Layout matters...and idiot-proofing!
These hardworking data sheets went to dealers as hand-outs for interested customers. No one noticed—or cared—if these kinds of materials were not in color, as long as layout, production, and printing were of high quality. To me, this is just obvious. When, exactly, would you ever want those things to be anything less than high quality?
As I mention in "When black & white is right," not confusing people is an essential goal in communication. While confusion often serves the purposes of politicians and lawyers, it is antithetical to honest communication. This applies to graphics as well as it applies to text.
It isn’t easy. People often won’t tell you when they are confused because they don’t want to appear stupid. And they can’t tell you why they’re confused because of course they don’t know. We have to anticipate confusion and nip it before it ever takes hold.
This is where the essential “idiot-proofing” service comes in. I've been fortunate, I guess, to be gifted at (cursed by?) taking things the wrong way. If there is any way to take something wrong, I will automatically take it that way. I can’t even help myself! I've found this a strange, but valuable tool in communication as it allows me to anticipate many ways the reader can misunderstand. The result is that costly misconceptions are avoided and the “wandering mind syndrome” that comes with uncertainty is minimized. This tightening up of the message sometimes reveals inherent problems with it—and even, at times, with the product. But this leads to clearer thinking all around and while these are sometimes hard lessons to learn, for both client and communications professional, they are lessons best learned before product launch.
Another useful skill in communications is the ability to blank one's mind and see things for the first time over and over again. I don't know if this is a widespread skill, but it's something I seem to be able to do and it allows me to test each idiot-proofing changes right away.
Clients are quite naturally too close to their own business to be able to idiot-proof their own efforts, even if they understand the need. Judging from what I see on a daily basis, many communications professionals are either unwilling or unable to provide this essential service. It is sorely needed in signage, in advertising, in forms, and in instructional materials of all kinds.
What: Copy assistance, design, illustration, production art
For: Data Sheets: Midi Bass, Midi Merge Plus, Professional Midi Bass, Midi Bass Alternate Sound Library
Client: 360 Systems
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