Talking Points Memo
This Modern World
Working for Change
Book review: Darwinia
Reviewed: Friday, August 11, 2006
Summer reading: Spin
Reviewed: Saturday, August 5, 2006
Reviewed: Tuesday, July 18, 2006
the Omnivoire's Delimma
Reviewed: Wednesday, July 12, 2006
the Golem's Eye
Reviewed: Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Saturday, January 22, 2005
Great column from Communication Arts about design. Design matters in everything from Presidential Daily briefings to consumer product labeling.
What did the President know and when did he know it? In April 2004, the White House declassified one of the President's daily intelligence briefs issued just a month before September 11, 2001. The brief specifically states that Al-Qaeda and Bin Laden were planning attacks on the United States with hijacked airplanes.
Graphic designer Greg Storey was horrified. Not just because the information was all right there, but by the design. It's no wonder the information could be ignored. The document is an uninflected, grey mash of sans serif type. Might thousands have been saved if the information design had been better?
Between this and the butterfly ballot, we can wonder what might have been... But there are also cases where good design has helped:
The Guide shows the estimated yearly operating cost and energy consumption on a scale from least to most efficient. Consumers actually used it to consider not just purchase price, but cost over the life of the appliance. The success of the label convinced government regulators that you could modify consumer behavior through clear, friendly information design, gently pushing them towards more environmentally friendly, if slightly more expensive, purchases. Multiplied by millions of refrigerators, the energy savings have been enormous.
I think that because good interfaces are easy to use and good design are easy to understand, there is a strong tendency to think that they are equally easy to create. Any of us who have tried should know better but it can be hard to see mistakes when they occur so close to home.