Happy and excited seeing these at the flea market. Had it once, lost it. Memories =)
I’m often accused of having mild-OCD-ness. Some admits to thinking it meant being a perfectionist that makes oneself eccentric, others have no idea what it means (I was of the former, then realising it was actually the latter). But hey, reacting like a design police whenever half-way filling in forms doesn’t mean I’m obsessively compulsive with a disorder, do I? I don’t complaint to any stranger on the right and wrong of a form’s design.
It’s just forms to be filled, but…
Here’s a logic; Forms are for people like you and I providing information, for a reason. It’s administrative. You’re bound to repeat the process a few hundred times throughout the course of your life (and mine). Handwritten or computer-generated string of words would have been retrieved by a person or computer reading it. After fulfilling its purpose setting the next process in motion for various reasons, these information transform itself into data on diverse platforms; Analogue or digital, in physical folders or operating systems, labelled with coloured stickies or screen RGB channels for future references.
Here’s a simpler logic; If a form sucks in its design, it sucks to fill anything in it.
^ a book I found in a discount bin selling for 1/6 its original price. I’m not alone.
But why should anyone care?
For no particular reason, really. Lousy form design found its place through negligence and ignorance. How many times have you used forms that were photocopied over and over and over again with fading texts and compromised alignments? That’s apart from a mere lousy design. People find difficulties completing such forms. Like a short period of aesthetic torture leading to dissatisfaction that no one cared, let’s just get it done and over with. People assigned to read it for data to be processed and retrieved share an equal discomfort; Why isn’t this form soothing visually and experientially? Something’s off.
Small stuff, tiny consequences. So?
We’re no sucker for details, and that’s alright. Through years of experience filing up course-file documents as an educator in a local institution, I had my fair share of being shrugged and ignored whenever bringing up the issue of form design. It is an organisation with near to 2,000 employed staff serving almost 20,000 students, across 5 faculties and more than 10 departments. Data is important, archiving is crucial, retrieving is urgent. On paper or in electronic, inefficient form design templates lead to ineffective references. Data is less appreciated, handicapping the possibility to create a needed archiving method.
^ let those who belittled the function of good form design, suffer form bad designs.
If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it! Or so they say.
When office documents are cluttered on top of every staff table, you don’t need a rocket scientist to figure out the reasons. The torturous practice of retrieving something from a 7-years (or more) record is near to impossible in big and small offices, simply because an archive never existed. My apologies, punching holes on documents and inserting it into labelled folders just doesn’t cut it. From input to output, none is willing to take ownership of sorting piles of mess left behind by others over an accumulative period of time. Quoted from an article, it says “…from ‘tidak apa lah’, we now became ‘biasa lah’” - Tidapathy Is ‘Biasa Lah’ - Musings, Marina Mahathir, The Star Online, Thursday April 10.
Are we still talking about forms’ design?
The design of a form should decide the kind of information that are required, which in turn dictates how data could be preserved / archived in a database; In what order or method can the data be retrieved? The design of a form should allow user an ease and confidence to provide necessary input / feedback, which in turn influence the entire purpose of requesting genuine information; That increases the validity and usefulness of data. The design of a form should appear meaningful and professional; Users understand the weigh of its use, and retrievers spending less time analysing the information to be used. There’s more to it.
^ form design lacking highlights to catch attention. Where are the supposed sub-titles?
^ use either solid boxes or series of line interlocks / junctions to create spaces in forms.
^ different form titles with similar required information printed on two separate forms; The titles can be changed into option boxes while everything else stay the same. Improvise.
Here’s what they (and I) have to say.
"This is not the correct format, please use the official one", says the administration office staff, my supervisors, any superiors. Well, I’d it’s the correct format, in a redesigned design. You’re damn right I realise it wasn’t the official one. Where do you think I first saw the badly designed version thus redesigning it? Eventually It is not enough to just want to redesign something. It has to gain certain recognition, approval and support from someone who might acknowledge the effort, whom most the time happen to be the people have no idea what good it can do. It’s not about the aesthetics, but fixing it before it is broken.
"The required information in this new form design is referred from the current design, I’ve improvised the layout and visual. What’s supposed to be filled in is also what’s expected within the exact context. I’ve simplified it. Can you help submit it and see what happens? Perhaps something good might come out of it?" I defended myself.
"But it’s not the correct format. Where did you get these?" she inclined.
^ Pos Malaysia and Pos Laju did a good job separating required information to be filled in their courier delivery form. Left side’s for the sender, right side’s for office use.
It reflects on how afraid we are to improvise or change. Most of us succumb to the use of templates given to us in all conditions that almost nothing is original. Production, manufacturing, servicing; we are built of what others had hand us, in oppose to learning from mistakes and doing it better. The fear and resistance to re-think even when it’s just a form design, showed me how potentially stringent we can be in everything we do.