Information Design and Positive Psychology


10,000 Minutes by Matt Goetz

30 Days of Happiness/Sadness by Seonggyeong Hong
Seonggyeong mapped her gratitude journal to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid. She learned that most of the things make her grateful are in the categories of Physiological Needs and Love and Belonging.

Happy vs. Unhappy by Tatum McPhillips

Happyology by Nicole Lorig

Connection in 10 Days by Celia Soller

Duration: 15 weeks
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Project Brief

Project 1 In the Present

Happiness is found in the present, but you must be present to find it. Positive psychologists found evidence that the key to happiness lies not in changing circumstances but in changing our daily intentional activities: in order to become happier, we must adapt our daily actions that are under our voluntary control.

The first project is about students' daily lives and their consumption of time and things. They are asked to keep a record of how their daily minutes and hours were spent. Categorize activities within that one week. Use colors and icons to create a timeline to visualize how time is spent.  

Project 2 Gratitude Tracking Diagram                  

Gratitude is a mega-strategy of happiness. Positive psychologists have done studies in which they have asked people to keep a gratitude journal. Specifically, they asked participants to take five minutes at the end of each day to write down three things for which they are grateful. After 30 days the participants are measurably happier, and if they keep this practice up their happiness level continues to rise.

Students were asked to keep a journal from the beginning of the semester and spent five minutes each day to record the three things for which they were grateful and three things for which makes them unhappy (if it’s something they would rather keep it private, they may just put down sth. like “don’t want to talk about it”). Elaborate on some details.  Do this for AT LEAST 30 days. 

Categorize the gratitude data into different groups with the Happiness Sources and the Unhappiness Sources. Use icons to represent these categories and use forms or colors to represent your happiness and unhappiness trends.

Project 3 Visual Explanation: Ways to Make Myself Happy(ier)

Based on the data students collected about themselves, try to identify new opportunities to enable, support, and inspire them in their own pursuit of happiness. For example, how to help themselves reduce stress; how to appreciate what they have; how to strengthen their relationships, etc. Investigate one subject (or two if they are closely related to each other) and find evidences and references to support their plan. Create a visual explanation that explains how they may support their own wellbeing in that particular area.

The visual can be a pictograph-based diagram, chart-based process and quantitate information. It is essential to determine the most important aspect of the subject matter, then to visualize that content through the information presented.

Learning Objectives

The objective of the course is to introduce design strategies of how information can be structured and visualized to create effective communications and to stimulate viewer attention and engagement. Students practice information design by exploring the implications of perception and communication theories, semiotics and information organization theories, design thinking and aesthetic principles, as well as visualization methods in order to develop skills to analyze and design effective information visualization and communication. Student projects are fused with positive psychology-based self-empowerment strategies that are closely relate to student’s lives. Therefore, the class offers the potential to use information design as an empowerment tool for students to consider and support their own well-being with data. 


  • Data collections
  • Process documentation including ideation sketches
  • 18" x 24" 300ppi print


The outcomes of the class are positive in many ways. Students from different academic backgrounds (communication, data analytics, psychology, business, animal science, etc.) were able to grasp the organization and visual strategies in information design. Also, they said that they started to be more mindful with their own lives, taking notice of how their lived experiences related to wellbeing aspects, and connecting design concepts and wellbeing strategies across projects and in life. 

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