Frank Hartmann on Tue, 6 Aug 2002 19:12:27 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> information design

[ I am working on a publication on signs and information and would
appreciate comments on the following statement from a pre-nettime age. Yukio
Ota did very remarkable pictographic design, back in the 70s. I have tried
to reach him by fax, still waiting for an answer. Any information on Ota,
his work, or the statement below is welcome / Frank ]

Information Design: Definitions

Yukio Ota, Tama Art University, Japan

In 'Sign Communication' (Kashiwa Shobo 1989), which was compiled by Ryuichi
Hamaguchi, Yoneji Masuda, myself, and others, a biological information and
sign theory has been developed which considers 'information' along with
'energy' and 'materials' as one of the three main elements which are
indispensable for the survival of any organism.

Information assumes importance with the birth of organisms, while the
ability of such organisms to recognize information is indispensable for
their choosing of the most appropriate action to ensure their own survival.
The identification and evaluation of relations within a given organism is

'Signs', as information elements are meaningful representations of things
and situations. From amongst the many signs around us, we select only
specific signs in line with our own value system. Combining these signs, we
generate complex sets of information.

Signs include 'signals', which are created from things and situations, as
well as 'symbols', which form arbitrary systems of signification such as
languages. The former are direct, active signs, while the latter are
indirect, speculative signs. Information design tasks require that we
maintain a balance between the two.

We perceive visual signals such as light, color, form and movement from the
world around us, or grasp symbols such as words. We then use them as clues
to recognize, identify, judge, and evaluate information embedded in our
environment as the basis for our actions.

This is similar to the amoeba, catching its food and escaping from enemies
by identifying and evaluating temperature, light, and the chemical
composition of its habitat.

The task of information design naturally becomes clear when such
considerations are kept in mind. It is to create environments, such as
spaces for working and living, computer displays, TV screens, printed
documents etc as environments of signs, or, in other words: environments of

Designing 'sign environments', is synonymous with designing 'communication

Communication environments are highly developed spaces where each element is
in harmony with the entirety and where communication between humans and
between humans and their surroundings is assisted.

The design of 'sign environments' and the design of 'communication
environments' are complementary concepts in the understanding of the
function of 'information design'. Considered attention to this two-sided
nature of 'information design' is necessary for its successful application.

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