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25th August 2017

The case for good design for Government Communications

Why branding matters for local government.

We just read a fascinating article in Fast Company Design about branding work done in Atlanta, Georgia in the USA. This work was commissioned by the City’s Urban Planning Department because of problems with their public notice signage.

The problem was that messages weren’t getting through to people. And many times, these were important messages. Things people really need to know about service closures, new developments, safety warnings, etc.

“Communicating laws, rights, and services to citizens is a vital duty of the government, and design can help with that.”

This is a common problem for Local Government and Government at all levels – these agencies are bound by legislation and regulation that define requirements for informing the public. So often the notices contain legal terms, which cannot be altered. They tend to be text heavy and verbose. And as they pointed out in Atlanta, done with very little style.

The result is that most people don’t understand or take in the information. But, the Government agency has satisfied its legal obligations to provide the information.

The Atlanta example

The Urban Planning Department was determined to approach its branding and signage with the emphasis on simplicity and clarity and a focus on being customer-oriented. They summed it up with this message – “If we want to be kind to the public we serve, we need to be clear.”

So, even though a lot of the language cannot be altered, the design team broke it up with clear headings, a structure and a hierarchy of information. All the same information is on the signage but it is just so much simpler and clearer.

Matchstic Atlanta Signage

Matchstic Atlanta Signage

Using a graphic designer

The job of graphic designers it to communicate information clearly and simply. And in Atlanta they argue that using a designer outside their agency gave them a fresh, more human-centred perspective.

We would argue too that providing information that people need clearly and simply has many benefits such as:

  • enhancing the department’s reputation
  • keeping the public safe and satisfying its legal and moral responsibilities
  • having to deal with fewer enquiries and requests for clarification