Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Just important stuff you don't need to read

Back to small print. Just got this example from O2, the mobile phone operator, who like everyone else has time to think of a clever idea for the cover, but not for making the information clear. Ho ho.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Word for the day: nocebo

The nocebo effect is the opposite of the better known placebo effect - Latin for 'I will harm' rather than 'I will please'. Just as dummy pills are known to produce beneficial results among around 25% of patients who believe them to be the real treatment, they also trigger side effects in many patients.

Interestingly for information designers, it's been suggested that lists of specific side effects in patient information leaflets (or web pages aimed at patients) may contribute to the effect.

And it turns out that the colour, size and shape of pills has long been known to influence their effectiveness: red, orange and yellow pills have a stimulant effect, while blue and green are more sedative. People expect pills for their heart to be red (but not necessarily heart-shaped, as far as I know).

Good reference on this is: Barsky et al (2002), Nonspecific medication side effects and the nocebo phenomenon. JAMA vol 287, 5, 622-627.

Your home may be at risk...

As I write there is a run on the bank at Northern Rock, the mortgage lender that has had to call on Bank of England help following the sub-prime lending problems in the USA.

Pundits are appearing on TV, commenting on what they see as irrational herd behaviour in customerswho are queuing to take their money out. They seem oddly baffled that risk averse people (that is, the kind of people who keep their life savings in a savings account, not the stock market) are in fact averse to risk.

What risk? Well, we shouldn't forget that financial information routinely accompanies warm reassurance with alarming disclaimers - simultaneously enticing customers with promises of enormous returns, while pointing out in the small print that nothing is guaranteed, and that they could lose their homes. Even though this time I haven't heard any disclaimers by the experts and politicians, perhaps people just assume them.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Anal about correct spelling

According to their website, publishers John Benjamins aim their Document Design Companion series at "text analists" among others. I don't know why I've never noticed the anal in analysis before, but this spelling just seems to bring it out.