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Information Development

What Is It, and Why Does It Matter?

Just about anyone can arrange letters and words on a page or a screen to communicate an idea. But not everyone can create high-quality information that actually achieves a desired result.

I want to be an InfoDev Pro!

Information Development



Transformation: A Paradigm for Change

Information development is a paradigm for transformation – transforming people, organizations, and content.


Information development facilitates success, increasing credibility and engagement by providing people with the information they need to get things done, when and how they need it.


Information development positions organizations as industry leaders, building customer satisfaction, engagement, and trust, as well as employee satisfaction, engagement, and loyalty.


Information development crosses traditional communication barriers and results in content that is easy to find, read, understand, use, and remember, as well as relevant, timely, accurate, and complete.

Content Happens
Creating Content with Expertise, Awareness, and Intent

People produce content all the time, and they often do it without any real knowledge of how to do it. People often mistake the ability to do something with the ability to communicate something. In the modern world, we take literacy for granted. We tend to think that, if we can read and write, we can produce content. And it’s true – just about anyone can arrange letters and words on a page or a screen to communicate an idea. But not everyone can do it well – that is, not everyone can create high-quality information that actually achieves a desired result.

This problem is compounded by the modern education system, which focuses heavily on writing, rather than on effective communication as a whole. In addition, our education systems tend to teach either artisitc self-expression through literary writing, or traditional scientific and academic writing, neither of which facilitate clarity, action, or user success. Despite the fact that most adults in the modern workplace must be proficient at business and technical communication, they are typically only taught as part of specialized fields and curricula.

Information development is about creating content with expert-level knowledge, awareness, and the clear intent to help both individuals and organizations succeed.


Transforming Content
Creating Effective Content that Works!

With the information-development approach to creating content, you can transform content based on the universal principles of how human beings perceive and process information, rather than on specific and often outdated conventions for communication sub-genres.

For example, you can transform a dense spreadsheet with more than 100 tabs of valuable (but nearly incomprehensible) information into a beautiful, easy-to-use, interactive online infographic.

From This...


To This!



What It Is (and What it Isn't)

Information development is both broader and narrower than traditional content-development approaches. It is broader because it is interdisciplinary and universal – it brings together knowledge and best practices from across fields, genres, and media and is based on the universal principles of how all human beings percieve and process information. It is narrower because its sole focus is on empowering success with information that is usable and verifiable. In other words, information development is not concerned with artistic self-expression, and a measure of success is whether information is relevant, accurate, and complete. Content that is vague, misleading, or purely evocative is outside the realm of information development.

The Three Pillars
Inform. Delight. Empower.

Our motto is “Inform. Delight. Empower.” These three simple words provide a great entry point for a deeper understanding of what information development is and why it matters.

The three pillars of information development are:

  1. Inform – Unlike some sub-genres of communication, information development is focused on conveying information that is accurate, complete, and verifiable. This distinguishes it from genres focused on artistic expression and evocative persuasion. At the same time, it is based on the ages-old idea that all communication is persuasive – the very reason we communicate as human beings is to inspire action, trust, belief, and community.
  2. Delight – There is a prevalent and false dichotomy in business and technical communication that presumes content can be either informative or persuasive. This false dichotomy often results in content that is accurate and complete, but a dreadful chore to actually read and use. In fact, research has shown that pleasure plays a critical role in effective content, with measurable and significant effects on credibility, usability, and engagement. Information development brings together both worlds to create high-quality content that is truly effective.
  3. Empower – Too often, there are hidden and unacknowledged priorities that guide content creation, and these undermine the user's ability to actually find, understand, and use the information that content conveys. When content is created with the primary goal of making a sale, meeting a quota, or saving an organization money, users suffer. The top priority in information development is to provide information that people can find, read, understand, use, and remember. The second priority in information development is to do it in a way that is cost-effective, repeatable, and scalable. With clear priorities and criteria for success, we can focus on creating content that helps both individuals and users succeed!
Technical Definition
A Subtle and Important Distinction

Precise and consistent terminology is one of the most important characteristics of information development – it helps us understand what something is and what it is not, which, in turn, provides a foundation for sound reasoning and decision-making in dynamic situations.

information development – the practical application of best practices from across disciplines in the use of information to create and deliver content that facilitates user success

How It Works

Scalable, Repeatable, and Sustainable

The ultimate goal of information development is to create user-focused, high-quality content using processes that are sustainable, repeatable, and scalable, so that both individuals and organizations are empowered to succeed. The general approach involves taking a pro-active, evidence-based approach, combined with dynamically codifying and standardizing the often delicate and sophisticated priorities, guidelines, and processes involved in developing information that is up-to-date, easy to find, and useful.

