Information Design in Practice

Ben Gurion Airport – Tel Aviv, Israel

Over spring break my husband and I took a vacation to Budapest, departing from Israel. I decided to use Ben Gurion Airport (BGA) as the public space to carry out my analysis of the information design practices.

Travelers need consistent, concise, accurate and timely information when they are in the airport environment. If a traveler is unable to find their way it can lead to frustration and a poor experience. Good wayfinding can offer a number of benefits, including:

  • traveler satisfaction
  • reduce clutter and unnecessary information in the airport environment
  • aid traveler flow and reduce airport crowding
  • assist travelers get to their flights on time
  • allows travelers to reach their destination easily and quickly, allowing them time to explore their environment (e.g. shopping, eating and relaxing). This in turn may benefit airports and retailers with increased revenue, and
  • reduce inquiries to airport staff.

As I arrived at the airport I noticed that there were many different wayfinding tools and methods used to make navigation easier for travelers. I specifically noticed that there was a predominate use of symbols, color and  lighting in order to make the signage more noticeable and understandable by different travelers regardless of culture or background. The languages used in the signs were Hebrew (the official language of Israel), Arabic and English. It was apparent that much thought was put into the text information as it was very clear and legible. The text, which was white over a dark grey background, was lit up on the signs, and appeared to be a bold sans serif type of font. The symbols, which were mostly colored yellow or red, were pretty obvious to me and I believe that they are universally understood. What I also thought was really clever, was the use of different themes for different parking levels and areas, instead of numbers or letters which could get confusing and are forgettable. For instance, as shown in the first image on the left, the Vineyard & Orchard parking lots are opposite Terminal 3. I could see how this system would be much more effective for travelers as opposed to numbers or letters, which are easily forgettable.

Below are pictures of some of the signs and wayfinding tools that I found on the ground floor, which were aimed at helping travelers fulfill different tasks, such as finding the arrivals/departures hall, information desk, toilet, elevators, currency exchange, etc. Overall, I found the signs to be consistently designed, they were clear and draw attention and positioned well through the space. There was also a minimal use of wording as to not  create information overload or confusion to the traveler.

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Once I reached the departures hall, I needed to find my way to the correct check out counter, which is usually the most overwhelming and confusing task for any traveler. In the hall, I was able to find two different types of directories. The one on the left was placed at a decision point next to an escalator. The map directory was placed near the center of the hall. A map is a valuable navigation aid when navigating in complex environments. A map directory is a stop and read resource, while a sign is used to confirm to the traveler that they are on the right path.

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After doing a quick scan of the environment, I was able to find a digital ‘departures’ sign that listed flight information such as flight number, destination, scheduled time and check-in zone. I was able to determine that the zone I needed to reach for my flight to Budapest was zone A. Next to the digital sign was a ‘zones’ sign to help my navigate to the correct zone. It was also color coded. I was able to find the A zone easily as the sign was large and bright, and was placed high up in view.

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While my experience at Ben Gurion Airport was very good, and I found that the wayfinding tools certainly helped me to navigate well in the unfamiliar environment, there was one thing that I would recommend to enhance the ease of navigation. The departures hall was very large, and although I was able to find the digital departures screen that told me which zone to go to for check-in, this method of finding out where to go may not be so direct for other travelers. I would also recommend placing a sign or monitor outside of each zone, which would  display which airlines and/or flight numbers are being served at that particular zone. Below are some examples I found online:



Wayfinding Good Practice Guide for Australian International Airports. Rep. The Wayfinding Guide National Passenger Facilitation Committee, Apr. 2011. Web. 24 Apr. 2013. <;.


Interactive Tools

Social Media Tools

People are changing the way that they consume online information, as well as their expectations about its delivery. The social nature of the Web brings with it an expectation of interaction with information and modern Web design is reflecting that.

What good is it if a user finds something that they like (like news, a blog post, a product, a video, a picture, or any other information) but it’s too difficult to ‘like’ it or ‘tweet’ it [or ‘pin’ it] right from that page? Embedding the ability to share on all pages of content is now essential. Content pages should have social sharing buttons to making it easier for users to instantly share the information, media or items.

