Desktop publishing today is different from how it was just a few years ago. Even a laptop or computer used at home has software that helps produce outputs at par with mainstream publishers. With enough time, anyone can learn the basics and come up with materials that are both functional and stylish.
In fact, it is so common that what would be unusual is to see material printed in a way that does not adhere to the principles of style. If you are only just venturing into creating materials for publication, here are four rules that all well-designed printed communications follow:
- Good design makes visual sense
There is an underlying logic to a well-printed material, which is readily apparent at first glance. Though a casual viewer will probably be unable to elaborate on it, they will pick up on the cohesion and unity in the way text, graphics, and photos come together. Those who know the principles will know that alignment is what is largely at work.
Alignment is the way the elements on a page create a sense of order. This does not just refer to the classical, formal sense of order, as in lines and grids packed symmetrically. Alignment refers to how the shapes of the page are connected, and how they play off each other. The groupings of page elements should look like they make a whole. In a project with multiple sheets, the style should look like it flows from one page into another.
- Good design simplifies
A difficult concept or a complex idea can be made easier to understand. Important points can be illustrated or isolated into bullets to separate it from chunks of text. For terms that need more explanation, infographics can be used alongside the main text. These combine text, charts and images to define an idea without the reader needing to leave the page.
Know that simple designs do not make the reader move from one page to another to find information. Instead, they put related elements in the same area. Close proximity among elements implies that they should be taken as one, and designers can use this to convey information. In contrast, putting elements apart shows that they should not be taken as a unit.
- Good design is purposeful
The crux of publishing is finding the right balance between purpose and aesthetics. A good designer can achieve this because they will know how to engage the reader’s attention while keeping the purpose of the document in mind. Using larger fonts, graphics, white space or the layout itself are common tricks to keep readers engaged.
Repetition and contrast among elements can also be used to create interest and unity. When an object is featured prominently and repeated across a page, or across pages, readers identify it as something to remember. Repeating brand indicators like mastheads is also necessary to establish unity. Meanwhile, contrast achieves an interesting look for the page and keeps it from becoming monotonous.
The greater the difference between elements, the higher the contrast will be between them. For example, putting very thick and thin lines side-by-side creates more visual interest than having a row of lines of the same width. The key with repetition and contrast is knowing when to highlight an object through either technique.
- Good design is invisible
One way to determine how effectively something has been made is if it gets the message across without distracting the reader. Designs should work at an almost subliminal level, using various aspects, such as distance and contrast, to imply rather than state.
A well-constructed page does not happen by accident, nor does it occur through trial and error. Sustaining the production of well-designed pages comes from using the design grid, a framework for organising page elements. Grids have margins, columns and guides, which helps designers put on the page its elements, such as headlines, paragraphs, pictures and others.
Well-designed materials are a staple in communication. People pay more attention to aspects that are visually appealing. Following the principles as stated above will help anyone make pages that are eye-catching, readable and memorable.