Steps for Information Design

Hey everyone!

“Information Design” is a topic I find challenging to research online. I am enrolled in an Information Design course this semester & was hoping to get some insight on the process of Info Design.

I am familiar with at least the basic steps of the Graphic Design process (e.g. creating the design brief, research clients & audience, sketch, test, etc.), but I’m interested to see how designers generally compare it to that of Information Design.

In other words, do you feel the steps in the Graphic Design process differ from the steps in the Information Design process?

Thanks in advance!

Hey Michelle,

Not sure I can offer “steps,” but like any graphic design pursuit, information design is devising a solution to a communication challenge. Researching the source, the subject, and the audience are just as important, as is factoring the primary elements of the brief, if there is one. Also like any other graphic design, the components of the message must be prioritized and fitted to a visual/logical hierarchy, imposed using size, color, proximity, and reading order, along with applicable typographic techniques. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I might propose that all graphic design is “information design”. It’s really only in more recent times that infographic design has come to considered somewhat of a separate specialty, but in my thinking, the main thing that differentiates it is “data visualization”.

Effective infographic design creates new and interesting ways to represent, and present, data. The classic example of this is when the existing data is well-expressed by a bar graph and an artist remakes the graph by stacking or stretching one or more pictures of the measured item(s) in place of plain bars. In any case, information design inevitably veers into data visualization in the form of decorating and embellishing graphs, charts, maps, timelines, etc.

Apply your graphic design principles. Do your reserach. Seek out and study (the perhaps millions of) existing examples. Identify the audience and think like them. Then make the information easily digestable. And, if at any time it feels like you’re trying to hard; reaching too far; you probably are.

What’s your syllabus say this course entails?
Is it about data-representation infographics only, or is it about conveying different types of information in a graphical way? The difference is important.

I do a lot of work in the wayfinding and educational museum industry and what we consider an informational graphic is not necessarily narrowly defined as an infographic such as the ones that convey data in a pictorial manner.

The process for developing wayfinding and educational exhibits varies within the field itself. While there may be a general framework, every project in this field is unique. So there really is no one answer for your question.

Thank you for, not only the helpful response, but for the validation. The further I get into this course, the more trouble I seem to have differentiating the “Information Design process” & the “Graphic Design process” (or ANY design process, for that matter). When grasping at differences, the primary element I seem to always come back to is, just as you mentioned, data visualization.

I guess my logical thinking is leading to me view & understand “Graphic Design” as an evolving umbrella term; under which “Information Design” might be fit to fall under, versus qualifying as a separate discipline.

Perhaps this theory of mine with alter as the course goes on & clarity increases on the topic. Either way, I find it very interesting & my methodical, organized-to-a-fault way of thinking is loving the new way I’m looking at everyday things!

Thank you again! This was very helpful!


This is the section of the course outline that I think will answer your question:

> This course explores the fundamentals of information design in different media such as text, diagrams, charts, signs, the World Wide Web, museum displays and more. You will learn how to communicate information effectively and analyze the information around you. Topics include various types of information (verbal, visual, metaphoric, narrative, etc.), information classification, graphic design, scientific visualization, the design of instructional and other applications, and information design in media, advertising and the entertainment industry.

I’m glad you pointed out the broadness of my question! For my last submitted assignment I
primarily focused on Wayfinding. Most likely because it is the methodology/theory I utilize the most on regular basis at work. It’s also what I imagined “Information Design” to be before entering the course (without knowing the term for it).

Since you mentioned the work you do in wayfinding, can I ask you my original question but replace the broad term “Information Design” with “Wayfinding”?? Are there any specific steps or details within that of the general design process that you feel are unique to wayfinding (or the work you specifically do in wayfinding)?? I would love & appreciate the first-hand insight!

Like all design jobs, you start with defining the task.
With wayfinding, it’s all about how to get people “from here to there.”

Wayfinding isn’t just one thing.
Wayfinding can be:
Street signs
Subway maps
Office building directories
Historical district ID signage
Hospital mapping
Even the ADA compliance signage required in all public buildings.
Any combination of the above and more.
Or it can be more invisible than an actual sign

Wayfinding is all about traffic flow, whether it’s pedestrian or vehicular.

In the context of, say, a historical museum exhibit that takes up several rooms in a building, wayfinding may be more subliminal than big arrows saying “This way to the Egress.”
The exhibit will have a flow to it, doors or archways, color schemes or visual draws that bring the traffic from entry to exit in a progressive pattern - or at least it tries. Visitors will do their own thing. A lot of studies are done in the museum industry to track visitor traffic. Think “Trade Show.” You want to draw visitors to your booth, or into the next room.

Here’s a really good description of the steps it takes to plan a museum.

I also posted a link in your other post to the website. Check it out. It’s all about Experiential designers and a good portion of that work is wayfinding.

To add my penny’s worth to this. Years ago, my final thesis at university was about the perception and acceptance of designed information systems.

Specifically I wanted to study the effectiveness of travel signage systems which needed to work, even if the recipient did not speak the given language. I spent a month travelling around a Europe by train, documenting the good, the bad and the ugly; how placement, font, colour, etc, etc, affected the experience with both a designer and end-user head on.

I did loads of research on signage systems (see Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir – very UK centric, but relevant all the same). Most importantly this all lead me to delve fairly deeply into the psychology of how the human brain perceives and accepts lexical and pictorial information. How context, visual noise etc has a huge bearing.

Importantly, How – despite the fact we think we do – we never look at things objectively and moreover see only the information expect to see – more specifically, we only perceive the information we need to receive. This can prove potentially catastrophic in certain situations if the the expected information leaves out pertinent elements.

Think about last time you went into the kitchen to find your favourite mug. You didn’t see what colour the tea-towel was, or whether you needed to refill the washing up liquid, etc. You just found your cup and made a coffee. This is hugely important to human survival, in terms of the fight or flight mechanism. To be distracted by what types of birds are singing is hugely detrimental when being chased by a sabre-toothed tiger!

This was only one aspect. There are so many other factors thar govern how we perceive and act on any given information. It is a rabbit hole you could spend a a lifetime studying down, but it is hugely fascinating and as a grounding has served me very well throughout my career. I think psychology should be a requisite of any design education, but for signage and information system design, it is a definite necessity.

Happy reading

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