Here at Decision Foundry, we often come across a very common confusion. Many people tend to use the terms “Data Visualization” and “Information Design” interchangeably. While the concepts appear related and can look very similar, their end purpose is slightly different when it comes to simplifying data.
Let’s help to clear up that confusion today.
What Are The Differences Between Data Visualization and Information Design?
Let’s start with Data Visualization. Data Visualization is very objective in nature. It’s basically a visual representation of data on its own and in a strictly instructive manner. It highlights trends, patterns, and relationships in a simplified and visually engaging manner, so that readers can understand the information easily. In Data Visualization, there’s frequent use of tools such often charts, graphs, maps, or other visual elements, to drive home the key point.
Now let’s move on to Information Design. Where Data Visualization is objective in nature, Information Design is subjective in nature. Rather than simply presenting the data on its own, Information Design involves adding a structure to that data in a logical and intuitive manner. It focuses on the relationships between the data points, structuring the information in a logical and intuitive manner. The focus here is more on the arrangements of content and hierarchy, ensuring readers can more easily locate the data they need. Information Design draws on things like graphic design, user experience (UX) design, and even cognitive psychology for inspiration to create more effective and impactful communication.
A good way to imagine this is to think about IKEA instruction manuals. What makes them so easy and comfortable to follow (for most people), despite the often complex and even complicated furniture assembly procedures? It comes from their simplified visual designs (Data Visualization) coupled with a well-constructed and logical sequence of those designs, flowing together into a step-by-step presentation (Information Design).
In a nutshell, Information Design is not one thing but lots of little things, and Data visualization is just a part of it.