38 Steps for Effective Information Design

Actions involved in the information design problem-solving process

Steps involved in the information design problem-solving process

As in any other practice and specialized field, learning and applying foundational principles and theories, and adopting a thorough problem-solving process are essential steps to develop the necessary skills and knowledge for information design practice. Therefore, there are no magic recipes for becoming a good information designer. However, by ensuring that we are considering the key steps involved in the process, we contribute to the consolidation of the practice and the development of effective outcomes.

This blog lists most relevant steps for effective information design practice based on my practice, students’ concerns and learnings, and research findings. The following list is indicative only and not exhaustive. Steps are presented in four groups related to the stages of the information design problem-solving process.

What: Understand the situation you need to solve

1. Start from the beginning. Consider the full scope of possible information design problems
2. Diverge. Remember the wide range of possible information design solutions
3. Think thoroughly. Spend the necessary time on conceptual design
4. Be open. Pay attention to indicators of inadequate frames
5. Support ideas. Don’t make arbitrary decisions
6. Plan first. Select the appropriate methods and procedures
7. Be well-prepared. Adopt a method and apply rigour during all stages of the problem-solving process
8. Brainstorm. Share and discuss initial ideas with colleagues without converging

Why: Understand the reasons that originated that situation

9. Gain full understanding. Explore the problem from various angles
10. Unravel the problem. Expand your knowledge by investigating all aspects of the problem
11. Stop and think. Make time for reflecting and analysing the incoming information, and identifying gaps
12. Think backwards. Review previous experiences and similar cases, and see if any prior knowledge may be of any help in the current situation
13. Check for recurrent mistakes. Revise mistakes you have made in previous similar situations to avoid going on that same road again

Who: Understand the intended audience

14. Investigate. Expand your initial knowledge about the audience
15. Interact with involved parties.
Learn as much as you can about all parties involved in the project
16. Ask questions. Gather as much information as you can to get familiar with the intended audience
17. Analyse learnings. Identify the audience’s needs and requirements, and identify your gaps of knowledge
18. Ask more questions. Gather more information to fill those gaps, there is always room to learn more
19. Empathize. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes

How: Understand the way(s) the solution can be developed

20. Think visually. Externalise and visualise your learnings
21. Code information. Create a visual coding system and an information hierarchical structure to help your understanding
22. Filter information. Select relevant from irrelevant information
23. Organise learnings. Prioritise usefulness over prettiness
24. Apply learnings. Develop well-conceived solutions
25. Choose wisely. Use appropriate visual language
26. Experiment. Explore and try different options until you find one you feel address the points it needs to
27. Consider function first. The initial focus should be on function rather than form
28. Test solution usability. Evaluate how the solution is described and used by its intended audience
29. Test solution relevance. Evaluate whether the solution addresses the intended goals and adds clarity to the problem
30. Revise the solution. Make any emerging changes and improvements
31. Think laterally. Consider having to rethink the solution
32. Stand for your ideas. Present your ideas confidently and explain them with simple, clear language, but with no arrogance

Always make time for:

33. Going for a walk. Creativity needs inspiration, and it sometimes manifests in the most unthinkable ways
34. Having coffee. Having breaks, preparing coffee or going for one to a favourite coffee shop stimulates creativity and may generate serendipitous encounters that can evolve into innovative solutions
35. Eating chocolate. Chocolate can generate feelings of happiness which also stimulate creativity and trigger inspiration
36. Enjoying the project. Take each project as a little adventure and an opportunity to learn something new

And finally, but most important:

37. Be patient. Good ideas may take time to emerge
38. Think positive. The way we approach a situation determines its evolution


  1. Pingback: What is information design? | Design Basics

  2. Pingback: Information/ Instructional Design – Make Create Enjoy

  3. Pingback: What is Information Design? | Information Design

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