Once a month we’d like to share a small snippet of our work with you, some aspect of how we work that makes the difference. This month we are thinking about readability.

In practice. 

Issue Nº 9, July 2022
Hello fellow people!

I don’t know about you but for our team this week has been hard, a turn of events that was both unimaginable and inevitable. We had been preparing to share about readability, reading preferences, with just a hint of cognitive justice. We think readability is tied up in justice, and is a critical issue in our world awash in the paradox of abundant misinformation at the same time good information has never been more accessible. Readability offers us guidance toward getting people what they need to make informed choices—information that is relevant, accessible and useful.

Until very recently, we have talked about one core aspect of our work as designing for users within low-literacy contexts. We even made a checklist for low literacy design. This term, “low literacy,” is a shorthand for describing one aspect of a group for whom we often design materials, namely, how they interact with written text. But this shorthand not only doesn’t encompass the possibilities of this work, but is burdened with harmful and misleading ideas about context and capability. We all have have preferences for reading which vary widely depending on our rest, stress level, focus, interest, and age, among other factors. Our reading preferences often have less to say about our abilities than they do about context, neurology, and interest. 
Image shows a finger pointing at a page in book full of question marks.
In this email, we tackle the issues surrounding designing for people and their needs in terms of preferences, readability, and accessibility. 
  • In our article on preferences, we talk about the importance of reorienting and centering on the people who will use what we are designing.
  • In our piece on readability, we offer ways to think about writing and creating accessible materials.
We would be remiss in not mentioning that any discussion of reading, cognition, or literacy is heavily tangled up in issues around neurobiology, trauma, cognitive justice, the Europatriarchal knowledge production system, and our W.E.I.R.D. perspectives.

We’d love to dive deep into these issues with you. We’ll be offering more on that and our fall learning series on designing with people for change in the next newsletter. 

Hit reply, we’d love to hear from you!

In joy

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Learn by Doing

Designing materials and models for program delivery is a core practice. We invite you to explore some of our work around designing in contexts where users do not prefer taking in or interacting with information in written formats (yet where there is still utility to having printed materials). 
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Feed the Future Livelihood Planning Process

Tools for rural households to track, assess, vision, plan, and take action on self-defined livelihood goals. We assessed the capacities and needs of the users, directed artwork, field tested layouts and ultimately created a journal that delivers a livelihood planning process through home visiting community volunteers. 

Learn more >>

Supporting Community-Based Postpartum Care with Integrated Mothers and Babies Course 

Picture impact streamlined technical content, commissioned 100+ images, and developed a new flipchart to support the delivery of the integrated mothers and Babies Course in rural Ghana. 

Learn more >>
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Designing for Remote Delivery of Cooperative Development Coaching

We led a two-month design sprint with the cooperative coaches, collectively coming up with solutions and doing rapid prototyping and testing. We worked with the curriculum pieces to sync, pace, and make concepts contextualized

Learn more >>

Illustration shows a pregnant woman sitting on a couch holding her phone. Her belly has two tiny feet on it.
Designing Stillbirth Prevention Materials to Reach a Broad Range of Mothers

Picture impact streamlined and centered language, illustrated and redesigned promotional materials to reach a diverse audience of busy, expectant mothers in their 28th week of pregnancy to engage with the Count the Kicks app. 

Learn more >>

Catch Up

We have been writing on a wide variety of topics that inspire and influence us and our work. If you missed a recent post from us, here’s a list for you to bookmark. 
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How long does it take to develop a quality learning experience?

Learning projects often come with challenges beyond those we expect in the creative process. We start projects excited with purpose, only to enter into the scoping phase to find that the project doesn’t have the resources or time to get from where it is to what is truly needed.


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Learning Experience Development - A dance, not a race

We find that learning experience design is not well understood in our broader field of international development and social and behavior change, even by those who may have been developing programs and materials for a long time! 

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Our narratives of Africa

We recently participated in a beautiful meeting of people who play a role as communicators within the international development sector. Our speaker Makura asked each of us, “What do you first think of when you think of Africa?” A question as inviting to share as it is uncomfortable.


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Designing together, remotely

The undertakings of a design process are messy-not black and white-and not everyone enjoys them. Each participant has different affinities and skills to offer, different levels of interest at each point, and plenty of emotions and feelings about acting out change. In this article, we discuss some ways we sought to make the mess more comfortable. 


Make Use of Us

We love what we do. We are always ready to explore a new project, challenge, or working relationship. Here are a few ideas on how to engage with us:
  • Need someone to do a materials assessment? We can assess your current materials for readability, accessibility, engagement, and bias. 
  • Are you designing or delivering a program where written language is not a primary or preferred way of communicating? We can design materials that support the whole delivery cascade.
  • Toolkits, training compendiums, learning materials, and job aids! We love to design flexible learning supports and develop the guidance to deliver complex, non-linear behavior change and capacity-building programs. 
"Emotional accessibility and acceptance is a crucial incentive for the person to engage with the service or product [or learning material!]. Without it, functional and technical accessibility are largely redundant."

- Bruno Maag, The Readability Group -

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