In order to follow my own advice, I myself have implemented the “sharing” option on all of my blog posts which appears on the bottom of each of posts. I did this by changing the sharing options in the settings of my WordPress account. Now, my audience is able to share my posts to their own network in either Google +, Facebook, Twitter, or on WordPress.

Inforaphics as an Information Design Tool


Infographics – Overview

Information graphics or Infographics is a term that refers to a number of different types of visual aids that can be used to express information. The use of graphics to convey information has the capacity to transform our understanding of an issue and, to some extent, free us from the narrowness of words, labels, and classification systems. Infographics is not a new concept; it has been around since the beginning of history, and cave paintings created by early humans could be considered the very first instances of infographics.  Infographics are used in all sorts of environments and places, and are an important element in determining what certain things mean. The various types of infographics that can be used include, but are not limited to, pictures, graphs, diagrams, charts, lists, maps, and tables. Which infographics will work best for a particular project, of course, will depend on what kind of information needs to be relayed.

 infographic examples

Tools for Creating your own Infographics

Several on-line infographics creators, such as, Piktochart and have been launched in 2012. These sites allows users to create infographics from pre-designed templates, add custom data and share infographics and charts on the web or download as pictures for placing in presentations. is a free service that generates interactive, javascript based online infographics and charts. Piktochart is a site that allows users to create infographics using pre-defined themes that allow some customization. Users can export an image of their infographic when they are done. Free access is limited, but a paid subscription allows users to create more infographics and utilize many more themes. is another free infographic creation site utilizing themes. Users have a canvas that they can drag themes and customizable graphics onto in order to personalize the look of their infographic.

Infographics Implemented in My Blog

Since I have began blogging, I have implemented the use of infographics in all of my posts in order to convey large amounts of information or deeper meaning. Take for instance the infographic at the top of a page. Without reading the text in the blog, you can look at this image and in just a few seconds understand what infographics are, why they are beneficial, and where they can be used to add value to information documents.


Arafah, Bima. “Huge Infographics Design Resources: Overview, Principles, Tips and Examples.” Onextrapixel., 21 May 2010. Web. 8 Mar. 2013. <;.

Michelle. “What Infographics Are and Why They’re Important for Websites.” Web log post.Get A Coder., 1 Mar. 2012. Web. 8 Mar. 2013. <;.

Jacobson, Robert E. Information Design. Cambridge: MIT, 1999. Print.

Information Design Process

id process

Process Stages

The first stage of the process of Information Design begins with a period of discovery. Preliminary questions should be asked to adequately develop a strategy for the information design project. Some basic questions include: Who is the target audience? What type of content is needed? When will the information be used? Where should the information appear? Why is the information needed? How should the information be presented?

The second stage is to create and present a creative brief. A creative brief is a short document that runs approximately anywhere from 1 to 10 pages, that outlines important information such as the project’s background and goals. A typical creative brief breaks down information into four general categories: client information, project information, project goals and requirements, and project logistics. The purpose of putting together a creative brief is to communicate pertinent information and to make sure that everyone is on the same page as the project moves forward. In addition, the brief can spark creativity and get ideas flowing. (Baer, Pgs. 50-52)

The third stage in the process is to determine personas and scenarios. “A persona is a brief profile of a typical user that outline attributes, desires, needs, habits, and capabilities” (Baer,58). Personas provide a touchstone for the project team to make sure that design choices are aligned with user needs and expectations. If the target audience encompasses many kinds of users, information designers will need to create a series of personas that reflect the range in audience types. Most projects require anywhere between 3 to 5 personas. One personas are in place, creating scenarios where these specific users interact with the information design in question, aids in identifying specific patterns and helps to confirm that the design will satisfy the needs of the target audience. (Baer, Pgs. 58-62)

In the final stage of the information design process involves developing prototypes of the information design product and testing it on practice audiences. Like a blueprint, a sitemap or a wireframe is a necessary tool for outlining all project components before designing the final product. These are just two examples of prototypes that can be used for testing the design concepts. Depending on the project’s needs and stage, various types of tests can be used, such as concept tests, participatory design, design testing, focus groups, usability testing, beta testing and performance testing (Baer, Pgs. 86-87). Testing throughout the design development cycle ensures that the design becomes more and more focused toward getting it right (Baer, Pg 76).


