Breaks at last week’s Information Design Conference were enlivened by a grandstand view of the film set for Les Miserables. The conference itself needed no enlivening with papers spanning wide-ranging topics such as public communication of the impact of education on social mobility in Mexico, through the design of forms and reports for the 2011 Indian Census, right down to the detail of button placement on interactive forms. Themes included design for transport and wayfinding, design in health care, the challenges of data visualisation and historical perspectives on information design.
This last theme yielded some delightful perspectives on the work of information designers. Pia Pedersen, in a talk on the ground-breaking exhibition work of Marie Neurath in the 1940s, quoted a less than positive reaction ‘These charts just aren’t the sort scientists prepare’ and Sue Perks referred to the description of designers working on the New Exhibition Scheme for the Science Museum in the 1970s as ‘…pure tasteless communicators’. It seems that clear communication still faces some barriers in technical disciplines: in his description of studies to test the efficacy of different map orientations in navigation Thomas Porathe noted ‘Real mariners never turn the map upside down’.