kimberley crofts


an information and communication designer living in London

Collaborative design

Is this a way to make information more accessible to an audience? Would using their language and their visual metaphors help to communicate the information better to people within their community?

Dr Maria Gonzales de Cossio of the Universisdad Autonoma Metropolitana thinks that allowing the audience to choose the way the data can be presented will help them understand its message. Otto and Marie Neurath believed that presenting information in the ‘units of the users’, or in other words, those units that have particular ‘intrinsic value’ to the audience can aid understanding.

Allowing the user to set the values by which the data is weighted can make the story more relevant to them. For document design, this might mean asking them to tell the stories that are relevant to them.

Japanese architects are apparently known for the manner in which they use collaborative design techniques to design their buildings. This book could be an interesting read but it is more about collaboration within a professional team than between a designer and members of the eventual audience. The architectural metaphor could be an interesting one to include as there is the link with Jones and Alexander’s work on patterns to improve human relationships and use of architectural spaces.


Filed under: information literacy, , ,

Captioning for greater access

During the DD4D conference I was thinking about how captions can be used to help people better understand information. Captions are used in many areas of life such as:

  • television and movie captioning
  • speech bubbles in comic strips
  • captions underneath photographs in documents
  • audio or sign-language captioning on the web
  • hints within computer applications (the floating hint boxes above tools or the talking paper clip)

I thought about human captioning too, so having someone actually provide real-time captions to help people understand something, such as Al Gore in his movie the Inconvenient Truth. Without his presence, the data graphics would have been meaningless.

Captioning can lie, such as the captions placed over photos of Iraq as evidence to go to war. For example here.

What qualities does a caption need to have to be a successful conduit of information? What length, what structure? Where is the best place for it? Should viewers have the option to turn it on or off?

Could captioning help a less literate audience to make more informed decisions?

What qualities does the web have that make captioning successful? What lessons can be learned from print?

Rotha’s flms for Isotype are examples of captioning?

Studies into the effect that captions have on meaning-making. What happens to a picture without an image? What happens to pictorial instructions without sufficient explanation of what is going on in the picture?

Form design. The use of captions throughout a form to aid the form-filler.

Editorial design: the use of photographic captions as a way for readers to navigate a text. Do readers only read the captions? What does that mean for an editorial designer? Should they concentrate on the design and the writing of the captions more? Some tips from Poynter about writing captions here also here. This article explains how the eyes of online readers in a Standford/Poynter study, more often fixated first on briefs or captions. Also here.

What about the history of captions? When did people first start using captions to explain and support the use of images or diagrams? Ask Michael Twyman.

Consider how captions should be written for the sight-impaired for websites. Some information on this here, here, here.

Interesting wiki here about captions and here too.

The National Institute for Captioning (closed captioning) has a history of this particular area.

Comment on captions for sound files on websites from a hard-of-hearing person. More guidelines about this here.

I have always been frustrated with web sites or software or items that do not take account of those with hard of hearing problems. I suggest that all sound files should have an option that allows users to read the transcribed version of the file as a written text or have the option of captions. If these options are displayed along side the sound file icon, it will allow those of heard of hearing to take in the information much more easily and be less likely to mishear or neglect any part of the file. This is especially important in education based products with a new technical lexicon, where taking in new words and meanings at the same time can be difficult.

Gaudellet University has an access program that looks into the use of captions for deaf people. Many useful Links here.

Filed under: information literacy,

Ways that people are taught different modes of literacy

French literacy for all forms of handwriting (from Twyman’s class)


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Strategic reading

p240 Pettersson

An active reader makes good use of the structure embedded in the book and in the text.

Moijer (1987) stated that we read in different ways, depending on the purpose of our reading:

  1. We read intensively every word when our purpose demands it
  2. We skim if we only wish to quickly get some idea of the material
  3. We read to orient ourselves if we want to know where some particular information is to be found in a text
  4. We read to inform ourselves when we need certain limited information.

In all of these cases, we leave out anything that does not satisfy the purpose of our reading directly.

Filed under: information literacy, , ,

Information Literacy

From Pettersson, R. (2002). Information design: An introduction. Amsterdam.

Doyle (1994) defined information literacy as “the ability to access, evaluate, and use information from a variety of sources”. She created a list of characteristics of an information literate person. An information literate person has information competence, and accesses, evaluates and uses information in a qualified way. An information literate person:

  • Reconizes that accurate and complete information is the basis for intelligent decision making
  • Recognizes the need for information
  • Formulates questions based on information needs
  • Identifies potential sources of information
  • Developes successful search strategies
  • Accesses sources of information including computer-based and other technologies
  • Is a competent reader, evaluates information, and determines accuracy and relevance
  • Recognizes point of view and opinion versus factual knowledge
  • Rejects inaccurate and misleading information
  • Organizes information for practical application
  • Integrates new information into an existing body of knowledge
  • Uses information in critical thinking and problem solving

From Information literacy in an information society: a concept for the information age
By Christina S. Doyle, ERIC Clearinghouse on Information & Technology
Published by DIANE Publishing, 1994
ISBN 0937597384, 9780937597385

See also the Information Literacy Website (UK),

Filed under: information literacy, , ,

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