Dr. Karen Schriver is President of KSA Communication Design & Research, a consultancy focused on making complex information clear, compelling, and usable. She applies research on information design, plain language, and cognitive science to the design of everyday communications. Schriver launched her career at Carnegie Mellon University, where she co-directed the M.A. in Professional Writing and coordinated the Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Document Design. She also served as research director of the Communications Design Center, a nonprofit that won the Diana Award for its landmark research on computer documentation and plain language public documents.
After a decade as a faculty member, Schriver founded KSA, a consultancy that helps organizations around the world recognize the social and economic importance of clear communication. Now celebrating over 25 years in business, Schriver is well known for crossing academic and corporate boundaries—encouraging scholars to value the insights of business, and business to value the research generated by the academy. Her book, Dynamics in Document Design: Creating Texts for Readers—in its 9th printing—has been cited as an essential work in writing and visual design. Winner of ten national awards for research, Schriver has made a significant impact on how information designers think about their work. She is writing a new book on evidence-based information design and plain language.
Evolving Conceptions of Users in Communication Design
Over the past few decades, communication design has been in transition, moving from the creation of paper documents to today’s mix of paper and multi-media artifacts. This transition has involved not only the media we employ and the platforms used to deliver content, but also and more importantly, our understanding of and support for the diverse people for whom we write and design. Interdisciplinary research has led designers to expand their ideas about users’ characteristics, activities, and tasks. It has led them to recognize ordinary citizens as active participants in communicative work and embrace user agency as people engage with and co-create textual artifacts and inhabit sociotechnical worlds. This transition has made communication designers realize the complexity of the contexts for their work and has encouraged them to respect peoples’ cultural differences as they interact with textual artifacts and social media across borders. This talk examines communication designers’ evolving conceptions of users and explores the impact of these conceptions on how we think about our work—what we focus on, the methods we employ, and what we ignore. It traces how shifts in thinking about cognitive and affective aspects of people’s engagement are changing our representation of the nature of communication design.