Effective, appropriate and safe usage of medicines is only possible if they come with clear instructions, recommendations, descriptions and warnings. Clear information about medication does not only benefit seniors, who consume the greatest amount of prescription drugs, but also users in other age groups, such as children and their caretakers. The typographic design of this information plays a crucial role, but is, unfortunately, rarely optimized to suit different reading audiences’ needs. Still commonly seen are poorly readable patient information leaflets with ‘small font on translucent paper’ stowed in generic paper packaging. The lacking typographic design can mostly be explained by historically determined legal and economical requirements. European legislation, for example, demands a conservative approach, mainly to reach standardization. The pharmaceutical industry is hesitant, out of fear that the changes will come at high costs. Both explanations make it difficult to meet the professional principles of typographic designers striving for optimized transfer of information. This is the crux of the matter, the reason why convenient, readable medication information leaflets are in short supply. This article examines two underlying questions. When it comes to drug information, there have been three pivotal changes in society: patients are more actively involved in their own treatment; patients’ cultural backgrounds are more diverse; and there is a growing demand for digital information. The first question is: why have these changes in society barely made an impact on the typographic design of information leaflets? The second question is: why is existing professional knowledge hardly utilized, such as insights into readability, or the practical knowledge and experience developed for the pharmaceutical industry by prominent representatives of the Swiss Style (=‘International Typographic Style’)?

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Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision
Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis

van der Waarde, Karel. (2016). De typografische vormgeving van informatie over medicijnen: een diagnose in historisch perspectief. Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis, 19(2), 1–11. doi:10.18146/2213-7653.2016.267