The Loving Tension Between Writers and Designers

February 16, 2014 |  By Design Action Collective |  Categories: Case Studies, Design Styles & Samples, Print Resources

How many times has a copywriter bemoaned that designers always say there’s too much text? How many time does the designer beg the editor to cut more text?

How can we come to a perfect harmony?

Graphic design should make your text sing. Good design should enhance the text—it is the supporting actor to the lead star, making sure that the lead role drives the plot and the story. It is the rhythm section to the leader singer. It is the choir to the diva. At the same time, if the story is dominated by the one star always taking the solo, the audience can lose interest—it starts to feel monotonous. This is why design can enhance the performance of the copy.

Functional graphic design shouldn’t overwhelm the reader to distraction, but encourage the reader to read the brochure, report, flyer, advertisement. Graphic design should show off the stars of the story.

Graphic design can transform your copy into an eye-catching piece:

And give it a level of sophistication:

How does graphic design interact with your copy?

Color: Less is more when it comes to color. A good color palette will enhance and not distract. We want it to be easy for the reader to read the text. Accent colors can pop out key points.

Why White (or negative) space is important: It’s tempting to use all that extra space up to the edge of the page so we can keep all the important copy. But here is why it’s not a good idea (compare to above):

White space allows the eye to rest. It increases legibility. It increases attention span. It allows a level of sophistication. It creates breathing room and balance. The eye and the brain feel at ease.

What the heck is leading? Simply, the space between the lines of text. How much space depends on the context of the piece. In dense reports, newspapers, and articles, increasing the leading will aid in legibility. For design purposes, imagine a beautiful quote with a beautiful font allowed to shine on a page of an annual report.

Typography and Text Styling: Designers choose the style of typography to enhance text, to evoke a feeling, and for legibility. Fonts for text, headings, and special treatments, are carefully chosen from a wealth of fonts available. Using the different fonts in a type family (bold, italics) helps enunciate key text. The use of different typefaces should complement each other, based on many factors, as well as support the tone of the publication. In general, we try to not use more than three typefaces in one piece.

Write with design in mind

What do you want to stand out in the article? Whose story can we bring attention to? These little cues can help the designer bring attention to a specific piece of content that needs to stand out. What do you want the skimmer of the report to take away? Text boxes, pullquotes and image captions will be what attracts that skimmer to read.

Where will this piece be read: on a commuter train where you have the readers attention to read through the entire ad, or in a short-attention span, info-overloaded space like an exhibit hall at a conference? These considerations will allow the designer to know how to design the pages, lay out the copy and style the text.

Overall, good graphic design is meant to support and enhance the main messages of the content and make the copy accessible and pleasing to read.

“The dumbest mistake is viewing design as something you do at the end of the process to ‘tidy up’ the mess, as opposed to understanding it’s a ‘day one’ issue and part of everything.” ― Tom Peterson

NOTE: Design Action will be presenting with Writing to Make A Difference on a FREE conference call for Writing Wednesdays, March 5 at noon Pacific.

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