You are here:Home > Posts > David Sless

About David Sless

David was awarded an MSc by Durham University for his research in communication and information design. In 1976 he became the Foundation Chairman of Standards Australiaʼs Committee on Signs and Symbols, and in 1985 was invited by Industry and Government to set up the not-for-profit Communication Research Institute. He was Foundation Director of the Advanced Studies Program at the International Institute of Information Design, Adjunct Professor in Science Communication at the Australian National University, Adjunct Professor of Information Design at the University of Technology in Sydney, and Visiting Professor of Information Design at the Design Institute at Coventry University. He is a frequently invited speaker at international conferences in NorthAmerica, Europe and Asia, and has authored over 200 publications.

Information design standards

This post was originally published in 2018 to coincide with the publication of our Standards. We are reissuing it to coincide with a new initiative of plain language advocates […]

There are no wicked problems

Recently (mid 2020), we keep hearing the phrase “wicked problems” being used by politicians, those who lobby them, and their advisors. Someone is obviously doing the executive seminar […]

What is information design?

The multiple skills of information designers Managing this complex intangible process requires a range of techniques not usually found within the training of one individual. Good information design is most often the result of collaboration between a variety of individuals working in a team. The range of skills needed in such a team are interdisciplinary and come from five major areas: communicative arts, philosophy, systems analysis, ethnography, and negotiation.

Boxed risk warnings

Boxed risk warnings are widely used and required by many information regulators. They have a poor effectiveness record.

In general they are used effectively by less than 50% of test […]

Good intentions—not enough

When it comes to designing information for people, good intentions are not enough. If you get it wrong, people can die. Nothing so starkly demonstrates this as the thousands […]

Philosophy as design

Paper presented at the 3rd International Conference of the Design Education Association, Cardiff March 14 2002.

Work of this kind is by its nature […]

Transitions in information design: a history

For me, information design is not a cumulative pluralist tradition in which, over the years, I have added a diversity of insights from multiple disciplines. On the contrary, at each transition I have reconstructed the notion of information design, fundamentally reshaping what I mean and understand by its practice; in other words, I have changed the philosophical assumptions underlying my understanding of practice.

$60 Billion Government Form Bungle

The error by the government estimating jobkeeper numbers could have been avoided had the Government not used of a poorly designed form. This is the view of Professor David Sless, Director of the Communication Research Institute (CRI), an international not-for-profit based in Melbourne, and a leading expert in public document design: those forms, bills, notices and statements that we all reluctantly put up with.

Designing Philosophy 1

Paper presented at the Design Research Society conference ‘Common Ground’,  Brunel University September 2002.


I start from two assertions: philosophy is our highest form of practical reasoning; design is our highest […]

Designing philosophy 2

This paper was first published as:
Sless, D. (2007). Designing Philosophy. Visible Language, 41-2, 101-126.


I am writing this essay on designing philosophy for fellow designers, in the […]

Standard letters


Large information-intensive organisations, such as insurance companies, banks, utilities and government agencies, conduct a great deal of routine correspondence with individual citizens, customers, or clients using standard letters […]

Designing forms in large organisations

Form design in large organisations involves crafts at the micro level of document design, the customer experience level, and the management and politics level in an organisation. This seminal 1994 paper traverses all these levels. Below is a lightly edited version of the published paper. It also incorporates some content not available in the print version.

Scoping Problem Boundaries

Written in 2002, this brief paper was presented to a small group in the Australian Defence Department which was interested in systems thinking as a way of solving major social […]

Go to Top