Pleasures of Design

The usual purpose of a printed publication is to tell somebody something. The reason why documents look different from one another is not only that they have to communicate different things but they have to do it in different circumstances and to audience.

Novels, for instance are set as continuous blocks of text, not just because that’s what the author wrote but because they are likely to be read at leisure and sitting in one place. The design doesn´t have to do more than act as a vehicle for transferring the author’s thoughts off the page to the reader.

An educational book might also be read in similar circumstances to a novel but the reader may be less well motivated. So the designer might break up the text with subheadings and diagrams to make it easier for the reader to take in.

The layout of journals and newspapers, on the other hand, allows readers to pick and choose those items that interest them. It also gives the designer and editor the opportunity to emphasize one story more than another and so influence the reader´s choice.

Readers of lists or directories are likely to be highly motivated. If you are looking for a telephone number, all you want from the design is to allow you to find it quickly. You don’t want to be sold anything: just given easy access to the number.

Many publications – perhaps the majority – contain information which the writer is very keen to impart but which the reader doesn´t care if he has or not. In this case the designer may feel the need to resort to more sophisticated design techniques to catch the reader’s attention. This will call for skill in choosing the various graphic devices available and the confidence to use them in a restrained and constructive way.

So before you choose a typeface or decide on the number of columns, think about the sort of document you are trying to produce and how it is going to be used.

more ... Quality of typefaces