Kenneth Thorlton

The Clear by Design mobile app helps anyone assess the health literacy level
of existing materials

Clear by Design®

Making health information understandable

A suite of health literacy training products used to develop clear health communications for people with low health literacy skills

Health literacy is defined as an individual's ability to obtain, understand, and act on health information. According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), 93 million American adults have only basic or below basic literacy skills. This means that low health literacy affects more adult Americans than obesity, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and breast cancer combined.

As you might expect, this deficiency in health literacy skills by the masses has a great effect on our health care system. Here are some startling statistics that can be attributed to low health literacy levels in the United States:

> $3,000 dollars – the average annual health care cost for a high health literacy patient

> $13,000 dollars – the average annual health care cost for a low health literacy patient
Low health literacy patients spend over 4 times as much compared to high health literacy patients

> Almost half (46%) of adults misunderstand common dosing instructions. This translates into an annual cost of $100 billion in hospital admissions due to poor medication adherence

> 10th grade – the average reading level of health communication materials

> 5th grade – the average reading level of American adults

Enter Clear by Design®, a suite of health literacy training products used to help develop clear health communications for both print and digital materials. These training workshops “in a box” provide background on health literacy and the importance of developing easy-to-understand health care materials for patients. They include examples of the Clear by Design principles and guidelines, as well as participant handouts, pre- and post-evaluation surveys, action plans, workshop certificates, and guidance on creating dynamic and interactive breakout sessions for participants.

A mobile app is also in development that allows users the ability to assess the health literacy level of existing materials in order to determine if Clear by Design standards are being met. Just like the physical product, it helps users understand that meeting health literacy guidelines is more than just making sure the grade reading level is low. The visual aspects of the material, as well as the tone of the content and how it is written, are crucial to providing health care materials to patients that are easy to understand and actionable. Clear by Design teaches the golden rule of health literacy design; it not only matters what you say, but how you say it, and how you display it.

Clear by Design products are for anyone who needs to train others on health literacy principles or who needs to develop their own materials that adhere to health literacy guidelines. These could include pharmaceutical companies, government institutions, hospital systems, health insurance companies, medical schools, departments of health – even students and graphic designers.

With an estimated 32 million Americans entering the health care system under the Affordable Care Act, it is essential that health care materials are easily understood and accessible. Materials developed using Clear by Design products help patients better understand their treatment, what to do and how to do it.  As a result, it helps instill the confidence and motivation necessary for patients to ultimately take control of their own health and well-being.


Ken Thorlton is a senior level Creative Director with deep insight into health care design.

He began the Clear by Design® program ten years ago and has conducted health literacy training seminars and workshops around the US that teach people how to develop health care information everyone can understand and act on.

Ken has 15 years' experience as a User Engagement designer, delivering creative solutions for health care, biotech companies, and more.

© Kenneth Thorlton Design 2015. All rights reserved. Products, company names, and logos mentioned herein are trademarks of their respective owners. All work contained herein, whether conceptual or real, is the intellectual property of Kenneth Thorlton Design.