Today I had an email request from an ex-colleague who was looking for, in her words, ‘an info design archetype’. The stipulation what that it was something visual, where the text had not been changed. What she was looking for was an example where, purely through design, a document had been made to look simpler.
I set my brain into gear, and came up with The Guardian newspaper design. My answer was approved of, and I was happy, but then I had another thought. Something that had long since slipped to the back of memory, largely because it’s not something I see on an everyday basis. And this is what it was: it’s the service from when my daughter was christened, and it’s a fabulous example of what can be achieved with some simple typography.
Now let’s be honest, some people consider the church service as something of an inconvenience when it comes to christenings. What this document does by using plenty of space is make the service appear as several short parts, rather than one long one. This is a well known trick to help people accept the amount of information they have in front of them. Another strong feature of this design is the way it makes people feel very at ease, using notes to guide them through the service and clearly prompting them about what they are expected to contribute to the proceedings.
As I trawl through the design features of this document, more than five years after I first saw it, I start to realise what it is for. As much as it is about making the text more legible and structured, it is equally about making people feel welcome within the church.
No matter how much I complain about the resistance of clients to change, I imagine it would pale into insignificance against what the designer of this had to face.
One thing is for sure, the text in this won’t have changed – not for centuries.