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Program Overview

Information Design & Strategy

Master's in Information Design & Strategy Online

As digital output increasingly becomes the backbone of most business strategy, there is an acute need for professionals with a better big-picture understanding of information management, design and technology. The Northwestern University online Master of Science in Information Design and Strategy (IDS) program teaches students how to translate information and data into meaningful visual forms, narratives and interfaces.

This interdisciplinary program prepares students to step into a cross-functional or leadership role by developing a deep and holistic understanding of today’s sophisticated digital media. The program is particularly useful for people in creative fields who want a stronger grounding in business strategy, so that they can expand their career opportunities and make a larger impact on their organizations. The strong theoretical framework of the program and its focus on fundamental concepts makes the degree applicable to many diverse fields and types of organizations — business, the arts, government, healthcare, and education, to name a few — regardless of changes in technology.

The IDS program was developed in consultation with industry leaders in this emerging field. As a part-time and completely online degree, students anywhere in the world can access a program of this caliber while maintaining their personal and professional commitments. Find out more about online learning at SPS.



Chris Rinere

I think the program is innovative. It combines a lot of business goals within the design's given me a lot more confidence in the workplace.”

Chris Rinere, MS in Information Design and Strategy ('17)

About the MS in Information Design & Strategy

Program Goals

An interdisciplinary professional program, IDS graduates will possess the knowledge, skills and aptitude to:

  • Translate complex information into compelling visual forms and narratives, particularly within digital media
  • Lead cross-functional teams to develop and implement a comprehensive media communication strategy
  • Design seamless customer experiences that support an organization’s strategy across multiple digital platforms
  • Develop innovative solutions to complex business problems by combining analytical and creative skills

Curriculum & Specializations

Students are required to complete 12 courses to earn the degree. Students complete eight core courses and three elective courses corresponding to a chosen area of Information Design Specialization: data science and analytics, learning design, content strategy, or interdisciplinary studies. Current students should refer to the Information Design Curriculum requirements in place at time of entry into the program.

Online Courses

Explore MS Information Design Online Courses. You can narrow your course search by day, location or instructor.

Admission Information

A variety of factors are considered when your application is reviewed. Background and experience vary from student to student. For a complete list of requirements, see the Master's in Information Design & Strategy Admission page.

Tuition and Financial Aid

Tuition for the Master's in Information Design & Strategy program at Northwestern is comparable to similar US programs. Financial aid opportunities exist for students at Northwestern. Complete details can be found on the Information Design Tuition and Financial Aid page.

Registration Information

Already accepted into the Master's in Information Design program? Get ahead and register for your classes as soon as possible to ensure maximum efficiency in your trajectory.

Careers in Information Design

The field of information design has grown and evolved rapidly in recent years.  Organizations and businesses of all types need professionals who can translate information into beautiful visual forms and compelling narratives.  For details visit the Information Design Career Options page.


Instructors in the Master's in Information Design program at Northwestern are leaders in the field. They bring practical real-world experiences to the online classroom and engage with students on an interpersonal level. Get to know the instructors on our Information Design & Strategy Faculty page.

Find out more about Northwestern's MS in Information Design & Strategy

Core Courses:Course Detail
Leadership <> LEADERS 481-0

The purpose of this course is to identify the fundamental leadership behaviors that enable people to excel in their careers, and to help students apply these behaviors to personal and professional success. The course builds from the basic premise that leadership is learned and looks at the theory and practice of leadership at the individual and organizational level. The course will explore definitions of leadership, the importance of leadership, leadership styles, the role of vision and integrity, the importance of giving and receiving feedback, how to lead change and solve problems, effective teamwork, and communication strategies. The culmination of the class will be a personal leadership development plan formulated by each student.

View LEADERS 481-0 Sections
Leadership <> LEADERS 481-DL

The purpose of this course is to identify the fundamental leadership behaviors that enable people to excel in their careers, and to help students apply these behaviors to personal and professional success. The course builds from the basic premise that leadership is learned and looks at the theory and practice of leadership at the individual and organizational level. The course will explore definitions of leadership, the importance of leadership, leadership styles, the role of vision and integrity, the importance of giving and receiving feedback, how to lead change and solve problems, effective teamwork, and communication strategies. The culmination of the class will be a personal leadership development plan formulated by each student.

