The simple blog

A form that's not just bad but cruel

The Home Office in the UK is planning to use a long, poorly written questionnaire to process applications for asylum, in place of an interview. They hope to clear up a large backlog this way, but the form is pretty terrible.

forms, legal
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Bionic Reading: is speed really our problem?

Bio Reading is an app that's had quite a bit of press attention this year. It manipulates typography to make reading faster and more effective, it is claimed. But really?

speed reading, typography
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NZ's new plain language law

New Zealand's plain language law has passed its second reading in Parliament, reports The Guardian. It's good timing because NZ's Plain Language Awards have announced their shortlist, and will announce the winners soon.

plain language, jargon
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Explaining the summer school: Rob Waller online 7 April

Rob Waller gave a talk as part of the IIID Conversations series. He'll discussed how it works, how it integrates (only useful) theory with practice, and what kind of people attend. If you're thinking about coming, have a look at the recording to find out more and sample the atmosphere and approach.

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IIID Conversations – a new online community

The IIID (International Institute for Information Design) is starting a new series of online conversations called, as you might expect... IIID Conversations. Each one focuses on an information designer who will share their work and ideas. Then they are interviewed, leading to a general discussion.

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The summer school is back for 2022

The Summer School is back in its online form for 2022.

Summer School
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UK Supreme Court changes its font: Twitter fusses

A change of font by the UK's Supreme Court sparks debate – but what's more important is whether the layout reveals the content structure and makes a document easier to use.

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Outcomes from reading: memory, understanding and use

What are we expected to do with information we are given – there's an often overlooked distinction between memory, understanding and use of documents.

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Veronika Egger summer school lecture

"Designing for inclusive environments – how information design connects the dots". Veronika Egger will give a guest lecture to the Information Design Summer School on June 22 at 12 noon (UK). It's open to all.

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Online summer school announced

We've had a lot of requests to move the summer school online while the pandemic lasts. So this week we got together with a group of past participants to plan how to do it.

summer school
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There be dragons

Is really a big deal that no one can understand the small print? Would they really want to read it if it were larger, shorter and clearer? Or are they not entitled to trust brands and regulators – the usual strategy for most people?

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Contract design for humans

Our new paper ‘Contract design for humans: preventing cognitive accidents’ argues that the issue of legalese and the small print is about duty of care and risk assessment, not just clear language and design.

fine-print, small-print, consumer rights act,
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Truthful declarations

It's been called the 'greatest lie' – we're constantly being asked to confirm that we have 'read and understood' stuff we can't possibly read and will never understand. But here's a wording we could all agree to.

declaration, fine-print, small-print
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Try to Forgetica

Sans Forgetica, a font designed to improve memory for what you've read, was announced by the Australian university RMIT in 2018 with a major publicity drive... but before the research results had been peer-reviewed. They still have not appeared, but studies by other scholars have now appeared, with negative results. It turns out that whole project was devised by RMIT's advertising agency to generate interest amongst prospective students.

research, legibility
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Information design and academic disciplines

What academic disciplines are relevant to information designers and why.

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Improved but nowhere near OK

Last July the Behavioural Insights Team in the UK reported on a remarkably thorough study of evidence-based ways to improve the understanding of consumer contracts. Seems very welcome but there are problems lurking beneath the surface

consumer rights act, small print, government, research
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Beyond the jargon – simplifying privacy information

We're very happy to partner with Protecture to present a workshop on the design of privacy information. It's on 20 November 2019 in Bristol.

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Remembering algorithms

Visualising legal and regulatory text is quite a current issue. But it's actually quite an old idea. One of the pioneers was Brian LewIs who co-authored pioneering work on flow charts and algorithms in the 1960s.

data-visualisation, diagrams, small-print
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That government consultation on small print

What finally happened to that 2016 government consultation about the small print... not much it seems.

consumer rights act, fine print, government, legibility, small print
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2019 Summer School

We've just finished the 2019 summer school. This person's comment is typical: 'The Summer School changed the way I think about how I communicate. It’s a great opportunity to learn from experts in their field and from working on real-work projects with people who face similar problems to me.'

summer school
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Our new website

We've updated our website, which had become very old and creaky. The new one doesn't look too different but is responsive. It's a soft launch so forgive the inevitable bugs and let us know if you spot any problems - we've launched without being able to test on all devices.

