When was the last time you came across a really ugly document – one that caught your attention because it was such a mess? It’s probably been quite some time. That’s because desktop publishing has given people the power to create all kinds of documents, from marketing and image pieces to more utilitarian forms and documents, using tools like typography and text line justification.
Desktop publishing has raised the bar for appearance. Today ugly documents really stand out when compared to those that are well designed. In fact design is now so important that it is integral to document creation. A well designed document is more likely to be read in part or entirely by the intended audience and increases reader comprehension. Good design also reflects well on the individual, business or organization presenting the document, lending credibility and a sense of professionalism.
Five principles of design
Principal 1: Good design has a purpose. Consider what the document is intended to accomplish, what the audience expects, the image you want to portray, and what reaction you want to invoke. This will guide all your selections ‑ the typeface, the color palette, the layout itself.
Principal 2: Good design makes things simple. A good design makes a difficult concept understandable by guiding the reader to the important points, illustrating them and reinforcing what needs to be learned. This improves reader comprehension and makes persuasive documents more powerful.
Principal 3: Good design holds the reader’s attention. Engage the reader immediately with an eye-catching headline, graphic image, photograph, white space, or unusual layout. Then guide the reader through the important points so nothing critical is missed.
Principal 4: Good design has an underlying logic. Readers will see not only the text, graphics and photographs on the page; they will react to the underlying organizational structure of the document. Be sure you have one, and be sure it is consistent.
Principal 5: Good design doesn’t call attention to itself. One measure of a good design is when the reader gets the intended message without being distracted by the design itself.
Unless signaled to do otherwise, readers scan a page in a predictable pattern. Beginning at the upper left hand quadrant, the reader scans the balance of the page in a Z-shaped movement – across to the right quadrant, then to the lower left, and end at the lower right. This is a quick and efficient way for the reader to determine within seconds whether to continue with reading the copy on the page, or whether to move on to something else.
The placement of design elements on the page grid can be either in cooperation with the natural eye movement, or to direct the reader to encounter the information in a precise order. Either technique is an effective way to gain and hold the reader’s attention; these are some tools that can be used in either case:
• Use color to attract attention. Color can also be used to evoke emotion.
• Use lines to direct the reader to points of interest, create shapes and forms, and divide space into sections. Lines can be used for alignment and to suggest proximity.
• Use typography to create contrast or emphasis. As a rule, limit the number of fonts in a document to two or three, and set a uniform point size for headlines, subheads and body copy.
• Use images and photographs to convey meaning and create repetition with body copy.
• Use symbols, charts and graphs to represent ideas or concepts or present information.
• Use white space to create proximity or lack thereof. White space can also separate elements to make them easier to read.
Design: know when to do it yourself
– and when not to
We are supportive of our customers who do their own design work. We know designing documents can be fun, may be faster, and is certainly less expensive than having us do the work. And because we know you want the best possible design, we will be happy to look at your layout and make suggestions.
Despite this, we believe there are certain projects that merit professional design. Our graphic design department is staffed with people who have both formal training and years of experience. This means we may be able to complete a complicated project faster than you could, especially if you have the Word files containing text and the digital photo and image files ready to go. We have the tools, skills and experience to get to the finished product on time and within budget.
Reprinted from Printing Arts Press The Word on the Street newsletter.
Posted by Chuck Gherman
For more information about Printing Arts Press please visit www.printingartspress.com