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Style Guides

The partnership of designer Shelley Evenson and scientist John Rheinfrank at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center in the 1980s yielded some important ideas about visual communications. They created a consistent visual vocabulary, called a “visual design language,” for all Xerox photocopiers: green for originals, blue for supplies, red for service areas. Similar nontextual cues are very useful in high-cognitive-friction interfaces, and they are communicated in a “style guide,” a book of examples and use suggestions.

Many software engineers and development managers who are frustrated by user-interaction problems would love to have a style guide that tells them what interface their product needs. Many corporations have developed interface style guides for all of their internal software, and several software vendors have them for independent vendors who write compatible software.


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