CADLOGIC_instructionspresentationrevised | Graphics | Information


cad logic, ss2010, alison mcnicol prof. daniel dendra

instructions are step-by-step explanations of how to do something: how to build, operate, repair, maintain, prevent or guide action.

the methodology was conceived as a result of people needing to understand and respond quickly to domestic and industrial mechanization.

the directions provided always appear in hierarchies of information. it has been observed that users prefer instructions that present procedures across a sequence of diagrams rather than a single diagram showing all the operations. instructions need to be clear, implement simple graphics, place the consumer, illustrate procedure and include technical detail

instruction designs utilise various methodologies

fixed order steps





variable order steps




2 3 4 7 4

3 4 5 8 5 4a 4b


alternative steps


2 1 2 1a 1

3 2 3


nested steps





instruction designs by lego provide a good framework in which similar information is communicated to users of varying age groups, intellectual capabilities and cultural backgrounds. the graphic representation refers literally to the toys components, minimising text and thus maximising both the consumer profile and product usability.

staging of procedures is communicated by image sequencing or exploded diagrams of various complexity. when detail is introduced the process of graphic communication remains the same, symbols such as arrows and numbers direct the reader to a highlighted location, then guided through the as process only now at a smaller scale.

the observed consistency of lego’s instruction design allows the user group to build on their knowledge, introducing advanced levels of information in the same visual language. as a result, maximising the products capabilities and the audiences ability to make creative decisions of their own. it is significant that these instructions not only tell you what to do, but also show you what is possible.

Nathan Sawaya

ikea are another company famous for their assembly instruction design techniques. once again there is little, if any language based direction, the designers relying entirely on built levels of diagrammatic detail, exploded diagrams and (in this case) absence of colour. communicating the installation of componentry requires a level of background knowledge on behalf of the user. The success of the guidance provided therefore varies, and thus all instructions are partnered with “helpline” support.
by mike sacks, illustration by julian sancton,


safety instructions highlight potential danger, provide guidance to avoid accident and show actions to be taken in cases of emergency. in public situations their role is to communicate behavioural guidelines that relate to the operation of a generalised service. they can also implemented to communicate private or public law or policy. the design often uses bright primary colours that attract attention, allowing visual elements to be easily distinguishable from one another. Images of the operator or user are almost always included to indicate a personal action on behalf of the audience. symbols can be overlayed to indicate correct or incorrect behaviour and text is often included explaining the circumstance into which the instruction has been placed.

TRUE, “evacuation” 1994-1999,

safety instruction stickers,

workplace safety stickers,

workplace safety instructions require an element of flexibility built into their designs in order to accommodate alterations to machinery and the turnover of specialised people operating them. instruction templates are often designed by manufacturers, graphically representing the object/ machine being used, then separating text instruction as a list of procedures. these designs are tailored to the product and a specific user, allowing for a more complex format. fire safety instructions also require an element of flexibility in the workplace dependent on internal policy, but can more commonly be seen in the form of evacuation plans that highlight current location and direct fast and safe exit from the building. these plans are basic colour coded way finding instructions, employing symbols to indicate relevant equipment and assisting in personal orientation.

custom signage,

evacuation plan template,

the objective of airline safety cards is to communicate information quickly, effectively and cross-culturally in a potential state of impending panic. it is interesting that not only across the world, but also over time these types of infographics share common design principals such as flat primary colours, minimal text and signage inspired graphics. the layout varies in complexity depending upon aircraft and the influence of cultural aesthetic infiltrates some of these examples more than others.


designers are required to generate instructions in the form of planning documents, communicating both the methodology and final outcomes of their intent. these directions require a professional understanding of how each symbol or graphic component should be interpreted in context with one another, in order to generate clear and accurate instruction. industry standards are referred to in the designing of each drawing, along with the use of symbols that can indicate the location of an object, represent materiality, or direct the reader to further detail represented on another drawing. these instructions employ hierarchies of information, as in previous examples, but also sort information into areas of detail, then expertise. This allows the user to direct themselves through a drawing package based on the specifics of the instruction they require access to.

unlike the layering of information communicated in architectural instructions, the process of construction can also be directed through a combination of graphics and linear steps. these types of instructions communicate the physicality and movement of a process at a tangible human scale by simplifying technical information into a set of components assembled over a number of stages.
global village shelters, ferrara design inc. 1995-2005

global village shelters, ferrara design inc. 1995-2005

shelter in a cart, ryan mulroney,

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