Tomoko Ichikawa is a clinical professor of design at the Institute of Design. With 20 years experience in communication simplification and information design, Tomoko’s focus has been on creating visuals that clearly reflect the content structure to effectively communicate.

Her work experience in design firms and strategy consultancies have included serving such clients as Fidelity Investments, U.S. Trust, Dean Witter, Chubb Insurance, McDonald’s, Zurich Insurance and SAS.

Tomoko has been translating and converting signs all of her life, between three languages (Japanese, English and Spanish) and between multiple modes of representation (verbal/textual to visual). After receiving her B.A. in interpersonal and intercultural communication at International Christian University in Tokyo, she pursued her interest in the visual world that led her to IIT Institute of Design where she received her M.S. degree. Her interest has focused on the syntax and semantic aspects of the visual language, using appropriate sign systems to match information structure to visual structure. In particular, diagrams and, more recently, the emerging field of computer-generated data visualizations are her area of exploration.

During her 16 years of adjunct- and 6 years of full-time teaching, her courses have revolved around the combination of various sign systems to result in clear expositions of complex, often intangible, topics. Her class on diagramming supports a basic mode of communication at the Institute of Design: diagrams play an important role in synthesizing and visually presenting relationships of large, abstract concepts. She also takes great pleasure and pride in developing the visual communication skills of students who come to ID with no design background in her Foundation course.


Institute for Information Design Japan ed. 2003. “Arena Scan.” Information Design Source Book, IIDj Graphic-sha Publishing.

Heller, Steven and Lita Talarico. 2009. “Visualizing Various Information Types across Multiple Channels.” Design School Confidential. Rockport Publishers
Visualization as experience.” 2016. Digital Studies/Le champ numérique, North America, 0, jul. 2016.
Published diagrams
Fong, Abigail J., Meghan Smith and Alexander Langerman. 2016. “Efficiency improvement in the operating room.” Journal of Surgical Research. Aug 2016 (204) 371-383.