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More on illegible fonts and learning

Several people got in touch about Sans Forgetica, and it seems that this is not the first time sub-legible fonts have been used in attempts to affect cognition. Unfortunately the earlier studies could not be replicated, and there are conclusions to be drawn about the wisdom of extrapolating the results of experiments to the real world too quickly.

education, legibility, reading-strategies
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Sans Forgetica... hmmm

Newspapers the world over have featured a new font developed by RMIT, the Australian university, which claims to aid learning. It’s got a great name, Sans Forgetica, but its designer’s claim sounded preposterous enough for me to check it wasn’t published on 1 April. Designed to be slightly illegible, it slows readers down, and the claimed effect is that they learn more, using a principle known as ‘desirable difficulty’. We're looking for the evidence.

research, legibility
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The 2018 Summer School

The 2018 Information Design Summer School was held in the fabulous architecture studio at the University of Bath. It's an intensive week of lectures, discussions, and group-working. The projects are based on real problems brought to the summer school by participants, or by outside 'clients'.

summer school
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That consultation on small print: latest news (none)

In 2016 there was a government consultation on terms and conditions, but nearly two years later there is still no report about what was found. The government is obviously distracted by other things at the moment, but it's important they get consumer protection right if we're not going to have the EU to stand up for it in future.

small print
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ASA condemn speeded up legal terms in radio ads

If you ever wondered what the point is of the garbled 'small print' at the end of radio ads, it's now official - there is no point to it at all.

fine-print, legal-information, small-print
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The Oxford comma in the news

The Oxford comma, or serial comma, is a comma inserted in a list before the final 'and' or 'or'. It can seem like one of those punctuation pedantries which does not matter in real life, but it's recently appeared in a court case in the USA.

contracts, legal-information, punctuation
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A design pattern for the Oscars

The notorious mix-up at the 2017 Oscars was an information design fail, as was the 2015 Miss Universe contest (in both cases the wrong winner was announced). So here's a design pattern for announcers' cue card

design patterns
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Out of sight, out of mind: the digital weak spot

The permanent physical presence of paper - glanceable, archivable, markable - is easily forgotten in the rush to a digital future. If 'glanceable' is not a real word, then it should be - it's why we put sticky notes on the fridge or write to-do lists. These things give abstract ideas, like our future tasks and commitments, a concrete presence in the room with us.

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As simple as possible but no simpler

There's a nice quotation attributed to Albert Einstein: "Make everything as simple as possible but no simpler". Did he really say it, and does it matter?

simplicity, small-print
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Being damn well simple

'The one great thing was simplification. Simplification by organization, simplification by condensation and also simplification by being damn well simple.'

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Does legal text have to be so spotty?

Legal documents often define key terms at the start, to clarify what is meant by ‘you’, ‘we’, ‘the contract period’, and so on. They then signal the defined terms in bold or colour whenever they appear. But this makes the text hard to read. Do we really need to do this?

financial-information, fine-print, small-print, typography
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Dumbing down? I wish...

Legislators from time to time make efforts to make the law clearer. Here we point to an objection to simplification raised in the House of Lords in 2012. It's the usual dumbing-down thing, but contains an important truth: that to simplify is to demand the reader's trust.

government, headings, plain-english
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Olympic Symbols - the visual language of the Games

easy-to-read, icons, pictures, symbols
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At last: a declaration I can truthfully sign

Most of us routinely lie, perhaps even commit perjury, when we click on a declaration that says 'I have read and understood the terms and conditions'. I've always loved this declaration from the AA, when I joined online a few days back: I confirm you have informed me of the importance of reading these before I buy.

declaration, fine-print, small-print
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Insanely simple: book review

When a book comes out with this title, we have to review it on the Simplification Centre website. It's by Ken Segall who worked for Apple's advertising agency for many years. The simple design of Apple's products and user experience was the vision of one man, with a small group of trusted colleagues. Perhaps alone in the world of big brands, Apple does not believe in doing customer research before launching a new product, although they often respond to critical feedback once a product is launched.

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US election field guides

There's no standard design for US ballot papers, so have developed a set of four field guides to help election officials design, write and test ballot papers to ensure that when it comes to voting day, the vote a voter makes is the one they mean.

design-for-good, voting
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The Easy-to-Read network

Easy-to-Read and EasyRead sound the same, but they describe different approaches to simplified information.

easy-to-read, equality-act
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No comment

Companies like to claim their stuff is simple, but it needs to go beyond the headline. Check out this example from LloydsTSB

banks, financial-information, small-print
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Two texts and a diagram

Some concepts are best expressed visually – here's a nice example of graphics used in a leaflet telling householders about responsibility for drainage.

diagrams, small-print, trust
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