Using an existing corporate annual report, students analyzed the message and positioning of the original, and then redesigned
the report using the principles of “Information Design by Function and Meaning”.
The Information Design schema I developed for students converts the usual terms ‘headlines, subheads, captions, pull quotes, page
numbers and body copy’ to a form based on the meaning and functions of the message.
Usually this function is performed by the headline or an image. In a visually saturated world, attracting attention is necessary to get noticed
and to start the reader through the copy.
This function is usually performed by the subhead. Readers scan information looking for a personal benefit or justification to continue reading
in depth. The subhead explains to the reader what they will learn or gain from reading this information.
This function is usually performed by bulleted subheads. Readers quickly compare the relative features and benefits of a product (in the
broadest sense of the word). Other graphic devices are used to isolate the F&B from the rest of the copy so that readers can quickly grasp
the characteristics that make a product different from its competitors. One person’s features may be another person’s benefits. So
the two are never separated.
This function is usually performed by subheads or graphic devices (such as rules) that are used to separate paragraphs of body copy.
Pull-quotes, frequently found in publications, divide copy into smaller, bite-size pieces for easier reading. Readers scan information the dividers
and determine if they are sufficiently interested in the content to take the next step, read the body copy. Reading an entire story is a commitment
of time and energy so steps one–four persuade the reader to read the whole story.
This is commonly known as body copy. The details are the most involved and time consuming copy to read because of their length and
complexity. The reader must be convinced of some benefits or reason to read the details. People are overwhelmed by so much information in
our society that our reading habits have changed to incorporate scanning and judging of each piece of communication we come in contact with
to decide if it’s worth our time and provides some benefit.
The captions are usually small pieces of copy that supplement/explain graphics or photographs. Included in this category are the call-outs
on charts, graphs and diagrams.
Page numbers are the most obvious things in this category but copy (such as ‘Continued on pg. 117’) are also navigation items. Graphic elements
that direct the reader where to go next in the path through the copy are navigation items.
Usually the smallest copy on a piece of communication. One of the exceptions is the nutritional content on food packaging, which is legislated
to be a minimum size for legibility. Legal includes all information that is legally required to be on a piece of communication but considered adjunct
to the primary communication. The copyright holders, the manufacturer’s address, warnings about side effects and the ingredients are all
examples of legal copy. It is required to be there but secondary to the marketing or information message.