Publications

Our reports mostly result from different projects we’ve done. They vary in style from basic guidelines to academic papers – the notes below tell you what to expect from each. If you’d like to be notified about new reports when they are published, please email us or follow us on Twitter.

Simple Action 4: Terms and Conditions

June 2017
A new Consumer Rights Act (CRA) came into force in the UK in October 2015. One notable provision is that it acknowledges the problem of small print. In March 2016 the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills issued a Call for Evidence looking for guidance about how to make Terms and Conditions more usable, so we held a Simple Action day for put together a Simplification Centre response.
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Simple Action 7: Overdose emergency kits

June 2017
Opioid overdoses are a huge problem, but there is a temporary antidote, naloxone, which is being increasingly made available for emergency use. A naloxone injection counters the effects of overdose for around twenty minutes, giving time for medical help to be summoned. Naloxone kits may be used by untrained people, so the instructions are critical. We got together to review the instructions for one kit used widely in the UK, and show how much better they could be.
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Simple Action 5: Speeding notice

October 2016
If your car is caught by a speeding camera, you get a ‘notice of intended prosecution’ in the mail, asking you to confirm who was driving. It’s a confusing document, poorly written and poorly laid out. Yet failure to respond could result in a fine or more penalty points. We wanted to see if the template we developed for Simple Action 1 would also work for this document.
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Technical paper 15. Layout for legislation

Rob Waller
May 2015
In 2014/15 we were part of the UK government's Clear Law Initiative, working alongside members or Clarity. This paper explores improved typographic structures and layered formats for legislation.
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Simple Action 2: Tenancy Agreement

March 2014
Tenancy agreements are important documents, but they are surprisingly varied in content, language and design. There is currently no standard (although the UK government has recently announced it is working on a model agreement), so we spent a day rethinking tenancy agreements. In this report we show two proposals, both easily convertible from conventional agreements. Both of them see the primary audience as the tenant and landlord, rather than the law court they might end up in if the relationship goes wrong.
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Technical paper 14. Information design: how the disciplines work together

March 2013
A conference paper from 1995 made available as a contribution to our discussions of the information design curriculum.
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Simple Action 1: Penalty charge notice

April 2012
If you drive in the UK, the chances are that you will have received a Penalty Charge Notice at some point (if you haven’t, well done). If you stray into a bus lane, or park for too long, or park in the wrong place, you will get an official notice that’s as challenging a read as you can imagine. This report demonstrates how basic principles of simplification can make these notices much easier to understand.
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Technical paper 12. Professionalising functional communications: what professionals need to know

Jenny Waller
July 2011
An account of our design training programme, in the context of the need for professionalisation among document designers.
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Technical paper 10. The Clear Print standard: arguments for a flexible approach

Rob Waller
July 2011
A commentary piece, initiating a debate about the RNIB’s Clear Print standard. We felt their recommendations went too far – all print would be so large that effective layout would be impossible – and were not sufficiently based on evidence.
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Technical paper 11. Improved letters about benefits

Rob Waller
May 2011
A case study of document improvement, outlining a project we did to simplify letters for the UK's Department of Work and Pensions
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Technical paper 8. Criteria for clear documents: a survey

Martin Evans
April 2011
A report comparing the criteria used to evaluate documents, from a range of organisations including our own.
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Technical paper 13. Our first two years: 2009-2010

Rob Waller
April 2011
A report about our origins and our first two years as part of Reading University.
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Technical paper 9. Choosing a typeface for reading

Rob Waller
March 2011
Basic guidelines on typeface choice, answering questions we are sometimes asked.
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Technical paper 1. Simplification: what is gained and what is lost

Rob Waller
This early report thinks through some of the basic problems of simplification. What are the benefits, but also what are the losses – is it 'dumbing down', is important accuracy lost? In many (perhaps even most) cases, the process of simplification doesn't reduce the underlying complexity and richness of content, but improves the user’s ability to navigate it – it produces a simpler experience, or a simpler understanding. 
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Technical paper 2. What makes a good document? The criteria we use

Rob Waller
We are sometimes asked to evaluate documents, and in our early days we ran a benchmarking service. This report explains the research background to our evaluation criteria.
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Technical paper 3. A corpus for graphic analysis of texts

Martin Thomas, Judy Delin & Rob Waller
An academic conference paper, reporting on the building of a document corpus – a tagged database that can be used to study document design systematically. (Assumes some knowledge of applied linguistics).
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Technical paper 4. A pattern language for describing documents

Rob Waller & Judy Delin
A conference paper on design theory, based on Christopher Alexander’s pattern language approach – identifies and names common design solutions.
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Technical paper 5. Benchmarking everyday documents

Martin Evans
A report of our benchmarking evaluations for member organisations. What are they typically good at or bad at?
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Technical paper 6. Typographic voice: researching readers’ interpretations

Jeanne-Louise Moys
A research report of a study of what people notice in typographic design, and how it affects their perception of tone of voice, purpose and audience.
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Technical paper 7. What do people notice about their documents?

Karen Stanbridge
A report of a document diary study, showing what people think about the documents they pick up or receive in the mail.
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