Keynote Address given at the Co-designing Conference,
Coventry University, 13 September 2000

acknowledgements

About CRI

I will start by telling you something about our Institute. Some of you who are not directly involved in information design may not know much about it. Please bear with me while I give some background,so that you understand some of the issues that I’m going to talk about, and the framework within which I work. CRI was established in 1985 as a not-for-profit research group. Bruce Archer mentioned in his opening address that there is often a thirty-year gap between research and thinking in a field and its general application within the community.

In 1985 this was very much the case in the field of communication. People we met from industry and government were using communication models, ways of thinking, research findings, and so on that those of us researching in the field had long since discarded. We were surprised to see that the old habits of thinking were so persistent, in fact were the mainstream ideas in the community. One reason the Institute was set up was to bridge that thirty-year gap. It wasn’t the only reason—but the huge gap between what we understood of communication processes and what people in commercial and government work understood by them was an important factor in our establishment.

Mainly, though, our remit was, and still is, to help people communicate with each other. A lot of our work has been with the corporate sector and large commercial and financial organisations whose communication practices, both internally and with their publics, are performed desperately badly—but they would like to do it better, usually for economic reasons. Our concern, though, is very much with the people who work in those organisations and the people they communicate with, by helping them communicate with each other better. To that end, we’ve completed over two hundred model co-design projects, each contributing to our corpus of knowledge and providing our Members with models to follow.

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