Tactical and Strategic
The Integrated Development and Experience Approach (IDEA)™

Organizations constantly work to balance the needs of users with organizational requirements. Information development uses a codified and integrated approach that synthesizes best practices in writing and design, technical and business communication, project and quality management, and more.

The information-development approach is successful because it focuses on:

  • Integration – Information development is interdisciplinary and evidence-based, integrating knowledge from a wide variety of research areas, including physiology, anatomy, psychology, artificial intelligence, and more. It's an approach that embraces the dual nature of content creation, which includes both writing and design, is both theoretical and pragmatic, requires both technical and creative skills, and is successful with both careful planning and agile delivery.
  • Development – While information development is user-focused, it also accounts for an organization's business objectives, including its systems, processes, tools, and values. Information develoment is successful when it's scalable, repeatable, and cost-effective.
  • Experience – With information development, every content-related decision ensures a seamless and positive user experience based on the latest scholarly research about how human beings perceive and process information.
Practical and Actionable
A Set of Simplified Guidelines, Processes, and Tools for Creating Content that Works!

Information development is a transformational new paradigm that results in a set of simplified guidelines, processes, and tools for creating high-quality, effective content that helps people succeed. Content consists of three main components: ideas, language, and design. With the information-development approach, it's possible to standardize content creation in ways that improve quality, save money, and result in engaged, satisfied, and loyal users.

Information development gives us a simplified, evidence-based framework for creating content based on:

  • Ideas – Well-reasoned concepts that are easy to understand and apply in real-world situations
  • Langauge – Standardized writing processes and tools that ensure clarity, usefulness, and a strong brand identity.
  • Design – Systematic, consistent presentation that reinforces and clarifies ideas, streamlines and improves information development, and both delights and empowers users.


Did You Know...There Are Really Only
Three Basic Design Elements and One Design Principle!

In the modern world, there is a common misconception that "content" and "design" are separate and somehow opposed to one another. In fact, all content inherently requires and includes design – the term "design" simply refers to the act of arranging things, and "intentional design" refers to the act of arranging things in order to achieve a desired result. In short, design is a form of problem-solving. Because of this, design is an essential skill for InfoDev Pros – indeed, for everyone who creates content.

Nanatoo has developed a science-based approach to design that eliminates the mystery and confusion that often comes with learning design the traditional way. We approach design as a discipline that can be mastered by anyone through a deep understanding of how people percieve and process information and how human perception translates into specific, actionable guidelines.

For example, the InfoDev approach to design provides a simplified, accessible framework for learning the "Basics of Design." The basics of design, which generally consist of learning about "Design Elements" and "Design Principles," provide an essential framework for mastery. Unfortunately, while just about everyone agrees that the basics of design are an essential prerequisite, no one seems to agree on what the design basics are. Some people say there are seven elements and six principles. Some people say there are eight elements and ten principles. Some people even combine the elements and principles together into one big group! It's no wonder that people get overwhelmed when trying to learn design!

With the Traditional Approach, Even the “Basics” Are Confusing!


Design Basics, According To...

Design Elements:

  1. Line
  2. Color
  3. Shape
  4. Space
  5. Texture
  6. Typography
  7. Scale
  8. Dominance and Emphasis
  9. Balance
  10. Harmony

Design Elements:

  1. Line
  2. Shape
  3. Color
  4. Texture
  5. Space

Design Principles:

  1. Rhythm
  2. Proportion
  3. Emphasis
  4. Balance
  5. Unity

Design Elements:

  1. Line
  2. Shape
  3. Form
  4. Color
  5. Texture
  6. Space
  7. Value

Design Principles:

  1. Pattern
  2. Contrast
  3. Emphasis
  4. Balance
  5. Proportion/Scale
  6. Harmony
  7. Rhythm/Movement

Design Elements:

  1. Dot
  2. Line
  3. Area

Design Principles:

  1. Contrast
  2. Orientation and Position
  3. Scale
  4. Quantity
  5. Graphic Shapes and Linear Elements
  6. Depth, Dimension and Perspective
  7. Color
  8. Typography
  9. Space
  10. Repetition

Design Principles:

  1. Line
  2. Scale
  3. Color
  4. Repetition
  5. Negative Space
  6. Symmetry
  7. Transparency
  8. Texture
  9. Balance
  10. Hierarchy
  11. Contrast
  12. Framing
  13. Grid
  14. Randomness
  15. Direction
  16. Rules
  17. Movement
  18. Depth
  19. Typography
  20. Composition



Shouldn't the “Basics” Be Basic?