Information Design Process Implemented in My Blog

I have performed all of these steps in preparing for this blog post. In the first stage, I read and examined the requirements of the assignment and did some research on the topics. I asked myself questions like: what type of content should I include: how long should my post be, who is my target audience, etc., in order to better plan for the post. I then created an outline (or a brief) of what content I wanted to include, and what I wished to accomplish: to giving people an uncomplicated and general understanding of the information design process that they will enjoy and find interesting. I developed personas (i.e. my classmates and instructor, and other Information Design students) in order to better understand the needs of the user/viewer of my content so that I can design the information accordingly. This post is my prototype, which I will continually make modifications to in order to make the post perfect. I am performing design testing by evaluating the comments and critiques of my classmates on my work.


Baer, Kim, and Jill Vacarra. Information Design Workbook: Graphic Approaches, Solutions, and Inspiration 30 Case Studies. Beverly, MA: Rockport, 2008. Print.

“Wayfinding” Theory for Information Design


Origins and Definitions

In his book The Image of the City (1960), Kevin Lynch coined the term “wayfinding” to describe his concept of environmental legibility—that is, the elements of the built environment that allow us to navigate successfully through complex spaces like cities and towns. Architect and environmental psychologist Romedi Passini and his collaborator Paul Arthur published two of the first comprehensive works on wayfinding: Wayfinding in Architecture (1984) and Wayfinding, People, Signs and Architecture (1992). These studies provided an understanding of the behavioral and cognitive abilities associated with spatial navigation and reaching a desired destination. An important precept is that of spatial orientation—the ability of an individual to mentally represent a place or destination through a cognitive map. The mental maps that people create are crucial to wayfinding in their environment. An individual’s map of the local environment is unique, but Lynch found that most people’s maps were populated by five types of elements:

  1. Paths: Familiar streets, walkways, subway routes, bus lines
  2. Edges: The physical barriers of walls, fences, rivers, or shorelines
  3. Districts: Places with a distinct identity, such as, in New York, Chinatown, Wall Street, and Greenwich Village
  4. Nodes: Major intersection or meeting places, such as the clock in New York’s Grand Central Terminal
  5. Landmarks: Tall, visible structures that allow you to orient over long distances

While there have been many newer perceptions and definitions for the theory since it’s conception, usually, however, wayfinding refers to modern systems of signs, maps, and other graphic, written, or audible methods to convey location, route finding, and directions to travelers. In the practice of environmental graphic designers, as well as in the work of landscape architects and architects, wayfinding can be construed as the art and science of using signs, symbols, maps, and other two and three-dimensional informational, directional, and architectural elements to create a system to guide people to and through a place or destination.

The concept of wayfinding is an important part of any well designed environment. When visiting a strange new place, viewers need to be able to find their way to their destination. A good wayfinding system, therefore, will allow them to reach their destination easily, quickly and hopefully with as few headaches as possible.

Pros and Cons

Some of the “Pros” of wayfinding as an information design theory are:

  • It helps people find their way through a built environment and allows users to not have to rely on their learned geographic knowledge or orientation skills alone in order to successful navigate in an unfamiliar setting.
  •  Reducing capability demands can widen the group of potential users, regardless of sex, age, culture, nationality or even language.
  •  It eases the directional frustration and stress from visitors
  •  Successful wayfinding systems increase user satisfaction and frequency of use.

Some of the “Cons” are:

  • Not all users value wayfinding tools the same way. Some users tend to rely more on information of a linear, sequential order that leads them from one point on a route to the next, whereas others are more likely to rely on information of a spatial nature that provides them with an overall picture of the setting.
  •  The readability of a display in the studio may not carry over to its application in the setting. For example, a sign containing many units of information, while easy to read in a quiet, stable setting may be difficult to make out in a complex environment where users are in motion.
  •  An information unit located at a place when it is not needed at the time has a good chance of being ignored.
  •  Relations between architects and graphic designers are usually problematic when it comes to implementing wayfinding aids. Architects often see signage as a necessary evil that needs to be controlled so as not to disfigure a building, while graphic designers complain that they are not involved in the design of wayfinding support systems until after the key decisions have been made and the setting is being built. Often they are called in at the last-minute to install some signs before opening day.

