The Form Book

The Form Book

Creating Forms for Printed and Online Use

Borries Schwesinger

Good design is not a panacea, and should not be merely cosmetic. Nothing is more disheartening than a harmless, friendly-looking form whose content turns out to be the direct opposite. The fact that tax return forms look so complicated is primarily because the tax system is complicated, and paying taxes can't be made more pleasant just by making the forms look good. Hiding things away or sprucing them up will not help, but a clearly laid-out and easy-to-read design may at least soften the blow.

In a demanding context, form design has to cope with many obstacles. It always reflects pre-existing structures, and in so doing it often brings to light flaws that can only be rectified by reorganization. But changing existing systems - personal, material or technical - is often very expensive and is liable to meet with strong resistance, so this is one of the greatest challenges to all sides. Companies need to recognize the need for change, and designers must think beyond design for its own sake and attune their minds to the structure of the company and the needs of its customers.