When it comes to layout design, the very essentials can be learned in an afternoon by reading a book like Robin Williams, [[[The Non-Designers Design Book]]]. Of those essentials, one thing we learn is that you don’t need to put boxes around and lines under everything on the page. As an example, the book suggests printing an Excel spreadsheet with and without the grid-lines enabled. The difference in readability is striking!
American Express is a 62 billion dollar company. You’d hope a company that size could hire some designers who’ve at least learned the basics. But judging from the look of their statements, that wouldn’t seem to be the case.
Just look how illegible this statement is:
Now consider the same statement, with nothing more changed than simply removing the unnecessary boxes and lines. (Of course, the layout could still be dramatically improved; but just look at the difference made by applying the basic design rules learned in an $8 Kindle book!)
Ok, I’m being a little overly critical of AMEX here. To be honest, they are one of my favorite companies. Great customer service, and their web app is pretty darn nicely designed!
Just wish they designed their statements a little better!
I think part of AMEX’s statement problem is that it’s designed to fit all possible cases, and in your sample case, most of the possibilities are missing, which lead to lots of lines next to each other. Not to say it’s a good design by any means, but virtually every other statement I get from businesses with whom I interact are as bad — or worse! I’m downright excited when I receive a clear, well-designed statement.
Don’t even get me started on forms you are given to fill out for things like insurance or medical appointments, where lacking design is the least of their problems — e.g. things like huge boxes to put your 10-digit phone number in, but microscopic-sized boxes to write your 42 character full name within.
I like simple. It seems too many lines above and below an area is really not necessary.
Matt, I like your simple billing example.