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Term of the Week: Minimalist Information Design

What is it?

Designing information to evoke, guide, sustain, and leverage human action.

Why is it important?

Minimalist information design is important because, in contexts of engaged activity, people neither want, nor can effectively use, comprehensive information.

Why does a technical communicator need to know this?

Technical communicators often design information resources to support engaged activity contexts, in which people are attempting to carry out tasks, to improvise based on their prior understanding, and to learn by doing.

Examples include human-computer interaction and use of mobile/personal devices. In such activity contexts, the tolerance of people for information that is not immediately relevant and actionable is quite low.

Minimalist information design addresses this challenge by focusing on the specific goals people will want to pursue or may need to pursue (error recovery). Minimalist information resources invite people to act and help them identify appropriate goals and concrete actions they can take to progress toward their goals. Minimalist information helps and encourages people to make sense of and reflect upon their own interactions in the course of planning and carrying out those interactions.

About John M. Carroll

Photo of John M. Carroll

John M. Carroll is Distinguished Professor of Information Sciences and Technology at the Pennsylvania State University. He received the Rigo Award and the CHI Lifetime Achievement Award from ACM, and the Goldsmith Award from IEEE.

He is a fellow of AAAS, ACM, IEEE, and the Association for Psychological Science, and honorary fellow of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and the Society for Technical Communication. In 2012, he received an honorary doctorate in engineering from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.

Term: Minimalism