kimberley crofts


an information and communication designer living in London

Research found

A quick search on the authors suggested to me by Rob Waller has uncovered the following (most I cannot locate electronically):

Factors in the Design of Experimental Graphic Displays William A. Kealy

Component skill comparisons across reading level and processing demand James M. Fletcher in the Reading Psychology journal

Display and Interaction Features of Instructional Texts and Computers Duchastel, P
Discusses whether techniques found useful in text design can be transposed to the display of computer-assisted learning (CAL) materials. Highlights include differences in interaction between books and computers; problems in learning from books; text displays; computer displays; and possible future developments.

The Use of Summaries in Studying Texts Duchastel, P
Presents a scheme for comparing the text-learning outcomes derivable from study of either text or a summary of the text and considers some practical study strategies students might adopt when summaries are available and when they are not. The value of summaries in instructional situations is discussed.

Evaluating a Text for a Special Education Technology Course Wissick, Cheryl (2002)

Using Assistive Technologies to Ameliorate Reading Difficulties (2007)

The Development of Accessibility Practices in E-Learning: An Exploration of Communities of Practice Seale, Jane (2004)

New Directions in Research: The Role of Instructional Design in Assistive Technology Research and Development Boone, Randall; Higgins, Kyle (2007)

Assistive Technology as a Self-Management Tool for Prompting Students with Intellectual Disabilities to Initiate and Complete Daily Tasks: A Literature Review Mechling, Linda C.  (2007)

Project LITERACY-HI: Hypermedia for Readers with Hearing Impairments. Horney, Mark (1995)

Evidenced Based Practices that Promote Transition to Postsecondary Education: Listening to a Decade of Expert Voices Webb, Kristine W.;  Patterson, Karen B.;  Syverud, Susan M.;  Seabrooks-Blackmore, Janice J. (2008)

Learning with Technology. 1998 ASCD Yearbook. Dede, Chris, Ed. (1998)

Special Education Technology Addressing Diversity: A Synthesis of the Literature Jeffs, Tara; Morrison, William F. (2005)


Filed under: Uncategorized,

Explanatory voices

Rob suggested the following for some research avenues:

Perhaps what all these have in common is that they are all a kind of additional voice explaining what you are looking at. This suggests that a theoretical approach could be to look at writer-reader relations, reader response criticism, semiotics (what is best communicated by what channel).
I think you need to start with some kind of definition, out if which might come your line of enquiry.
In terms of research, there may be stuff on TV/film subtitling, although I’m not well versed in it. There could also be material on picture captions, or at least the way that pictures and text work together – as a start, you could look in the world of educational psychology. Names include Dwyer, Winn & Holliday, Duchastel.

Filed under: dissertation random ideas,

Tapestry captions

Tapestries; Their Origin, History And Renaissance by George Leland Hunter

An important feature of many story-tapestries are the captions. In the long, narrow bands of the XIV and XV centuries, they are often on scrolls that frame the personages (See plate no. 329). On many of the immense XV century panels, there are inscriptions at the bottom in Latin or French, with names and other inscriptions in the field of the tapestry. In Renaissance historical and Biblical sets, the Latin captions usually occupied the middle of the top border. In the XVII century, cartouches occupied the middle of the top border and bottom border, the top cartouche carrying a coat of arms or a shadow oval, the bottom cartouche the descriptive caption, with sometimes another inscription in the side border. An extreme example of long inscriptions is Charles V’s Tunis set, with Spanish in the top border, and Latin in the bottom border. On the whole, captions tended to disappear from the panel of tapestries with the approach of the Renaissance, and altogether with the increased dominance of paint style in the XVII century. But a very pleasing feature of Charles Coypel’s XVIII century Don Quixote series are the descriptive captions in the lower part of the panel.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , ,

Designing useable texts

Duffy, T. M., & Waller, R. (1985). Designing usable texts. London: Academic Press.
Pat Wright p66. Editing: Policies and procedures

Quotes herself (1980: processing visible language 2) “readers interaction with technical material is subdivided into: locating relevant material, interpreting it, and applying the newly acquired knowledge.”

So how do captions facilitate this?

Filed under: Uncategorized,


Carliner, S, & Boswood, T (2004). ‘Genre: A useful construct for researching online communication for the workplace’. Information Design Journal, 12(2), 124-136.

Genre: “a familiar pattern, a way of organising information that has become so common that readers will probably recognise each new instance as belonging to the genre”. Price & Price (2002:272) Hot Text: web writing that works

“Genre serves not only to understand convention but to understand the surrounding social and cultural conditions that create the need for that genre”. (paraphrased)

“a customary form… and configuration… that members of an audience expect”. Kostelnick & Roboerts (1998:33) Designing Visual Launguage: strategies for professional communicators

How to research effectively using genre
“Three methods can help researchers understand the nature of online genres: (1) discourse analysis to identify the features of the genre, (2) usability studies to assess whether features promote effective user performance, and how, (3) design team research identifies why features were included and which other alternatives were considered, rejected, and why.” paraphrased

p129″specifically, research on genre should validate users’ navigational strategies, identify users’ notivations and expectations for content within the context, identify conventions that users expect, and identify designers’ motivations and plans, all within the specific context of specific genres.”

Ways that captions could be referred to for an online medium: electronic performance support (Gerry 1991) and embedded user support (Mobley & De Loach).

