Word templates vs. layout/design?

Subject: Word templates vs. layout/design?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 13 Feb 2001 09:27:08 -0500

Cayenne Woods reports that <<Sales wants to create templates that require
all our docs that go out to look _exactly_ the same - and I mean
_exactly_!... my preference is that it should be like templates and styles
for Web sites, more or less - meaning define fairly loosely, but don't try
and control people's browsers, if they really want to change the font, let
'em, etc.>>

There's a certain logic to making all your corporate documents have a
uniform look and feel, since that clearly identifies the documents as coming
from the same source and (provided you've chosen wisely in the first place)
ensures that all documents achieve a certain minimum level of readability.
After all, a document mangled by someone with very strong opinions on design
but no knowledge to support those opinions can make your company look quite
amateurish. So here's the real problem: why are you distributing these
documents and what's the purpose of consistency? Anything that you
distribute in Word format (i.e., in an editable file) can be mangled beyond
recognition with marketing never being the wiser until they see the results
and start looking for sacrificial victims; conversely, if you distribute it
in PDF (uneditable), recipients can't change the document's formatting or
contents, but they also can't alter or customize the document. The actual
goals for distributing the documents determines which one of these
solutions, with all its tradeoffs, will work best. If strict consistency
really is the primary goal (and for good reasons), you may very well have to
resort to PDF.

<<This person also wants to change the leading and kerning in body text as
part of the template. To me, this seems something you'd do for display text,
in a proper dtp program, but not in Word. It'll fall apart as soon as
copies and pastes from another doc, for one, and Word is so buggy and
unreliable it seems like the loose definitions work best. Also it just seems
over the top.>>

Word doesn't set type very elegantly (to put it kindly), so if the marketeer
really wants nice type, they're probably justified in wanting to fuss with
Word's default typographic settings. That's not to say that this degree of
fussiness is justified, but don't forget that marketing materials must make
the best impact possible to distinguish your company from the competition.
Yes, the job would be better done with a proper DTP, but since you're stuck
with Word, you'll have to make do with what it provides. Word _is_ fairly
reliable for this kind of work if your typographic standards are relatively
low and if you're willing to work from templates; templates do a pretty good
job of controlling formatting once people have been taught how to use them.
(Don't assume they'll instinctively know how.) Don't forget that as soon as
someone cuts and pastes text from one document into another, they have two
choices: either use the templates you've provided (in which case, no
problem) or use their own templates (in which case, it doesn't matter what
software you're using: they can still muck around with the type).

<<Apart from using two sizes of body text and terribly mismatched headlines,
and making a heading style into a bulleted list, the suggestions might work
in spite of themselves.>>

Ouch. Sounds like some gentle but forceful guidance is required on your
part. Marketeers can be educated, but it sometimes takes a delicate touch.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

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yellow spot into the sun."- -Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

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