At the same time, Chilean Government realised that it did not have the appropriate tools to make decisions, as the incoming information was becoming hard to be comprehended and be communicated. This situation made think of alternative tools or disciplines that would have been used to effectively communicate the increasing information avalanche.
Information Design and Data Visualisation are two specific disciplines that are aimed to visually communicate complex content, and that would have aided in that context. The objective of the conference was to show the importance of both disciplines and how they can contribute to other disciplines, such as Politics, Science or Medicine, to bring their complex and specialised contents to an inexpert audience. However, information design and data visualisation are not synonyms, as they refer to different fields and have different purposes. In simple words:
Data/Information Visualisation: deals with the representation of data or information in original or fashionable ways. For this discipline, digital tools and aesthetic languages are essential.
Information Design: deals with the translation of complex, unorganised, or unstructured data into valuable meaningful information (Baer, 2008:12). It is aimed to communicate complex information in a visual, synthetic and effective way, where content analysis and information organisation constitute key stages of its process.
As an information design researcher, since the beginning I was concerned about making clear the difference between these two disciplines. This and emphasising the relevance of information organisation were the core subjects of my lecture. Other lecturers were the visual artist Christian Oyarzún, the graphic designer Paulo Saavedra and the web developer Rodrigo Duarte.
Even though this conference was more data visualisation orientated, than information design, it was a great step for supporting both disciplines, and showing their power and scientific rigour to communicate complex contents, when projects are effectively consolidated.
– Baer, Kim (2008). Information design workbook : graphic approaches, solutions, and inspiration + 30 case studies. Beverly, Mass. : Rockport