Rob Waller: Information, and why it’s designed


In week 4 of Autumn term, we were joined by the President of The International Institute for Information Design, Rob Waller. In this session, Rob supplied students with an insight into the theory of information design and research into documentation legibility.

Anatomy of Information

‘Roughly half the population struggles with reading document literacy’ and information published by sources (like the government), was a focal point of Rob’s lecture. Emphasising the importance of aiding the population with legibility, typography, and layout as a quality of written language playing a key role in people’s understanding of writing. Students learnt that multidisciplinary research of cognitive and educational psychologists, technologists, reading researchers and designers contribute to the comprehension of information and how it is structured to help the public.

‘You have to integrate what you say with why you’re saying it’ – Rob Waller

Rob explained his fascination with page layout and how structuring content is fundamental to readability, saying that designers such as Ken Garland who experimented with type and layout influenced him greatly. Furthermore, Rob talked about how his career has combined academic research from the University of Reading and the Open University with his own commercial agency – the Information Design Unit – and then with Enterprise IG. Working with numerous brands including Barclays, Vodafone, BT, T-Mobile and many more, students were given insight into the importance of research and theory in information design, and how it correlates with helping the population understand complex documents.

‘Ken Garland was a massive inspiration for me’ – Rob Waller

Design work by Ken Garland such as this cover for Railways: A Special Issue, was a great inspiration for Rob as a young designer. 



Hearing Rob’s passion for information design and allowing documents to be understood by all was inspiring. Emphasising the importance of document legibility, using elements of typography and layout, was relevant for students in understanding what they could use in their upcoming projects. Rob’s work is underpinned by a desire to use research to help people read – and actually understand – some of life’s more demanding texts.

‘Very interesting insight into a huge industry, would never have considered this as a significant industry for design.’ – Matt Perks

‘Listening to the content of an experienced typographer is very informative and interesting for me, as he showed the business side of typography, which will be very beneficial for me after I graduate from the university.’ – Part  1 student