If you’re not a designer by profession (and most of us aren’t), the type of graphic design you perform on a daily basis is done in applications like Microsoft Word. Done correctly, this kind of desktop publishing can help you easily create effective communication pieces that highlight the inventive, effective nature of your business. But doing desktop publishing poorly is one mistake that can easily relegate your business to the ranks of the overlooked, undervalued, unprofessional masses.
Below are five tips to help make sure that what comes out of your computer contributes to your success instead of undermining your credibility.
1. Sketch it out first
If you’ve got a newsletter to put together in Publisher, or a PowerPoint presentation to hammer out, don’t just open the program and start inserting pictures and information. Grab a paper and pen first and make a list of everything you need to include. Then, do a quick, messy sketch of where you’d position each picture and block of text on each page. Once you’ve figured out these elements, make sure you’ve budgeted enough room for plenty of white space – it will add a great deal to the professionalism of the piece. Pre-planning makes the design process a lot quicker, and makes the end product look much smarter.
2. Only use two fonts
When putting together a layout, the general rule of thumb is to employ only two fonts in any document you make. For long stretches of text (paragraphs, or full articles), it’s best to use a serif font like Garamond or Times New Roman. Serif fonts were designed to be easier to read, providing visual “hooks” for your eyes to catch on to as they scan the page. Sans Serif fonts (like Arial) are best for short instances of text like titles or captions. If you can restrict yourself to two fonts (and even two colours) throughout one project, you’re off to a good start, and your restraint will certainly convey a sense of sophistication.
3. Never use clip art
It’s easy to rely on the many free pictures, clip art, fonts and borders that are already on your computer. Unfortunately, in almost every instance, using these elements in a presentation or document does a tremendous disservice to your credibility and your level of professionalism. Although ClipArt can often sum up a sentiment or illustrate a point, more often than that, it just looks cheap and tacky – and that includes PowerPoint transition effects. You’d be well advised to pretend these elements don’t even exist as options on your computer.
4. Don’t ruin your images
One of the design’s most dangerous inventions are the resizer handles that appear when using images in desktop publishing. Those are the eight little boxes that let you squish, enlarge, stretch or compress a picture. If you drag one in an attempt to resize a photo, you actually ruin it by changing its proportions. In fact, the only way you can make sure that your picture does not get distorted is by holding SHIFT down while you drag a corner handle. It’s vital that you’re careful when resizing your images, especially if the image in question is your company’s logo.
5. Create your own templates
Most applications come with pre-designed templates, but like we cautioned against in point 3, using these can often make your project look worse. Instead, creating and using your own original templates (assuming they’ve been made with our first four tips in mind) is a great way to emphasize your business’ consistency and credibility. In PowerPoint, you can create a Master Slide to introduce your presentation’s look, and in Word, you can use Headers and Footers to streamline elements across all your pages.
These five desktop publishing tips will keep you from making those unfortunate mistakes that make us all look silly. But beyond that, they’ll help raise the standard of professionalism for your business, and ensure that your desktop publishing projects are exactly what you need them to be: clean, smart and effective.