diversification of minds - conversation in processes
design for communities

Tokyo, 07.10 - 09.10 1999

10 07 am<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 'information'.

'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 information.

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