Waysfinding Applied to Website Design

If you think about it, the World Wide Web is navigation through a space populated by places we call web “sites”. Although there are many parallels between navigation in a physical environment and navigation on the web, the web is a special kind of space that often doesn’t provide the concrete spatial and navigational clues we take for granted in the real world of walking through a town, such as the experience of landscapes unfolding as a series of landmarks. Below are some of the cognitive mapping elements and navigational tools that can be applied to better website design:


In web sites paths are the consistent, predictable navigational links that appear the same way throughout the web site. Paths can be purely in the user’s mind (habitual navigation through a familiar site), or can be explicit site navigation elements such as breadcrumb trails that show an individual where they are in relation to the overall site.

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Figure 1 — Two examples of breadcrumb trails in site headers.

Districts and edges

Consistency is the golden rule of interface design and wayfinding, but there is a paradox at the heart of consistency: if everything looks the same, there are no edges. While a well-designed site navigation system should be built on a consistent page grid, terminology, and navigation links, it should also incorporate the visual flexibility to create identifiable regions and edges within the larger space, so that users can tell when they have moved from one space to the next. In a corporate site, for example, if you move from one region to another—say, from marketing’ to human resources’—you should notice that you just passed an important regional boundary.

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Figure 2 — In large sites users should be able to readily see when they have passed important regional boundaries. If all the pages look identical, it’s hard to tell where you are within a large site.


In Western societies we equate freedom with a range of choices, but as psychologist Barry Schwartz points out in his book The Paradox of Choice, an overwhelming range of choices causes stress, slows our decision-making, makes us generally less satisfied, and makes us more likely to walk away from making any choice at all. “Give the user choices” is a constant mantra in user interface design, but too many choices delivered simultaneously leave most users overwhelmed and likely to abandon the problem altogether.

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Figure 3 — As pages get more complex, you risk overwhelming the user with the “Times Square effect” of too many competing visual stimuli.


Orientation cues are particularly important in the web interface, since users often arrive at a page without having followed a deliberate and repeatable path. For example, one point of web wayfinding that is quite unlike navigation in physical space is search, which cuts across all the normal wayfinding boundaries to provide a view of every occurrence of a keyword or phrase across the web site. Search is more than an automated directory function; search can deliver you directly from one point in a site to another, and that direct connection makes the user all the more dependent on “you are here” cues from the user interface of the site.

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Figure 4— Multiple and complementary “you are here” markers help users stay oriented in complex sites.

Principles of Wayfinding Applied to my Blog

  • Paths: While I cannot incorporate a breadcrumb trail through the WordPress platform, I will provide navigational tools in the sidebar that will allow users to choose their paths/destinations.
  • Regions: I will create a unique but related identity for each of the posts and regions in my blog with the use of color.
  • Nodes: I will not confuse the user with too many choices on the homepage or sidebar menu.
  • Landmarks: I will use consistent landmarks in site navigation and graphics to keep the user oriented.


 Raphael, David. “Wayfinding Principles & Practices.” Landscape Architecture Technical Information Series 2nd ser. (2006). Http:// American Society of Landscape Architects, 2006. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

 Lascano, Ryan. “What Makes A Good Wayfinding System?” Arrows & Icons Magazine. Arrows & Icons Magazine, 06 Oct. 2009. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

 Lynch, Patrick J., and Sarah Horton. “Interface Design: Navigation and Wayfinding.” Webstyle Guide. Http://, n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2013.

What is Information Design?

According to an article published in Technical Communication, Information Design has two definitions:

  1. The overall process of developing a successful document.
  2. The way the information is presented on the page or screen (layout, typography, color, and so forth).

Information design is what we do to develop a document or communication that works for its users. Working for its users means that the people who must or want to use the information can

  • Find what they need
  • Understand what they find
  • Use what they understand appropriately

This definition comes with two additional points that information designers must always remember:

  • Most of the time, most users of functional information are using that information to reach a personal goal—to answer a question or to complete a task.
  • The users, not the information designer, decide how much time and effort to spend trying to find and understand the information they need.

Thus, creating successful information design (in a document, website, software, etc.)  requires a process that starts with understanding what you are trying to achieve, who will use it, how they will use it, and so on.



Redish, Janice C. “What Is Information Design?” Technical Communication Second Quarter (2000): 163-66.