The 2015 summer school has just ended and we’re getting great feedback in from the participants. It’s good to see that they are pretty happy with the experience they had (leaving aside the problem with hot water in the university accommodation – we escaped the blame for that).

“It was the most engaging and inspiring course I’ve ever been on, with the right balance between teaching sessions and workshops / exercises / group work. It has opened me up to so many new processes and resources to explore as well as highlighting areas for me to work on to improve my own work… so its really just the beginning.”

“I’m pretty sure that I learnt more relevant stuff last week than I did on my whole degree course!”

“I really enjoyed the summer school, it was a great week. The presentations, exercises and discussions made for an effective package. I also feel re-energized to do the time-consuming work of improving government information.”

We were a mix of ages and experience – new graduates, experienced designers, and non-designers wanting insight into their own issues (technical writing, legal education, parliamentary drafting, psychology). We had the luck to choose a rare sunny week in one of the wettest English summers we can remember. Bath was stunning, and we enjoyed good food, the Roman baths, and the parkland location of the School of Art on the hill above the famous Royal Crescent.

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Our approach is to blend theory, short exercises, practical projects and war stories from experienced practitioners. Theory is introduced with a light touch, not for its own sake but when it’s useful in diagnosing problems or understanding users.

Participants brought their own work to show and discuss, and examples of good and poor information for critiquing sessions. We believe fluency in talking about information design is the key to analysing our own work objectively and convincing others of its worth.

The project topics were: the Apple Music terms and conditions (the small print you click ‘agree’ to without reading them; the 2014 model tenancy agreement published by the Department of Communities and Local Government; and the wayfinding system for the Bath Spa University buildings we were in.

The course was led by Rob Waller and Clive Richards. Karel van der Waarde taught on two of the days, leading a session on testing, and Jenny Waller introduced a case study highlighting management issues within client organisations, and consultancy tools that address them. The summer school is run in partnership with the International Institute for Information Design.