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December 17 - 19
National Institute of Design
Alex Tyers

Communication Research Institute
Melbourne, Australia

Alex Tyers completed his BFA from the University of Tasmania. He is an award winning Information Design specialist with over 20 years of practical experience in the field. Alex Tyers has completed major projects for both the private and government sectors - through his own studio and also on behalf of the Communication Research Institute - CRI, Melbourne, and routinely provides independent advice to senior management in business and government on information design issues. He has written for a number of design publications. He was elected state councillor for the Australian Graphic Design Association - AGDA, in 2005–06. He is a Life-Fellow of CRI, Australia and a member of the International Institute for Information Design, IIID, Austria.


Visualising Use
Giving People Guidance to Information Understanding

For many years we have been working on the principle that the core intent of the communication must be manifest in the design structure and layout for people to use it effectively. A person is directed in their use of the information content by simply following the design. This approach often results in a challenge to the conventional approach to document layout that designers tend to follow.

In our research, we have found that 'communication media' - such as booklet, poster, form, report, label, are more successful if the way a person needs to use it is made manifest in its design - the layout, structure, and information content. A way of achieving this is to develop the basic structure and hierarchy of a design by mapping the tasks that a person must carry out across a layout in the order that they need to be performed. The information content and it's design is then tailored and refined based on evidence from diagnostic testing of people's performance in executing the tasks.

Thinking of communications as a series of tasks that need to be performed in a specific order and at a specific target performance level, we are able to develop effective task-orientated designs. Such an approach not only provides the logical structure of information hierarchies to the design process beyond the constraints of conventional content- and layout-development practice - it becomes also the basis for task-orientated benchmarking.

Our research suggests that showing people how to use the information content in a design, as an integral part of the design, leads to a better use of the information. We hope to explore this concept further in a number of new projects we are undertaking for finance, medicine, utility and government clients in the coming year.

Easterby, R., & Zwaga, H. (1984). Information Design. London: Wiley.

Fisher, P., & Sless, D. (1990). Information Design Methods and Productivity in the Insurance Industry. Information Design Journal 6(2), 103-129.

Sless, D., & Shrensky, R. (2006). Writing about Medicines for People. Sydney: Australian Self Medication Industry. Available from: url.iidi.in

Tyers, A. (2008). Performance Based Design. Information Design Journal 16(3), 202-215.

Wright, P. (1979). The Quality Control of Document Design. Information Design Journal, 1,33-42.

Penman, R., Sless, D., & Wiseman, R. (1996). Best Practice in Accessible Documents in the Private Sector in Putting it Plainly: Current Developments and Needs in Plain English and Accessible Reading Materials. Canberra: Australian Language and Literacy Council.

Shrensky, R., & Sless, D. (2007). Choosing the Right Method for Testing. (retrieved 8 Dec 2010)

Sless, D. (1996). Better Information Presentation: Satisfying Consumers? Visible Language 30 (3) 246-67

Sless, D. (1998). Transitions in Information Design. (retrieved 8 Dec 2010)

Sless, D. (2004). Designing Public Documents. Information Design Journal + Document Design Journal, 12 (1), 24-35.

Sless, D. (2008). Measuring Information Design. Information Design Journal, 16 (3), 250–258.

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