I received the following in my mailbox Friday morning:

"I noticed something on your web site that caught my eye:

'Having information is good; being able to sort it all out is what makes it useful - especially on the Web.'

Would that be a description of the process that converts data into information and if so is that what we are really all trying to do?"

In a sense, yes.

I give the following reference not knowing how much experience you've got with this stuff, so I hope that you'll not mind:

http://info.med.yale.edu/caim/manual/

...Better known as the Yale/C-AIM Web Style Guide, which for Web designers has the relevance that Strunk & White or Turabian have to writers.

Design encompasses appearance and presentation; that's why until 50 or so years ago it was more often referred to in the States as "commercial art" (as opposed to "fine art"). Only in Germany and Scandinavia has "design" in the contemporary sense of the word been a field commanding respect for a genuinely long time, say from the turn of the century now (officially) ending.

However, information is (almost always) the core item of value. Therefore - how do you present the information ("data") in the manner that will most quickly convey it to the largest number of interested readers? This task has great importance unto itself, and that's why it's considered axiomatic that designers and artists are not often one and the same, however broad the union of skills might be.

When I originally wrote that comment in June 1998, I was thinking mostly of Search Engine Hell... for good, effective design is really the only way to transcend the Standard Operating Procedure of the Web and turn it into a unique experience... on the order of a novel or cinema show.

That would be my opinion.