In recent years there have been many projects and initiatives to help cleaners gain respect from the general public. Visual Contracts was asked to be part of one of these projects called The Shiny Future. The project was set up by APG Groeifabriek (an innovation lab by Dutch pension provider APG) and Outside Inc. The main purpose was bringing together people and resources in order to create a product that would have a positive effect on the lives of cleaners.
The cleaning industry is one of the most affected by illiteracy. Around 40% of the employees have problems with reading and writing. (Spread of illiteracy in the Netherlands) This can be explained by the large number of non-Dutch native employees, the accessibility to employment and the low requirement that is needed.
Interviews with cleaners and employers
To get a better understanding of the needs and wishes
of cleaners regarding their employment context and experience, we started interviewing a small, but diverse selection of cleaners and employers. These interviews were held over a course of 3 days and on 3 different locations.
A common denominator among the cleaners is the general feeling of mistrust towards management and the fear of not being able to reach their pension in good health. Reason for this shared sentiment is the constant changing of employers due to the branche dynamics and implementation of newly assigned rules.
While the cleaners focussed mainly on uncertainties, employers talked more about improving relationships and the working environment. Admitting that not every idea worked according to plan, but that management is doing their utmost best.
Policy vs reality
While exploring the cleaners branche context we observed clearly that there are signs suggesting the problems that arise from the communication gap and how people often are not legally empowered or on the other hand are immensely involved in workers’ unions and know all the details of the collective agreement, similar as what we saw in the project at Prima Personeel. We, at Visual Contracts, believe that the group that is more unaware of their rights, and that the problems
that arise because of that, can be prevented if both parties are aware of their rights and obligations from the beginning. For a big part this can be solved by looking at the employment contract.
Metaphor and visual style
In order to come up with a visual style for the employment contracts in the cleaners branche we wanted to meet those challenges in illiteracy and unawareness of their rights. Illiteracy doesn’t mean stupid. It just means that someone has a problem accessing written information because e.g. they can’t understand the language. For that reason we need to find a way to visually transform that information and make it excisable for all parties involved.
A lot of people working in the cleaner branche also have a migration background. Different cultures mean different interpretations and those differences can cause complications in the communication.
That’s why we explored a visual style that is based on simplistic shapes, primary colours and a minimal amount of details.
All the text is written in A2 level and consists of shorter sentences. The typography is kept clean by choosing a sans-serif set in a larger body size and line spacing. Making the document more legible.
Besides the visual style we used the metaphor of a trampoline with a safety net to visualize employment. Adjusting the springs and the safety net symbolize the needs and wishes of the employee and the guarantees the employer can give.
It should be noted that all the cleaners we spoke to, all shared this feeling of being proud of their work.
The Shiny Future project taught us that there is a need for clarity. Especially when the job demands a lot from a person’s health and when there is a general feeling of uncertainty. It also taught us that an employer/ employee relationship is never black and white.