Pleasures of Design

Designing and producing your own publications can be very enjoyable and satisfying. With practice and attention to detail you will be surprised how much more attractive and authoritative your documents look. Although you will be able to look with pride on what comes off the laser printer or the imagesetter, as with many other things, new pleasures bring added responsibilities.

There will be editorial implications. Printers and designers employ proofreaders, whose job it is to check all proofs for spelling, grammar and typing errors (literals) before they send them to the customer. Authors and designers often cannot see their own mistakes because they are working under pressure and are too close to the job.

It is therefore very important to get someone else to check your work for grammar, spelling errors, and other mistakes. A beautifully typeset document that is full of spelling errors will lose all the authority it has gained from being well designed.

Most people find it easier to read a page for corrections if it is printed out first. Reading on the screen is an acquired skill.

When you are correcting a page of text tick each correction as you make it, otherwise you will be constantly going back to see if it has been done.

Some copy, such as that for a legal document, will be inviolable. There will be no opportunity to cut it to fit the page. But most text, particularly in magazines and journals, can be cut by a line or two – often for the better – in order to fit on a page or to appear in the right place in relation to an illustration. If you are not free to cut the copy yourself, gain the confidence of a responsible editor who will help you out. But be prepared to give way some of the time, the object of the publication is to convey the writer’s meaning to the reader, not necessarily to make the designer’s life easy.

Successful design and layout calls for certain skills which, like all skills, can be acquired and improved in time. Be prepared to look critically at your own layouts and to take advice where you can get it. Try to learn from experience. The first criterion must be: “is the document communicating the author’s ideas to the reader as quickly and directly as possible”. If the answer is “no” then try to find out why. It may be that you are trying too hard. Too many graphic fireworks can easily come between the reader and the meaning of the words.