View LEADERS 481-DL Sections
User-Centered Design <> MS_IDS 401-DL

The User-Centered Design course gives students hands-on experience with the latest design frameworks and methodologies that focus on the end user. Students will learn how a user focused design process can be used to solve the most challenging problems facing businesses and organizations today. Students will be introduced to the latest trends in design thinking, the importance of iterative design frameworks, researching user needs, prototyping, collaboration and critical feedback.

View MS_IDS 401-DL Sections
Effective Communication <> MS_IDS 403-DL

When we add ourselves to the professional world--as a writer, an artist, or a technician (or a myriad of other professions), we find ourselves deep in the culture of organizations. We have to learn how to communicate in these environments and with people who often communicate quite differently than we do. In order to be efficient in our communication, we must be aware of our own communication strengths and weaknesses. We consciously and unconsciously are determining the audience we are communicating with, in order to tailor our message for effectiveness. In this day and age, digital communication plays an important and necessary role, as well. In this course, we will review and evaluate the above ideas so that students will learn how to communicate their fundamental ideas productively--from developing to writing to delivering specifications, reports, and presentations. We will examine collaboration, rhetoric, and storytelling in a professional context to assist in meeting our course goals.

View MS_IDS 403-DL Sections
User Research <> MS_IDS 405-DL

Students will learn how to conduct quantitative and qualitative research of user behavior to inform the design, development, and ongoing maintenance of digital assets. The course will give students hands-on experience with the key tools of usability testing, including prototyping, interviewing, site surveys, and site analytics.

View MS_IDS 405-DL Sections
Info and Content Strategy <> MS_IDS 407-DL

This course will explore how to plan and consistently execute content that supports an organization’s goals. Students will learn how to develop a content strategy, conduct a qualitative content audit, develop controlled vocabularies and lexicons, and choose the right medium (text, image, video, social interaction) for their message.

View MS_IDS 407-DL Sections
Data Management Principles <> MS_IDS 409-DL

Database systems are at the core of modern information systems. In this course, students will explore the principles of data management and data extraction. Database design, modeling, and implementation concepts will be reviewed and discussed. Students will learn how the different forms of data such as structured data in SQL databases, and unstructured data in NoSQL database systems are stored and accessed. Students will also learn how to query a database and extract useful information to support the decision making process for information design and strategy. The course has hands-on modules that provide the students with SQL and NoSQL programming skills in order to extract and process data from a database engine and present the information in forms suitable for end-users.

View MS_IDS 409-DL Sections
Info Design and Architecture <> MS_IDS 411-DL

Students will explore how to effectively design, organize, retrieve, and use information. Our goal will be to create structures that support the organization’s content strategy and facilitate user understanding and navigation. Topics will include semantic analysis, content hierarchy, metadata, and search engine optimization. Students will also learn how to analyze, design, and implement service oriented architecture (SOA) solutions.

View MS_IDS 411-DL Sections
Visual Communication <> MS_IDS 413-DL

Digital media rely on imagery and layout to communicate important and complex messages to its users. In this course, students will learn how cognitive science, cartography, human-computer interactions, design, and typography affect the ways that we perceive and interpret visual messages. Students will also learn techniques for identifying good visual design.

View MS_IDS 413-DL Sections
Capstone Project <> MS_IDS 498-DL

The capstone project course is the culmination of the IDS program and demonstrates to faculty a student's mastery of the curriculum and core competencies in the information design and strategy field. Working both in small groups and individually, students complete a comprehensive project chosen in conjunction with their instructors. Students are individually assessed and graded throughout the duration of class. Students should retain all course material from previous classes in the program, including textbooks, to successfully complete assignments.

Students may choose this course or registration in the 590 individual thesis research to fulfill their capstone requirement.

Pre-requisite: the earliest students may take IDS 498 is in the quarter of their final class.

View MS_IDS 498-DL Sections
Thesis Research <> MS_IDS 590-DL

This final project is meant to represent the culmination of students’ experience in the program and must demonstrate mastery of the curriculum and ability to conduct sustained independent research and analysis. The project may be applied or may be a traditional scholarly paper; in both cases a write-up following the paper’s program-specific guidelines is required. Students must submit a proposal and secure a first reader in order to register; for further details students are advised to review the student handbook and contact their academic adviser.

