Typographic presentation and how people read legal information

Typographic differentiation in an inland revenue succession document. Image: Department of Typography & Graphic Communication Collection

Typographic differentiation in an inland revenue succession document. (Image: Department of Typography & Graphic Communication Collection)

This week, CIDR researcher Jeanne-Louise Moys shared her research on typography and document design with legal and plain language practitioners at a Clarity breakfast talk. Her talk explored how effective typography can improve how people engage with legal and complex information, as well as contribute to their judgments of credibility.

Drawing on examples of legal documents (including historic examples from the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication collections and a range of current printed and digital examples), Jeanne-Louise explored how typographic differentiation (TD) is applied to legal information.

TD is the way in which designers use variations (such as typeface, size, weight, placement and spacing) to provide essential visual cues for readers. It is a useful concept for effective document design because it can make legal information seem less daunting to readers, support their understanding and help them navigate information. If applied effectively to document or interface design, it can help readers:

  • recognise a document’s genre
  • identify what kind of information they are reading
  • make judgments about whether information is relevant to them
  • identify key information (through emphasis)
  • understand complex information and document structure (through a visual hierarchy of headings)
  • distinguish components in different registers (such as shifts between explanation and commentary)
  • decide whether/how to read a document.

TD also helps explain how documents carry genre associations, which influence readers’ assumptions about credibility, provenance and tone. For legal documents, it plays a key role in establishing a sense of authority and helping readers identify what kind of information they are presented with.

Jeanne-Louise’s presentation also highlighted how principles for enhancing clarity and simplicity in writing, such as using shorter words and sentences, are important from a typographic point of view. Her research suggests that the typographic texture of information influences people’s assumptions about information complexity before they start reading. She found that people made assumptions about how interesting or difficult information was based on the length of words, sentences and paragraphs, even when they couldn’t read the text because it was presented as a third-order approximation of English (i.e. nonsense words that mimic the character combinations or real words).

Her presentation concluded with some key tips for making legal documents more accessible, such as:

  • Write considerately and simply – shorter words, sentences and paragraphs
  • Use legible typefaces appropriate to the kind of display or output
  • Avoid setting text with a very long line length
  • Use lists to break up visually dense and complex paragraphs
  • Create a clear structure and visual hierarchy (signposting)
  • Use space and alignment to support and clarify structure and hierarchy
  • Allow sufficient ‘breathing space’
  • Develop texture and emphasis but don’t overdo it or over-fragment the information – emphasis should be helpful not confusing
  • Avoid setting text in full capitals (caps are considered ‘bad practice’ in terms of inclusive design)
  • Consider alternative formats for users with disabilities and ensure that appropriate cues about structure are built in for text-readers.
Posted in Afterword | Leave a comment

Typographic presentation and legal information

Jeanne-Louise will be talking about the importance of visual cues in legal document design, like the use of emphasis in the indenture shown here. Image from the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication Collections

We’re looking forward to Jeanne-Louise Moys’ invited talk to Clarity, the international association promoting plain legal language. The talk will discuss research on the impact of typographic presentation on people’s perceptions of documents, carried out as part of Jeanne-Louise’s PhD, which she has applied in a range of contexts.

Tickets for this free event, on 14 June,  are available now.

Posted in Announce | Leave a comment

Visualising Knowledge, Helsinki

Visualising Knowledge logoSome of CIDR’s work will be presented today at Aalto University’s annual day seminar, Visualising Knowledge. Alison Black will start the day with a talk, Representing technical information for everyday communication, which will be based on CIDR’s recent work in information design to improve healthcare processes and to communicate meteorological forecasts.

 

Posted in Announce | Leave a comment

New book on design for health

Congratulations to the editors of the newly published book Design for Health, Emmanuel Tsekleves and Rachel Cooper of Lancaster University’s design-led research centre ImaginationLancaster. The book forms part of Routledge’s series Design for Social Responsibility (edited by Rachel Cooper). It includes chapters by CIDR authors Sue Walker (reviewing the current and historical contribution of typography & information design to health communication) and Alison Black (an information design case study of work with renal specialists at Royal Berkshire Hospital to design documentation to support treatment of acute kidney injury).

