Communication, design, and clarity (1)

One of the ways in which people describe the quality of communication is to talk about its clarity. Insofar as designers are involved in communication, clarity matters. Whether it is communication with clients, stakeholders, fellow collaborators or users, the quality of communication is important. Also, in some areas of design—such as information design—clarity is not just a means to an end, but is often an end in itself. Making instructions, bills, forms, websites, labels, way-finding systems and so on clear and easy for people to use is the raison d’être for information design.

Outside design, but with strong implications for design, are the advocates for clarity in language. Where these advocates have been successful in influencing lawmakers, there is now a growing body of legislation which requires people to use clear language. For example, in Australia, where the Commonwealth Government initiated a plain English policy in 1983, the regulations governing financial advisers require the information to be ‘clear, concise and effective’.(2) Similar laws and regulations exist in many jurisdictions.

Thus clarity in communication is of interest to many, and the ways in which we might productively talk about clarity have philosophical, practical and legal implications.

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