Let's go, then!
Click to read more after the fold:
For a start, let me explain why I decided to work on a project like this.
Well... at first sight, the whole thing doesn't seem really important at all. I had that in mind when I started working on it that it's not going to be something that makes people freeze in amazement when they see it.
The thing is that sometimes it's important for a designer to withdraw his own aesthetic preferences, throw away all these glittering and shiny effects and go into pure information design with no icing on top of the cake.
Why design a document, then?
Take a quick look how the documents in Poland look like. Is there any reason to redesign them?
Would you actually care to read them?
Well, if it's just two or three pages, you probably will. But what if it was, say, 150 pages long? Would you still read it? I probably wouldn't. And it's not because they're not important. These are the acts regulating the laws of the country, so they are extremely important.
Let's get back to basics, then.
I started my work from figuring out what a system was. I won't be giving the definitions here, so if you'd like to read more about systems, you can do it here. Generally speaking, a system is a set of the components that work together as a whole.
Knowing that, I tried to figure out what a document is*. The funny thing is that the word itself comes from the Latin docere, meaning "to teach". That really made me wonder if it would be possible to create a structure that would help teach the user how to use it.
What was my design approach, then?
The first step was choosing the right paper size. The obvious choice was A4 format for its standarized dimensions and popularity in Europe. As you can see in the picture above, I started from thinking about the usage of the printed documents. What's the way the paper could be folded? What are the areas that would be print-safe so that no information would be lost when printing with different printers?
The next step was thinking about the ergonomics of using the document. What's the right text line length? How much white space you need between the lines of text to improve legibility? What's the right typeface? (I chose Corbel, a brilliant typeface designed by Jeremy Tankard for Microsoft in 2005. More on that in the next post.)
At the same time, I started thinking of possible future uses – I wanted it to be possible to generate the files using a system connected to a database. Why?
Well, the main reason was to minimize a possibility of making a mistake by accidentally removing an important part of information when using Word templates. It was also essential to have one text in the database that would be the only data the lawyers or office workers have to edit when needed.
The other thing was that the possibility of using a database made me think of increasingly popular "tags" or "labels". I imagined the text as a fixed block of information where all you need to do as an office worker is fill in the dynamic blanks, such as the name, address, signature, date or the administrative decision (meaning a yes/no reply to the addressee). This allowed me to create a universal grid for every single document that would work with different types of information. See the examples below:
Above, you can see the examples of the documents that were generated using the same grid (you can read about the grid here), but using different type of data. From left to right: a testimonial, an administrative decision, an administrative decision with a table, student registration form, an announcement).
I could go on like this for much longer, but I've just realized how big this post has become, so let's close on the subject for now. The following posts will focus more on particular design solutions, but I think this gives you an idea on the possibilities and solutions. If you managed to get there through these massive amounts of text, congratulations!
I hope you'll find my thoughts useful for your own design research. If you have questions or comments, feel free to do so. And again, thank you for reading and see you in the next post!
*the word document has many meanings, but for this post, let's consider it as a writ or a regulatory act in a written or printed form.