Posted in Announce, Publication, Research | Leave a comment

Communicating soil moisture forecasts in Ghana

Sample materials from ERADACS project

Our first set of materials, communicating climate and soil moisture forecasts, is ready for field testing in Northern Ghana. This is a first design outcome of one of our collaborative projects with meteorologists, funded by NERC, who are drawing together data on climate and land surface in order to provide improved seasonal forecasts for soil moisture. The project, ERADACS (Enhancing Resilience to Agricultural Drought in Africa through improved Communication of Seasonal Forecasts), has set out not only to improve forecast skill but to ensure forecasts are communicated in the most usable way to people making decisions about what crops to plant and when to plant them. The project is in partnership with the Ghanaian Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and NGO, Evidence for Development. University of Reading brings expertise in modelling climate and weather, satellite derived observations of rainfall from the TAMSAT group, a tradition of agricultural extension research and, from the perspective of information design, a heritage of  investigating the most accessible ways of communicating new information.

As field work gets underway we are conscious of the work in the 1950s of the Isotype Institute. Marie Neurath worked with local communities in West Africa, developing visual educational materials, initially about the constitutional impact of independence and subsequently to support public education campaigns regarding health and farming.

 

Posted in Announce, Research | Leave a comment

Dementia Guide goes national

Today the Dementia Guide for Carers and Care Providers, the product of a collaboration with Health Education England Thames Valley, goes national at the Dementia 2020 conference, Royal Society of Medicine, London.

The guide can be downloaded from Amazon for Kindle, and is available from iTunes and iBooks store.

For some years now we have been working with healthcare professionals on research projects relating to dementia care, from which one output was the Handbook for Dementia Carers developed with Berkshire Healthcare Foundation Trust, to meet the information needs of carers in the Berkshire West region. Launched in 2014, it was subsequently adapted for use in the Essex region by Essex Healthwatch. More recently, we worked with Health Education England Thames Valley, to create app and ebook versions to extend the handbook content to professional as well as family carers.

The publicity materials for the conference exhibition stand (shown above) were prepared by Part 3 students in the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication, Francesca Britton and Alice Watkins.

Posted in Announce, Research | Leave a comment

Congrats to Josefina and our MAID graduates

How to cook noodles

Dear how to, week 17

How to eat an organge without peeling the skin

Dear how to, week 7

How to tie a scarf – Turkish style

Dear how to, week 19

We’re thrilled to announce that CIDR doctoral researcher, Josefina Bravo is part of the Dear How To team who won the Jury Prize and a Gold Award in Didactics at this year’s IIID awards. Dear How To is a team of three graduates of our MA Information Design programme: Josefina,  Sol Kawage and Tomoko Furukawa.

Joan Zalacain, another of our MA information design graduates, and Rami Kilani (Zalacain Wayfinding & Overhaul Jordan) received the Gold Award in Future Concepts for their work on the Qibla Mecca Smart Wayfinding System

Congratulations to all winners!

Posted in Announce | Leave a comment

New book . . .

InfoDes44spineFrontreduced

CIDR is delighted to announce the publication of Information design research and practice, a Gower book published by Routledge. The editors, Alison Black, Paul Luna, Ole Lund and Sue Walker have had the pleasure of working with leading academics and practitioners internationally, and they welcome Erik Spiekermann’s comments in the book’s Foreword:
This book provides 750 (expertly designed) pages to show just how complex and multifaceted the history, the methodology, and the practice of information design are. I am very happy that our discipline has finally come of age and that we now have our own bible to prove it.

Information design research and practice is highly-illustrated in full-colour and contains 49 chapters in four sections: historical perspectives; theoretical approaches; cognitive principles and practical applications.

Posted in Publication, Research | Leave a comment

Signs of Christmas

The Sign Design Society and Information Design Association are organising an evening ‘Talkfest’ in the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication on 7 December. Starting at 5 p.m., a tour the Department’s collections will be followed by a series of 10 minute talks, and opportunities for socialising too.

More details can be found at the Sign Design Society’s website.

Posted in Announce | Leave a comment

Inclusive design at University of Reading

Jeanne-Louise Moys, third from left, with Penny Mordaunt MP to her right

CIDR member, Jeanne-Louise Moys, met with MP, Penny Mordaunt, Minister for Disabled People, who visited University of Reading yesterday to learn more about the University’s Breaking Down Barriers project. Breaking Down Barriers aims to embed inclusive design in the University’s teaching and learning. Jeanne-Louise brings a focus on access to information to the wide ranging research expertise of the team.

Posted in Afterword | Leave a comment