With the InfoDev Approach, Design Basics Are Easy!


The Real Design Basics...

Design Elements:

  1. Shape
  2. Color
  3. Position

Design Principle:

  1. Gradient



How Is This Possible?

It turns out that researchers have found that everything we perceive falls into just one of three categories:

  1. Shape
  2. Color
  3. Position


Science-Based Design

Design Basics Simplified: The Three Design Elements

This mini slide show provides an introductory glimpse into the InfoDev approach to Design Basics, with a focus on the Design Elements.

(Click here to view full-size slides.)

Science-Based Design – Design Basics Simplified: The Three Design Elements

During the Sensation phase of perception, light enters the eye through the cornea, the pupil, and the lens.

The lens inverts the light…

…and focuses it on the retina, which is the area at the back of the eye that contains photoreceptor cells…

…called rods and cones.

Rods facilitate vision in low-light conditions and are associated with peripheral vision.

Cones facilitate vision in normal light conditions and are associated with the perception of color. There are three main types of cones cells, each of which responds to either red, green, or blue light.

Cones also facilitate the perception of detail and contrast, which, in turn, allows us to perceive different features like shadows and edges.

Researchers have identified hundreds of specific features and attributes...

...which we perceive and process through various neurophysical pathways.

These features and attributes fall into just three categories: shape, color, and position.

Shape, color, and position are the "preattentive" elements in perception because we perceive and process them instinctively and automatically.

They are also the building blocks of the traditional design elements.

Texture, for example, is a complex effect created with a combination of the three basic elements.

And these three basic elements are also the building blocks of content, including overall layout and design, individual content elements...

...and even text!


  1. Goldstein, E. Bruce. 2010. Sensation and Perception, 8th Edition. Eighth. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
  2. Jennings, Sam. n.d. “Layman’s Layout: Spreads, Fonts and Design Inspiration.” Accessed June 13, 2016. https://laymanslayout.wordpress.com/.
  3. Johnson, Jeff. 2014. Designing with the Mind in Mind: Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Guidelines. 2nd ed. Waltham, MA: Elsevier.
  4. Stout, JaneAnn. 2000. “Design: Exploring the Elements & Principles.” Iowa State University, University Extension, 4-H. https://texas4-h.tamu.edu/wp-content/uploads/Resources_Fashion_Storyboard_exploring-the-elements-and-Principles-of-Design.pdf.
  5. Stribley, Mary. n.d. “Design Elements & Principles.” Canva: Learn. Accessed January 13, 2020. https://www.canva.com/learn/design-elements-principles/.
  6. Symonds, Matt. 2014. “The Elements of Design (the Tools to Make Art) / The Principles of Design (How to Use the Tools to Make Art).” Willamette High School Multimedia, Bethel School District, Eugene OR. http://blogs.bethel.k12.or.us/msymonds/files/2014/10/Elements-and-Principles-Overview.jpg.
  7. Taheri, Maryam. 2019. “10 Basic Elements of Design.” Creative Market. September 28, 2019. https://creativemarket.com/blog/10-basic-elements-of-design.
  8. University of Alaska Fairbanks. n.d. “Fundamentals of Design: Basic Elements: A Companion Site to CIOS 233 Course at UAF.” Desktop Publishing (blog). Accessed January 13, 2020. https://cios233.community.uaf.edu/design-theory-lectures/fundamentals-of-design-basic-elements/.
  9. Ware, Colin. 2011. Visual Thinking for Design. Amsterdam: Elsevier Morgan Kaufmann.
  10. Ware, Colin. 2012. Information Visualization: Perception for Design. 3 edition. Waltham, MA: Morgan Kaufmann. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/224285723_Information_Visualization_Perception_for_Design_Second_Edition.
  11. Wolfe, Jeremy M., and Todd S. Horowitz. 2004. “What Attributes Guide the Deployment of Visual Attention and How Do They Do It?” Nature Reviews. Neuroscience 5 (6): 495–501. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn1411.

Spread the word!

Citation: Kister, Tina M. 2020. Information Development: What Is It, and Why Does It Matter? Nanatoo Communications, LLC. Accessed . https://www.nanatoo.com/information-development-wp.


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