kimberley crofts


an information and communication designer living in London

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

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