Signage, Signage and Information Design

Beginner's guide to information design, signage and visual communication


Yeah! Td bele?

There is a part of graphic design that we deal with practically all the time, however it is not much talked about or discussed (at least I do not see much out there on the web) which is the part of signaling and signage. Taking advantage of the occasion of the Olympics, which uses a lot of signage, I decided to talk about this subject in this article. Are we going to do this?

But before we proceed with the article, I want to take this opportunity to let you know that we are open for our Visual Design Fundamentals course. The Fundamentals of Visual Design course focuses on the fundamentals, concepts and principles of Visual Design.

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In this article you will see:

Information design

According to Brazilian Society of Information Design (SBDI), information design is:

"An area of graphic design that aims to equate the syntactic, semantic and pragmatic aspects that involve information systems through contextualization, planning, production and graphical interface of information with its target audience. Its basic principle is to optimize the process of acquiring the information effected in analog and digital communication systems." (SBDI, 2006)"

Information design is nothing more than organizing and presenting data in an attractive, intuitive and effective way, conceiving the information meaning and value. Information design derives from graphic and editorial design. It would be like a specialization of graphic design.

London underground map

It involves issues such as communication and visual perception, semiotics, pictograms, signage, writing, among others.

We see information design on subway maps, in infographics, forms, maps in general, diagrams, accounts, manuals, product catalogs, signage.

information design examples

A good information design conveys the data in a way:

  • accessible and easily available;
  • appropriate to the content, location and user;
  • attractive;
  • reliable;
  • concise;
  • complete;
  • timely;
  • relevant;
  • understandable.

There is an item that is widely used in the design of information called pictogram. Next we'll see what it's about. 🙂


The pictogram is a sign that represents an object or concept through graphic means.

The origin of the pictogram is ancient.  They are in the ancient cuneiform and hieroglyficaic writings.

cuniform writing

In the modern era the main origin occurred through the system of international representation elaborated in Vienna in the 1920s through ISOTYPE. It was a type of "visual dictionary", which contained certain of two thousand symbols and created several conventions that we use to this day.


The pictogram is an important basis of traditional signaling systems.

You've certainly seen a pictogram in your life. It is the famous dolls that determine whether the bathroom is male or female. Or even those drawings that determine what are the sports of the Olympics.

rio 2016 pictograms

What is Signage?

The signaling has the function of signaling (of course), exchanging in kids, we use the signs to organize, indicate, warn, warn, inform a flow of people and / or vehicles. And she does that, as her name says, through signs, symbols, marks, typography, colors that convey a certain meaning.

prohibition signage

Signage projects are usually implemented in places of great access such as shopping malls, museums, supermarkets, transport terminals, hospitals, complex buildings, parks, etc. But this is not exclusive to large enterprises (as we will see below in signage). Signage can also be present in smaller environments such as schools, small businesses and establishments.

Anywhere that requires information and guidance can use signage as a resource.

What's signage?

Signage derives from signaling, but it is not the same. This is the set of signs/signals that make up a given signaling and visual communication system. It is also the study of signaling originated from information design and semiotics that deals with the relationships between people, space and the signs responsible for orientation.

"Signage is the science of signs in space, which constitute an instantaneous, automatic and universal language, whose purpose is to solve the informative and guiding needs of itinerant individuals in a situation" (Costa, 1987)

Signage may have function: indicative, informative, promotional, educational, warning.


Principles of signage

  • the user is the center of communication.
  • be easy to identify. Be accurate and quick to identify.
  • maintain consistency and consistency throughout the system: maintain a pattern of sizes, symbols, colors, etc.
  • its shape should stand out from the other objects of space and well located.
  • easy to read and understand. Be intuitive.

Although brother of signaling, the signage is a little different. We'll see below these differences, Galucho.

Differences between signaling and signage

Signaling is a broader term already the most punctual signage. The first is more universal while the other more singular.  Signage is a unique system for everyone. It is more closed and that is determined by the empirical knowledge inherent in all (or the vast majority). It also has the function of regulating flows of roads and people. A classic example of signage is the one we see every day on the streets. Traffic signs are a type that regulates and needs to be universally used.

signaling boards

Signage is an open system that takes into account the environment, the environment and the people who frequent it. It is not necessarily universal, because it takes into account the profile of users, the culture to which it is applied, among other issues. It uses the language and custom symbols that take into account the need that each environment demands.


It is an open system that accepts new forms of guidance always taking into account the need and uniqueness of the site and users.

Signage is most often part of the company's visual identity, for example.

In such cases the signage is provided for in the company's brand manual. [click here to learn more]

An example of signage is the differentiated signaling of a small bar for example.

example of signage


Information design and signage are part of our daily life even if we often don't even notice. More than being part of everyday life it is fundamental to guide us in the most diverse places.

This article is just a small part of what you may know about. Creating a signaling system requires study and planning.

And have you created any signaling systems? Learn more about information design?

Leave your comment below! 😀

Until later.

Big hug!


Images - Pinterest

David Arty

Hi I am David Arty, founder from the blog Chief of Design.
I am from São Paulo, Brazil. I work with design, mainly with web design, since 2009. I try to transform crazy and complex ideas into simple, attractive and functional pieces.