C.A.B.: We regulate design but we don’t know good design

C.A.B.: We regulate design but we don’t know good design

Here is a familiar form every licensed California architect has seen. This is the license renewal form sent by The California Architects Board, within California’s Department of Consumer Affairs. They regulate the practice of architecture in California. Ironically, an organization that regulates a design profession apparently does not use the services of a design professional for their forms. This form is very difficult to fill out.  It is neither visually organized nor written clearly. There are many different sizes of text,  fonts and formats. Inconsistently outlined blocks of text are not aligned with each other or justified.

In our training as design professionals we study alignment, consistency and hierarchy of elements. These are the principles we use to make an organized floor plan or material palette.  This is an important form, but because of its lack of clarity it takes a long time to check over and fill out properly. The people working for the bureaucracy that issues it must have a more difficult time making sure it is correct also.

For specifics, find the key number on the image and read the corresponding note below.

1. Why does the form begin each element to be checked off and filled out with the letter C, not A?

2. This font is too small to read.

3. Kerning is too tight and does not match kerning in adjacent red text block even though the two blocks of red text grab your eye, and they don’t not align.

4. Some titles are in bold “all caps” and then some are in bold “title case”. It looks disorganized.

5. Items C through E should justify. Its very obviously crowded onto the bottom of this part of the form.

6. This one is confusing: they put box around the late fee rather than the due amount.

7. What is this line that says “fold” ? What about this dotted line just below with no instructions?

8.The address for mailing with a windowed envelope is upside down on the back of this form. When you stuff the envelope you have to turn it around and flip it over.