Sunday, July 31, 2016

Goodbye for now

My first post here was on 30 July 2006. Now on the tenth anniversary it seems a neat moment to stop. As someone used to say on Radio 4: if you have been, thanks for listening.

I also blog from time on the Simplification Centre website – I'll still be there.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

The opposite of No Entry

I saw this sign more than once on a recent visit to Denmark - this is in the art museum in Aarhus. A nice idea, possibly a bit like an 'on' switch, and in colour and orientation the opposite of 'no entry'... but is it actually an improvement on an arrow?


Strange signs

These signs are on the wayfinding maps at the Southgate shopping centre in Bath. Any ideas? Are they even official?

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Who wrote this and what were they on?

Clive Richards sent me this bogglingly baffling notice. I wonder just who wrote this, reviewed his or her work and thought – that's a job well done, everyone will understand this.

It's obviously not clear, so should we all call that number?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

True co-designing

This government office in Birmingham is a wonderful clash of cultures. I'm guessing the tall atrium, contemporary furniture and huge abstract painting came from the architect and interior designer. And I'm guessing the grotty old wooden cupboard covered with notices and someone's dry-cleaning is contributed by the people who work there.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Read the rules ("rules")

McDonalds is running a Monopoly-themed promotion. I hope you all understand the rules ("rules").


I've just ordered some items of a personal nature for an elderly person who is not online. Amazon suggest I share the news on social media.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Don't blame me for typos - I'm only human

Cheryl Stevens has started in interesting discussion on her Plain language, please Facebook page, about responding to clients who complain bitterly about trivial typos. Her point is that typos are actually inevitable because perfection in any kind of quality control is elusive. She cites the guru of quality management, W. Edward Deming.

I responded with an anecdote from my time working at the Open University.

I recall that one of our mathematics textbooks was found by students to contain quite a number of errors which had escaped the proof-readers. The errors were corrected and it was reprinted. The students then found further errors but fewer of them. This went on for several editions, and the story goes that the authors then used the declining number of errors in each edition as an exercise for students to calculate the probable number of errors still remaining.

As if to prove the point, just after I wrote the paragraph above I noticed a typo, so went back in to edit. The next morning I noticed another error and did the same thing. Immediately I noticed yet another... oh dear.

Adrienne Montgomerie responded by drawing attention to Ray Panko's website reviewing research on human error. He includes a list of research on proofreading - none of the studies found 100% of errors caught.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Rupert Bear: the fan club grows

Thanks to Paul Morgan for a namecheck in a nice blog post about the Rupert Bear books, pioneer exemplars of multi-layered communications. Paul was Communications Director for SANE Australia (the mental health charity) for many years, but is now independent.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Coy ****lines

This Telegraph headline is remarkably coy. Although supposedly designed not to shock, this particular example had me trawling through the dregs of my vocabulary for a rude word that would fit. Ironic that (note to self: is there an irony emoji? must get up to speed on that).

Couldn't find a rude word to fit. But actually it was printed full out in the main article.*

*whore... there, I've said it.

Friday, February 19, 2016

For mystery callers

After reading my doorbell post, Karel van der Waarde (the other person who reads this blog) sent me this almost poetically baffling sign.

A tad more

Apcoa wanted me to use this code to pay for my parking. I thought it started with 1. My stupid or theirs? A tad more space please.

Actually I think it needs more than a tad, which I take to be usually no more than 10-20% extra space. Typographic technical terms can easily confuse... for example, 'just a tad' is sarcastic, and is actually larger than a tad.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Belt and braces

Multi-modal communication seen at the Swedenborg Institute in London, where the Information Design Association hold meetings.

Excited by a door bell (I know, I know)

This blog is temporarily converting to a consumer review site (today only).

I just bought a new door bell - not just any door bell. Because both of us work in outbuildings, we kept missing callers, and wireless door bells didn't have enough range. This one is wifi connected, so it rings on your phone wherever you are. And then there's a camera and a mike.

So a builder called while I was in Birmingham, and I could speak to him. Freaked him out when my voice appeared, but we got over that. Actually, this looks like being an issue with some of the other brands which have very obvious cameras, but just don't look like door bells. This one is branded 'ring', which also works as an instruction, of course.

It's very expensive for a door bell but brilliant. And what branding people call the 'out of box experience' was great too.

They gave me all the tools I need, down to the bubble thing to make sure I installed it level. And the app was equally good.

Please don't

After being called off my sick bed to answer the door to chuggers from the Battersea Dogs Home (this is Somerset, for goodness sake), and then again to an 'art student' who couldn't speak any English but had translated cue cards for every response he thought he was getting...

I thought I'd put up a polite notice saying please don't... 

You can buy them online:

- Paper not wanted: Leaflets, flyers, advertisements, menus, junk mail.
- People not wanted: Sales people, charities, religious people, cold callers.
- Consequences: dogs, police, trading standards, prosecution.
Highlights of this collection for me include:
'Strictly addressed mail only' (write your own dominatrix quip).
'We don't need any advice'.
'Please leave and do not return'

What would a polite brush-off look like? I don't want to seem rude.

A matter of opinion, I'd have thought.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Toilet confusion

This brilliant post by Nick Parker is firmly of the type: 'I've been wondering about that too'.
I confess that when I read 'Depress and let go' on the label, I was expecting a psychotherapy angle.