Information Design for Workflows
October 11, 2022 9:36 AM   Subscribe

My job is increasingly becoming trying to communicate complex processes and systems to other people. I'm looking for resources that will make me better at presenting this information to other people.

I've poked around at the Edward Tufte books, but that seems to be statistics focused. The data I'm trying to present is essentially process workflows with flowcharts but with too many actors, players, swim lanes to model in a simple flowchart diagram. does this kind of communication have a name that I can google? Does anyone have any books, classes, etc. that I can pursue to help develop this? I have access to linkedin learning via work.
posted by edbles to Work & Money (7 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You might be interested in Abby Covert's latest book, Stuck, which is all about presenting info in diagrams. I haven't read it, but I'm a fan of her previous book, How to Make Sense of Any Mess.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:55 AM on October 11, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: You'll want to look into Service Design as a discipline for sure. Service Design Tools will get you started with its open collection of tools, methods and tutorials for approaching your project. I also really enjoyed the books This is Service Design Doing and This is Service Design Methods for an in-depth look into real-world scenarios and the many ways to frame your thinking around communicating complex systems.
posted by oxisos at 10:09 AM on October 11, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I've used BPMN in the past for documenting complex processes - I've found subprocesses especially useful for simplifying visual representations.

Camunda and Lucidchart have some nice examples of BPMN diagrams. You don't have to use their software, as other tools such as Visio or have BPMN support. Clicking around Lucidchart's diagram examples might give you additional ideas on how visualize your complex workflows.
posted by needled at 10:49 AM on October 11, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: +1 to oxisos. Service blueprints and potentially journey maps will be very helpful. It's OK if there's not an experience component that you're studying, these can be very helpful ways of looking at many kinds of processes.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:52 AM on October 11, 2022 [4 favorites]

When I have to sort through this kind of stuff, I use graphviz to lay out the connections, and then count on the computer/layout algorithm to help me see what's going on.

Examples of flowcharts and their associated code are here, or more general examples here.

You can try it out online, without installing anything here or here. I usually use a programming language to write the "markup language" so that I don't make a mistake, crash my browser, and lose all my work. If that's at all interesting, an article like this might be helpful.

When I'm starting out with somebody else's spaghetti-logic, breaking it down into pieces and combing out the knots with a tool like this is basically outsourcing the headaches to an algorithm (or several).
posted by adekllny at 11:26 AM on October 11, 2022

Your description makes me think of Sankey diagrams, but what I really think you need to study is actual pedagogy (what teachers study) and/or instructional design. What you're essentially trying to do is teach (transmit complex information) in an exquisitely focused, efficient, and skilled way.
posted by amtho at 11:49 AM on October 11, 2022

To add to the excellent suggestions above, stakeholder analysis and mapping can help with the "too many actors" component. Here's a template I used recently.
posted by kiripin at 4:30 PM on October 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

« Older Toe protection for kids   |   Talking without actually talking about it Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.