Michael Patkin's


Publication history, Reflections & comments



Surgery & ergonomics


Information design

Editorials, book reviews




"Padding" is an ill-favoured word. It is used by examiners about examination answers which they find unsatisfactory, and by students of the clothed human farm when they suspect deception not covered by the Trade Practices Act (1970), where it refers to misleading packaging. However, it does have a merit not appreciated enough when it refers to the putting of paper forms or other documents into pads. Sick certificates, prescription forms, death certificates, and pension vouchers for medical sore-ice are provided in bound lots, detachable one at a time for use. Many hospital request forms, envelopes, and reprints for distribution come loose and lie in trebly-wasteful disarray on desks and in drawers.

Padding, in this sense, is a simple procedure at any printing house. The paper to be padded is put in a press and guillotined, and padding glue is applied to the edge. Some minutes or hours later the pad is ready for use.

This is only one small aspect of efficient form design, about which much more could and will be said. Easy identification, error-proof design for completion and processing, and compatibility between forms are important. There are at least three textbooks devoted to the question of form design, and many chapters and business magazine articles dealing with it. The very need for a particular form could be reviewed at least once a year, perhaps on its birthday. As one example of many inconsistencies, Repatriation medical service vouchers include a space for mileage claims, while Pensioner Medical Service vouchers need a second form with a separate filling in of details. (Multiply that by a couple of hundred thousand.)

If padding of expense accounts, of published material, or of packaging is all dishonest, at least this poor word may have its moment of truth and merit; there should be more padding of paper.

"Marien on Form Control", by Ray Marien, Prentice Hall, 1962
"The Knox Standard Guide to Design and Control of Forms", by F.M.
Knox. McGraw Hill, New York, 1952
"The Design of Forms" HM Stationary Office, London 1963



Med.J.Aust 12 Sept 1970 p.566

Even in the 1960s the management of health required forms and documents, without the power of word processing that was two decades away.

However like many other documents and artifacts in daily life, forms were designed by instinct which was often wrong and never validated by testing on a sample of prospective users.

A public document such as the map of the London Underground tube system only emerged as outstanding because of the extraordinary intuition of its designer, a clerk, who achieved this in his own time over three weekends.

My interest in the design of information in my work grew steadily. I became an executive member of David Sless's Communication Research Institute of Australia, which among many more important things developed the modern design of package labelling and information for patients. This was no triviality in the face of huge issues of medical error now so public.

A modern bibliography on information design would be far beyond the compass of any one person, but might include books like those of Ben Shneiderman, Donald Norman, Jacob Neilsen and others, easy to pursue through the Amazon.com website.