29 April, 2014

Non designer's designing

Some time ago production editor of the magazine I edit lent me a cool book. It's called "The Non-Designer's Design Book".

It's kind-of scary, though. I'd been designing newsletters for more than a decade and finally I read something by a professional. I was a bit embarrassed. But it certainly has helped me improve our newsletter's design.

Here is a recent Kids newsletter that I designed.
You can see these principles at work here (at
least I hope I've done a pretty good job).
These days with desk-top publishing being so accessible, many people are designing things. This includes missionaries who are writing prayer letters every month. Just in case this is you, I'll outline some basics from the book for you, so that you can improve your presentation.

There are four basic principles. See here for a more detailed version of what follows, plus great examples.
  1. Proximity
  2. Alignment
  3. Repetition
  4. Contrast
Items relating to each other should be closely grouped. This reduces clutter and assists the reader to negotiate their way around the page without too much grief or stress. This includes grouping your white space together rather than distributing it all over the place. It means things like the start of your writing should be straight under the headline.

Nothing should be just plonked on the page wherever. I think this has probably been my biggest failing. Elements should have a visual link with other elements on the page. The easiest way to create a link is to align them on the right or on the left (try to avoid centering). For example, if you have two photos or boxes at the bottom of a page, make sure they line up.

Make sure you repeat some aspect of the design throughout your piece. For example, don't use 10 different fonts in a couple of pages. Try to keep the size of your font consistent. This goes for colours, layout, and extra elements like bullet points. Try to get some consistency so that your work has coherence.

Create interest by differentiating similar items from each other, but the differences has to be big enough to notice. So use dramatically different sizes, fonts, shapes, shades, spacing. For example:

this      &         this

aren't dramatically different, though they are different fonts.

this       &         this

are the same font, but dramatically different in size.

I'm thankful to have become aware of these basic principles, though I'm far from being a professional designer. As I not only design my own newsletters, I work with designers, it is good to have a little bit of a concrete idea about good design. 

1 comment:

April said...

For the curious, Wendy read an older edition of this book: http://amzn.com/B00125MJYM

The Non-Designer's Design Book by Robin Williams (no, not *that* Robin Williams) ;)