Well, in order to facilitate this blog/discussion, I think is important to let everyone know what I do and how I see myself fitting into this broad arena of information design.
My area of expertise lies mostly in the financial, insurance and healthcare industries. My focus is on paper documents, such as statements (brokerage, retirement, bank, etc), forms (enrollment, application, etc) and bills/invoices (utility, credit card, telecom, etc.).
The hardest part for me is explaining to people, whether it is clients, potential clients, friends or even my mother, what it is I do.
I try to encompass what I consider all aspects of good information design in the documents I work on, usability testing, plain language, graphic design, understanding of all the users, etc. But, more about that in future posts.
People should be able to find information easily and quickly and be able to understand it so that they can act upon it in the way that the company would like them to. If it is a bill, it needs to be paid, if it is a retirement statement – how much do I have, etc.
A lot of statement work comes from the marketing departments and they generally don’t understand the purpose of the document – in fact I think companies see documents as a necessary evil and are viewed as “we have to send an invoice” or “we are required by law” type of documents. No thought is given to the importance and the potential ramifications, both positive and negative, of these documents. It is interesting that companies spend thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars producing slick full color brochures, ads, and other marketing materials to get new business whereas any good salesman (or woman) knows that the quickest, easiest, cheapest way to generate new business is through existing customers.
Statements, invoices and other documents are sent to existing clients on a regular basis (monthly, yearly, etc) with personal information that WILL get read and they present an excellent opportunity to generate new business.
BUT, it must be done with care and the first step is to keep the existing customer happy.