Discourse Analysis
Look for consistent characteristics of:

  • social context that initiates creation
  • type of content
  • the way that designers organise the content
  • the way that it is presented

Look at Gee, Michael, O’Connor. Discourse Analysis (2002) for a good methodology.

“Usability research confirms whether the features identified in discourse analysis are the ones that concern users and that they expect to see in a particular type of communication product”.

Carliner suggests triangulation of sources in order to generate credible recommedations, especially when it is not feasible to do studies of enough people to generate statistically significant results. He suggests that looking at three different industries that produce documents that contain the genre artifact of note (business, non-profit, government, for example) will yield good recommendations.

Filed under: genre, research techniques, , ,

Typographical linguistics

Crystal, D (1998). ‘Toward a typographical linguistics’. In Type.

What is linguistics? “Explaining how we communicate meanings to each other, using the spoken or written medium, is what linguistics is all about.”

Linguistic meaning as a result of typographic style “For typography to convey linguistic meaning, we would need to be able to identify those typographic features which are the source of the way a particular word, phrase, sentence, or text is to be interpreted.” How can someone identify it as a caption? What are the typographic conventions of the genre?

Why linguistics and typography should work together “…it seems to me that the explication of printed language needs the expertise of both typographers and linguists, in order to provide a complete description of its forms and stuctures and a satisfactory explanation of its functions and effects.”

5 levels within linguistics
(1) graphetics (2) graphology (3) sentence-grammer (syntax) (4) word-grammar (morphology) (5) semantics

Questions from the author regarding the importance of typography to linguistics “How do the various features of typography relate to the need to communicate meaning? To what extent do the various features of typography convey linguistic meaning? To what extent do they impede the communication of that meaning?”

Linguistic contrast “And it prompts the through that maybe typographic effects are most efficiently linguistically contrastive only when they are used with linguistic units which are already meaningful–such as a word, a phrase, or a sentence.” seems obvious to me, but that is coming from a trained typographer. A single letter would be sucessfully constrastive if used as a drop cap, but that is perhaps the only place where convention allows us to read it within a word unit and the styling does not become disruptive. I am led here to think about emotional captioning for deaf people and how it used word units as the indicators of emotion.

Filed under: linguistics,


If information design is about meaning-making (see quote below) then if an audience participates in the meaning-making process does it follow that the information will be more successful?

Ways of participating:

  • Interviews (from which a design strategy is devised)
  • User testing (testing of the design within the target audience)
  • Participatory design (engaging the audience in the creation of the document).

This is not any sort of revelation but is a fairly basic description of user-centered design. Would an investigation into documents created in this participatory way reveal anything interesting? Have they been tested for success? Can any conclusions be reached if not?

I am struggling with understanding to what level I have to create original content, as in, can my dissertation just be a collection of other people’s research or should I create my own studies? How the hell would I go about this if so?

Brings me back to the question: what are the gaps in the research? Where can I situated my dissertation so that it provides something worthwhile to the area? Should I be looking to write a dissertation about an area I want to work in after my studies?

My idea that I had during the DD4D conference would probably yield more original thought as I cannot find any material (as yet) on it. I was looking at how captions can aid literacy. A fairly broad theme that could encompass film, TV, print, and online communications. What is a caption and how is it used to aid understanding? How do captions aid meaning-making of texts? Where should they be placed and how should they be designed to maximise understanding without adding confusion to the document?

Filed under: dissertation random ideas, , ,

Design toolkits for community organisations

Look at the design and structure of ‘toolkits’ developed by information designers FOR community-based organisations to use in their own communications?

Filed under: dissertation random ideas

Participatory design for community education

How do people with low levels of literacy access important information about their lives? If there is such a high level of people with low literacy in the world (XX), then it is important to consider how we communicate to them information about such important topics as health care, employment, and human rights.

Research into ways that documents can be designed for maximum access is fundamental to helping those with low levels of literacy function adequately within society. Much can be said about clear typography, plain language, and organised layouts – but if the document does not engage the reader then will they remember the information and be able to use it?

Ways of using document design to truly engage a reader might include: the use of visual and verbal styles that ‘belong’ to the target group (located by way of ethnographic research); including the audience in the design process and using methods of participatory design to create a culturally appropriate document; or a combination of the two.

This paper will investigate ways that community-based organisations have used combinations of ethnographic research and participatory design to improve the chances of a message reaching and being used by the intended audience. The intention of the study is to identify common tactics of community-based, participatory design that lead to successful communication and education.

Examples of projects:

In participatory design projects, the audience is included in the research, prototyping, and design phases. Constant monitoring of the message and development of content in relation to the intended audience results in a more appropriately designed message. It is a process where the ego of the designer is secondary to the needs of the audience: the designer’s role is to collect, organise and synthesise the content that is co-authored and produced within the project. It is not a top-down process where the designer creates content FOR an audience, but where the designer helps an audience to create content for themselves.

Filed under: dissertation random ideas

Participatory design

Note: This is an uncompleted draft chapter from a book in progress. This text is for review only, not to be quoted or referenced.


“But participatory design research, properly done, continually brings the analysis back to the domain and shares it with the participants, who cointerpret it, co-analyze it, and co-design responses to it.”

“Involvement. Participatory design studies are not a “listening tour” in which researchers hear the concerns of users, then go away and design a solution; they are participatory top to bottom and must include verifiable, regular avenues for group interaction and definite routines for ensuring that users’ concerns are methodically addressed in the resulting design.”

Filed under: participatory design, ,

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