What is a Blueprint?

What is a Blueprint?

We don’t mean graphic info about buildings—these Blueprints are about building infographics.

Let’s talk lingo

Every profession has its own set of lingo, familiar to practitioners but foreign to everyone else.

In the sales world, when a prospect is BOFU—Bottom of the Funnel—it means they’re close to the point where they may make a purchase. They’re qualified, informed, and ready to be closed (that is, to buy something).

In woodworking and carpentry, a countersink is a cone-shaped clearance hole that enables a screwhead to be flush or below the surface so it doesn’t stick out or can be covered.

In the tech world, a ping is a small data packet sent to a device or IP address to check if it’s online.

Some of these terms are super-specific in usage and some have meaning in our everyday lives. Others take on new dimensions for certain fields. And while it’s hard to imagine BOFU being used in other contexts, many get co-opted by people in other careers. “Countersink” might sound like a kitchen product to some of us, but “ping” is probably more familiar: who hasn’t heard someone say, “Ping me later about that”?

In our world of visual storytelling / information design / graphic design, we’ve got our own set of lingo. Some terms are original and some are borrowed from elsewhere.

“Display type” is a large headline, while “body copy” is the main text. “Kerning” is the space between two characters in a font, while “tracking” is the space between all letters and “leading” is the space between lines of text.

 

The “Blueprint”

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What most of us think of when we hear the term “blueprint”.

We have hundreds of others design-y terms, but I’ll spare you so we can focus on one rather specific to Tremendousness: the Blueprint.

We all know what a blueprint is in an architectural context: it’s a reproduction of technical or specification drawings used in construction, engineering, and industry. The layout of your home. A floor of a skyscraper. Weirdly, it’s both a simplified diagram that doesn’t literally look like what the end result will be, but also is a solid representation of most of the details and content.

In the same way, our Blueprints capture the details and layout of an infographic or visual map in a diagrammatic / sketch format. Everything is placed where it should be: headlines, visuals, text, logos, etc. The sketches are hand-drawn, so we can iterate faster, but they conceptually represent what will be illustrated later, in the desired style. The text is written to fit. Everything is there, ready for an artist to finalize.

That said, Blueprints created by different people can look different from project to project depending on the designer’s drawing style (or ability), level of detail required, size/format, final illustration style, timeline urgency, or a number of other factors. Most architectural blueprints feel very much alike, but infographic Blueprints can vary.

 

Where it fits in our process

The Blueprint typically is the third of four phases in our process. First, there’s Discovery, where we work with clients to understand the message or issue. Next comes the Concept phase—essentially high-level napkin sketches that explore multiple possible designs and approaches. Then we have the Blueprint, where things really cohere into the right mix and arrangement of content, visuals, and layout in the form of a specific deliverable. Finally, there is the Production phase in which we finalize design, illustration, and any last-minute copyediting.

The Blueprint exists so we can have conversations with clients about the final approach to the piece—without creating the actual final piece. As mentioned, sketches allow us to capture and revise visual concepts much faster than final illustrations. Once everything feels right, then we move to Production.

dqc-adobe-blueprint

A recent letter-size Blueprint for Data Quality Campaign and a long-form blog infographic Blueprint for Adobe. This post’s featured image is a Blueprint for Future of Privacy Forum. Each of these was drawn/designed by a different person—and it shows.

To some people, the Blueprint can feel like a final deliverable. Some are drawn so tightly, so cleanly, so well that a client might like it just the way it is! Other Blueprints clearly are the output of an in-between phase—not quite ready for primetime, but perfectly suited to the role it plays.

We’ve even had some clients who opt for clean “Blueprints” as final deliverables, using a hand-drawn illustration style. That can help keep the piece feeling like it is still a work-in-progress, which is especially useful in internal comms or change management scenarios where other people need to be part of the process or weigh in on something—or where things really are still fluid. That way collaborators feel like everything hasn’t already been decided without them. The sketches (and even the term Blueprint) give off a “work-in-progress” vibe vs a “this is final” feel.

Still, our typical Blueprint is the penultimate stop on the journey toward one of our core visual storytelling deliverables, whether infographics, animated videos, presentations, data visualizations, storyboards, or something else. It’s what helps us and our clients get from an idea all the way to the compelling communication pieces you see below.

finals-of-blueprints

These are the final infographics of the Blueprints seen in this post.


Part of a series:

  1. Who takes part in Discovery?
  2. Why start with Napkin sketches?
  3. What is a Blueprint?
  4. How does Production work?