Good communication and good design do what they’re supposed to

Tech for PR posts a great piece today on how technology just gets in the way. This is something I keep coming back to, that good communication and good design don’t get in the way because they help, without hindering. If they’re done properly, you don’t notice them at all.

I spent several years as a designer, including software interface design, and so I spent many hours putting myself in the head of a user, trying to figure out how best to word a message, or what colour a menu should be, or how large fonts to use. They’re all really important and yet I would often have to fight for my suggestions to make it into the software. The tech viewpoint seemed to be that if it worked, that was all that mattered. Mine was, what do you mean by ‘work’? Could you drive a car without any labels on the dashboard? Eventually, possibly, but only after a few bumps. This is why some time ago I had a major gripe about Lotus Notes which has frankly bizarre features such as a menu entitled ‘Actions’ with a submenu entitled ‘Tools’. Where’s the sense in that? I still come across ‘funnies’ daily but I’ve given up documenting them.

I’m currently going through a presentation slide set and the ineptitude on display (literally) astonishes me. The message is very astute – or at least I think it is. I’m still trying to figure it out. I have a strong feeling I’ll be able to distil it from 15 rambling bullet points to about 7 succinct ones. And remove that spaghetti-like diagram altogether.

Here’s a solution for all you bad communicators out there: take up blogging. Find out what it’s like to put together a brief piece of prose, actually saying something in a joined-up way, with a compelling headline so that people notice it in their readers. Think long and hard about which graphic to include. Do this every day and next thing you know, you’ll be communicating like a Friendly Ghost. You too will be someone’s invisible friend.

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