25th Anniversary

IIID celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2011.

Some of IIID’s long-standing members and friends were asked to share their reflections on the past 25 years:

Helmut Langer

Helmut Langer is specialized in cultural, environmental, institutional, and social communications projects, and has created many multicultural and global communications projects of international signification, e.g. for several UN organisations including UNESCO, UNEP, UNFCCC, UNISDR and European institutions, and milestones for global networking in aid of our planet's environment. From 1987 to 1993, he served as President and member of the board of the International Council of Graphic Design Associations (ICOGRADA), the world body for professional communication design, a representative international non-governmental organisation. Prof.h.c. Langer has more than 30 years profound design experience and receives international visual competence. His works are published worldwide and are represented in major international design collections, exhibitions and publications. He has received many prizes and awards at international competitions.

Congratulations 25 years IIID! The first time I met Peter Simlinger 1987 at the Icograda conference in Amsterdam, he told me about his IIID plans. Just elected as President Elect of Icograda I gave him my full support and so I became one of the first IIID members. Looking back today, it is a really miracle that in the ''design jungle'' over so many years IIID has not only survived but also has grown and performed in so many excellent directions on a world level. It was hard work - Peter never began to break up and never broke up. Today IIID is a well- respected voice for high quality information design thinking and creating – worldwide. One can say the global information age would be different without the International Institute for Information Design. The world is over-newsed but under-informed – IIID has the potential to change this for the better. There is a lot of work.

Thanks to Peter for his vision and thanks to all contributors and supporters. Furthermore good luck and much success!

Erik Spiekermann

Erik Spiekermann studied History of Art and English in Berlin. He is information architect, type designer and author of books and articles on type and typography. He was founder (1979) of MetaDesign, Germany's largest design firm with offices in Berlin, London and San Francisco. In 1988 he started FontShop, a company for production and distribution of electronic fonts. Erik is board member of ATypI and the German Design Council and Past President of the ISTD, International Society of Typographic Designers, as well as IIID. In 2001 he left MetaDesign and is now a partner in Edenspiekermann with offices in Amsterdam, Berlin, London and San Francisco. In May 2007 he was the first designer to be elected into the Hall of Fame by the European Design Awards for Communication Design. Erik is an Honorary Professor at the University of the Arts in Bremen and in 2006 received an Honorary Doctorship from Pasadena Art Center. He was made an Honorary Royal Designer for Industry by the RSA in Britain in 2007 and Ambassador for the European Year of Creativity and Innovation by the European Union for 2009*. In 2004, the IIID General Assembly unanimously voted to give an IIID Award for Leadership and Distinctive Achievement in Information Design to Erik.

There have always been designers who have not mainly been interested in making beautiful images, but solving problems following a more analytical approach. Often, however, their analytically derived solutions have lacked in finesse - they simply weren't attractive. Engineers as well as programmers tend to use technical constraints to deny designers the freedom to explore more exciting graphics, experimental interfaces or surprising visuals. And information design has always been much more about those constraints than “normal” graphic design.

A dedicated information designer is not afraid to tackle what have been called “wicked design problems”. Designing functional, yet beautiful information is more a question of character, of attitude than one of style. Information designers have now expanded their reach into the complete experience, be it on paper, on screen, or at a service counter.

As it turns out, our approach of looking beyond the initial brief – refusing to simply restyle things but defining design as a method of thinking about the process as well as the solution – has turned information design from a necessary, but slightly boring discipline into something that is recognized as a vital tool for communication.

If I look back at the things we said and did 20 and more years ago at IIID meetings and events, I finally feel less of a nerd and more of a prophet.

Jorge Frascara

As an author of several seminal books Jorge Frascara most recently published “¿ Qué es el diseño de información ?“. ICOGRADA president from 1985 – 1987, Jorge is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Alberta and a Fellow of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada. He was an advisor to the ISO (International Standards Organisation) and to the Canadian Standards Council on design principles for the comprehension, placement, and size of graphic symbols in large public spaces.

Information design is not only a technical profession, it’s a social need: it can provide the indispensable clarity to the impressive amount of information we have to deal with in contemporary society. A society that informs its people clearly creates homogeneity of access to what it can offer, instead of abandoning the less privileged ones to their own bad luck.

Unemployment, contagious diseases, medical errors, and malnutrition, as well as industrial and traffic accidents, are heavy social liabilities that could be severely reduced through good public information design.

Information design can be put to three different aims: it can help make life safer (regarding health and safety), it can help make life easier (like in the design of instructions and administration documents), and it can help make life better (making public information clear, society therefore fairer, and the dealing with information pleasurable). Information design can be very useful to facilitate daily needs in life, providing assistance for traveling, helping understand legal documents, or filling a tax form. But it can also be urgently indispensable, when one deals with the operation of heavy equipment, the use of medical drugs, or the design of emergency response communication systems. Order, transparency and access to information are essential conditions for communication, work and equity in society. Clear information provides independence to people and helps self-esteem. One does not depend on others; one can manage one’s own needs and wishes. Clarity in the most mundane things, such as the page of a newspaper, the timetable of a train station, the protocol of a hospital procedure, the street signage, or the energy bill, could be a substantial contribution to an inclusive society, one where everybody feels welcome and respected, safe and independent.

Through its 25 years, the IIID has helped many designers and design educators develop their skills, but, more importantly, it has also promoted information design among governments, international organizations, and the general public. The IIID has, like no other organization before it, contributed constantly to the raising of interest about information design and of its standards.

Like no other person, Peter Simlinger deserves most of the credit for this. The international design community and society at large should be thankful for the 25 years of the IIID.