How do you become an information designer? Learn about how to focus in on the most critical skills to develop for success in the field. Find out how to develop your ability to think differently about everything, which is one of those key skills.
(upbeat music) - People like to ask how they can break into the field of information design and data visualization. Well, first you need to think about what skills a good information designer has. The four primary skills, as I think about it, are communications, design, statistics and analytics, and technical skills. Things like programming or deep platform and software skills. You have to be a good communicator first and foremost because information design and data visualization are primarily communications vehicles to lead to insights and actions. Second, I suggest to work on design, because broadly speaking, it's the area among the four skills where most people have the least experience and talent. Next, I recommend developing either statistical and/or technical skills, depending on your background and your greatest need. And then, the other of those two. But how do you do that from a practical standpoint? Let's start with communications. To be a good communicator, you need to work on three things. First, you must be a good listener. You have to be able to understand what is required of you by your audience which means developing deep empathy for them and ideally some knowledge about their universe, their lingo, their data, their challenges. This means active listening is a critical skill to develop. Second, you need to be a good writer and/or speaker, have good grammar, learn to speak and write clearly, simply, and with artistry, if possible. Always respect your audience. You don't need to dumb things down but you should also gear your communications so that it's digestible and consumable by normal humans and don't burden it with too much jargon and technical info unless you know your audience requires it. Which is quite rare, really. Finally, be curious. Ask questions. Your job as a communicator is to be a master editor always questioning what you're doing and why so you can strip out the noise and get to the heart of the matter. The second primary skill is design. This just takes tons of practice, study, and reading the work of others. Read books by Alberto Cairo, Stephen Few, and Edward Tufte. And, of course, you can check out other courses here on the LinkedIn Learning library on design and data visualization. Next, you can get some very basic high level statistical knowledge pretty quickly. I would argue you don't need more than a basic understanding of statistics to do this work. Most information designers are working with clients or colleagues who are the domain and data experts who will provide the deep analysis. Your job is to understand it enough to ask smart questions and properly communicate what the data reveals but you don't need to necessarily be a data analyst to do this. Finally, technology, which is by far the biggest ask. Learn Tableau, Power BI, ArcGIS, Excel, PowerPoint, D3, Adobe Illustrator, and one or more of the gazillion other tools out there. Okay, you don't need to learn all of 'em, just one of 'em. And you'll find courses, of course, here on LinkedIn Learning for all of them and books galore. Pick one tool to start and grow your skills from there. As for me, I was an English major, and I have a master's in journalism. So my communication skills were well-versed and I had some decent math and statistical understanding as well. Then I started my business which was doing web design and development. So my design and technical skills developed simultaneously over many years on the job. I was doing information design and data visualization as part of that work all along and I learned specific tools along the way. Usually because I got a project and had to learn it or fail miserably with my business on the line. Now, that kind of pressure-driven learning can be very effective but it can also be a bit nerve-wracking at times. This field is an incredible blend of so many different skills and talents that there's a ton of ground to cover. Be prepared to work hard and stretch your comfort zone and you can succeed. Speaking of someone who's figured out a way to do just that, next up I'll talk to Federica Fragapane, who has a very unique story about how she became an award-winning information designer and I'm sure you'll learn a lot from her insights.