There is no available section.
Elective Courses:Course Detail
Intro to Learning Theory <> MS_IDS 422-DL

Effective instructional design begins with an understanding of the learning process. In this course, students will learn behaviorist, cognitive, constructivist, and social learning theories, and their relationship to instructional practices and course design. Factors that influence learning, such as learning styles, motivation, and engagement, are also explored.

View MS_IDS 422-DL Sections
Instructional Design <> MS_IDS 423-DL

Students learn the foundational principles and elements of instructional systems, from analysis through evaluation. They will explore commonly-used instructional design models and learn how to apply them in an education or training environment. Students will practice incorporating sound instructional strategies into the design and development of prototypes in real-world instructional settings.

View MS_IDS 423-DL Sections
Learning Environment Design <> MS_IDS 425-DL

This course is an introduction to the ideas, principles, and techniques used in educational media or systems, focusing on both the theoretical and practical aspects of design. The process of design will be guided by various design frameworks, and informed by current research on the design and study of learning environments. Students will learn how to assess interactive learning models and solutions. They will also learn how various technologies can affect the behavioral, cognitive, and social dimensions of learning.

View MS_IDS 425-DL Sections
Advanced Writing Workshop <> MS_IDS 432-DL

In this graduate advanced writing workshop, students of information design and strategy will explore the use of hybrid and technical craft in writing to communicate their sensory, emotional, and practical knowhow through the use of experimental creative writing assignments and information design writing projects that will prepare them for the marketplace. Students will also study comprehensive texts in hybrid writing and storytelling, and engage in collective discussions of weekly reading topics while producing assignments that evolve from visual and informational experiences which are related to the field. At its heart, this course requires readings, instructions, and practice that give graduate students insight into storytelling and technical writing methods to help awaken present-day content creation and management processes.

View MS_IDS 432-DL Sections
Social Media and Content <> MS_IDS 433-DL

This course will help professional writers effectively implement a social media strategy. It provides a detailed overview of each of the major social networking websites and how consumers and businesses use them. Students will also learn how to effectively identify, select, and share the best and most relevant online content for their audience.

View MS_IDS 433-DL Sections
Persuasion <> MS_IDS 435-DL

Acts of persuasion influence us in all aspects of our lives. This course will examine the different ways in which we observe and use persuasion in the communication we have with our families and friends, our workplace, and the general public. How effective are we? How are we affected by persuasion? We will explore how we use communication strategically to facilitate persuasion, both in thought and in action. We will look at the foundations and ethics of persuasion, including how we process persuasion, as well as how digital media affects the use of persuasion. In addition, we will explore various mediums and modes of persuasion through a variety of written and creative projects. The course will culminate in an overall assessment of how persuasion impacts us, as individuals and as a society, in a project that reflects influence in the workplace. Students should identify and apply their professional and personal life experiences to the course materials, as well as have a working understanding of communication and writing.

View MS_IDS 435-DL Sections
Intro to Data and Analytics <> MS_IDS 452-DL

This course will introduce students to the appropriate uses of analytics and its limitations and define how to approach the various stakeholders within an organization with analytic information. Included will be a review of the ethical, regulatory, and compliance issues related to a given business problem and/or solution. Time will be spent interpreting performance-based organizational issues while concurrently identifying solutions for these same performance-based organizational issues. In addition, time will be spent identifying best practices to plan for engaging, implementing, and sustaining organizational change.

Prerequisites: Students should have a basic understanding of Microsoft Excel.

View MS_IDS 452-DL Sections
Techniques of Analytics <> MS_IDS 453-DL

Students learn to apply statistical techniques to the processing and interpretation of data from various industries and disciplines. This course introduces statistical models as they are used in predictive analytics. It addresses issues of statistical model specification and model selection, as well as best practices in developing models for management.

View MS_IDS 453-DL Sections
Data and Text Visualization MS_IDS 455-DL

This course entails learning by doing—working with data and text, utilizing models of text and data, working within an open-source programming environment, and building interactive visualizations for the web. It reviews the psychology of human perception and cognition and best practices in visualization and web design. Assignments involve reviewing and developing interactive visualizations of text, time series, networks, and maps. This is a project-based course with individual and team assignments.

View MS_IDS 455-DL Sections
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