Wanted: better questions

How should designers create experiences?

David Armano, who is the Vice President of Experience Design with Critical Mass, references this presentation from Bob Jacobson, who in October spoke at the 3rd International Conference on Information Design (ICID) in Curitiba, Brazil.

I like how Jacobson describes the goal of information design:

Instead, unanimously, we called attention to the ever more complex information environments into which people, individually and collectively, are plunged almost at birth and through which they must navigate their entire lives. We agreed, on this if on nothing else, that information design, as it had been practiced for 25 years – rationalizing the presentation of information, usually in graphical form – must grow conceptually as well as technically, even epistemologically: information design must become experientially and environmentally wise (emphasis supplied).

I like that thought. We've become pretty good at presenting data - its visual display has indeed improved - but we're much less skilled understanding the how and why of its consumption. That's what I find so interesting about this time. We're saturated with information, but in some ways are less sure about what we think because the what we think is always conditioned on yet-to-be-processed results. We do need to apprehend information differently.

That's why I believe the "conceptual growth of information design" calls for better questions, not more information.

Jacobson gets at that thought here:

...stop thinking of people solely as “users” and don’t try to know, let alone meet their every need. Instead of ethnographically cataloguing every aspect of the audiences for whom we design, Leave some needs unmet. Preserve the unknown in the environment so that people can take delight in discovering objects, information, and relationships for themselves. It’s A risky position, both experts agree, that requires finesse. Designers who adopt this retro mode must ensure that people have or can acquire the skills required to find what they need in the environments in which they

The whole presentation is worth a read if you get the chance. Because we know things in different ways, Jacobson draws on the whole of human experience to argue for a different way of doing design.