I’ve often asked myself why notices, signs and posters have to be so professional. I can understand email is well-suited as a formal method of communication but posters with tips on printing your coursework well in advance before the hand-in deadline, for example, can be less formal with light-hearted illustrations, right?
Also it’s important to adopt the KISS principle when communicating with our students. I sometimes find notices are written in such formal, professional language with fancy words that it ends up falling short of communicating the message clearly to the audience. Recently, for example, someone put up a notice that I knew at first glance was copied from an email (a very professional email). Personally I make it a point to come across as clearly as possible and the only reason I didn’t replace it with my own was because I didn’t want to offend the person who put it up in the first place. (That ‘incident’ has been playing in my mind for a few days now and I thought its best to put down my thoughts in this post).
Consider the ‘Good to Know’ adverts by Google. The adverts are designed with illustrations that look like it’s been drawn by a 5 year old but that’s what makes people take notice and read the ads (which are very easy to understand) which in turn gets the right message across.
Our department recently implemented a ‘green’ policy to shut computers down after 15 minutes of inactivity, even if someone’s logged in. Students were informed of this new policy by email only. As much as we’d like students to check their email regularly the fact is they don’t. So relying on that single email to get the message across is simply not good enough. Why not a catchy poster with an illustration? I also suggested deploying that notice as a screensaver to computers.
As well as using clear and easy to understand language in our communication we also need to make a better effort in drawing up notices and posters with a common theme among them. Also to make students take notice of these notices and posters (with best practices and tips or promoting a service, for example) we need to place these in strategic locations around the campus. For example, people read ads on the Tube only because they have the time to do so while they wait for their stops. I think students are more likely to read posters on boards next to the cash point machine (on campus) while they wait in queue than take much notice of the LCD screen in the library (as is the case currently).
I’ve often thought “are we projecting the right image to our customers?” By customers I mean the student community mainly. Taking too much of a professional approach in our dealings with students gives us a ‘corporate’ kind of an image. That image may not be outright negative but I’m not sure it’s a positive one either.