Design 4


We will explore a range of information design tactics such as form, meaning, and culture; signs and symbols; multidimensional data visualization strategies and building visual vocabularies and brand identity systems. Each project starts from one common artifact or issue that we will use as a basis to learn information design tactics, and use these tactics to design projects that may include icons, booklets, maps, posters, signage, paper prototypes, data visualizations, etc.

Themes: Our Lives and Civic Virtues
Our own life and the things we consume, actions we do and people and places we engage with is an ideal and familiar lens through which we can understand the world we live in.  It is also an easy way for us as a class to collect data about our lives and behaviors in order to learn how to use research and information design tools to transform data into information that we can communicate and in the end impart new insights and knowledge to others.


Civic virtue is the cultivation of habits of personal living that are claimed to be important for the success of the community. The identification of the character traits that constitute civic virtue have been a major concern of political philosophy. The term civility refers to behavior between persons and groups that conforms to a social mode (that is, in accordance with the civil society), as itself being a foundational principle of society and law.


Project 1. Creating personal iconography                                                                        Weeks 1-5

We will spend the first part of the semester looking at our own lives and specifically our consumption of things, food, etc. We will collect data about our selves and our peers and we will use this data to explore information design tactics and tools, create icons, maps, and multivariate data visualization.

As an introduction to basic information design we will use this project to explore concepts such as signs both pictorial (hieroglyphs, pictograms) and non-pictorial (logograms, ideograms) and their use in diagramming data.



Using data the students collect about themselves they will create signs, pictograms, ideograms, quantitative diagrams and cartograms.



Project 2. Civic Virtue Campaign Issues                                                                           Weeks 6-15

The second part of the semester we will each choose a topic and prepare a thesis for a design problem. Each student will choose an issue (or a person running for public office) to create a campaign for or against that issue. Students will initially choose two topics.  And prepare a brief visual presentation of a thesis statement for each of the issues.  Through class discussion students will choose one of the topics to develop further for their final project.

We will examine current issues and discover potential opportunities through data collection and analysis, and will express our findings though information graphics and visualizations. We will use navigational and narrative skills to communicate messages about our findings to targeted audiences.


Students will prepare a thesis pitch presentation to get feedback from class.  They will then choose one issue to create an awareness campaign.  Using data the students collect about their issue they will create signs, pictograms, ideograms, quantitative diagrams and cartograms, an identity mark, brand and style guidelines, and a communication design campaign which may result in a short animated motion graphic, posters, booklets, etc.


Choosing an issue

Begin researching the issue by compiling relevant facts and statistics, anecdotal stories, history, etc. Throughout the semester assignments will be focused on developing designs related to each student’s campaign issue. Imagine your campaign’s “brand” and communicate that through maps, factual and/or propagandistic information, narratives, logos, print marketing, campaign schwag, and data through information graphics, etc.


For each project in this class you will pick a topic (or topics) as they relate to the semester themes of social justice and civic virtue in NYC.  These may be related to issues which are: Social, Political, Economic, Religious, Cultural.


Issues List

Choose a topic to use as a theme for your issue driven campaign. If you’re not sure where to begin here is a list of just a few hot-button issues in current events.


  • Abortion
  • AIDS
  • Alcoholism
  • Animal cruelty
  • Anti-Semitism
  • Arts Funding (lack of)
  • Automobile congestion
  • Bicycle
  • Campaign finance
  • Child care
  • Child labor
  • Child soldiers
  • Civil rights
  • Corporate are people?
  • Crime
  • Death penalty
  • Disabilities rights
  • Domestic violence
  • Drug addiction
  • Eating disorders
  • Economy
  • Education (public vs. charter, private, access, cost, tuition, quality, etc.)
  • Election Reform
  • Environment
  • Equal rights amendment
  • Evolution
  • Factory farming
  • Food
  • Food Stamps
  • Gay rights
  • Globalization
  • Governance (in the public and private sector)
  • Gun Violence
  • Health
  • Healthcare
  • Human Rights
  • Hunger
  • India
  • Intelligent design
  • Illiteracy
  • Immigration
  • Land mines
  • Liberal elite
  • Manufacturing Policy
  • Marijuana
  • McDonalds (fast food)
  • Minimum wage
  • Peace
  • Poverty
  • Prayer in the schools
  • Privacy
  • Racism
  • Recycling
  • Religious right
  • Right to life
  • Right wing extremist
  • Same-sex marriage
  • Separation of church and state
  • Sex Trafficking
  • Sharia law
  • Slavery
  • Surveillance
  • Tax reform
  • Terrorism
  • Theocracy
  • Tobacco
  • Torture by governments
  • Unfair trade agreements
  • Unions
  • Vegetarianism
  • Voter Apathy (voter turn out)
  • Walmart (and other big box stores)
  • War
  • Women’s Rights
  • Worker rights
  • etc….

Choose an issue you feel passionately about.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5 other followers



Welcome to the Design 4 Blog

This blog is for inspiration and education related to the Parsons Design 4 Information Design and Visualization course taught by Andrew Robinson. The objectives of this class are to help students in the Strategic Design Studies program to learn how to create effective information design as a tool for communication. Beauty in form and function, which communicates ideas effectively, is our goal.
%d bloggers like this: