Re: Page layout resources

Subject: Re: Page layout resources
From: David Neeley <dbneeley -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com, Viv Crawford <viv_crawford -at- hotmail -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 19 May 2010 09:43:33 +0300


For more years than I care to remember, I wore several different hats
in my career--often alternately, sometimes simultaneously. These
included both tech writer and marcomm writer.

There are two real keys to your question: "marketing and pre-sales"
materials and "look flash."

Word is a wholly inappropriate tool for highly styled documents--as
would any other "word processor."

For example, a word processor uses a simple algorithm to determine
line spacing as a function of type size--but does not take into
account large variables from one font to another and to the length of
the lines in question. Both of these factors must be considered to
have the look you are after.

Another factor is that Word lacks the sophisticated kerning and
tracking controls of a true layout program. This becomes all too
apparent when you examine large sized headlines, for instance,
comparing those professionally set with what a word processor puts

If you are budget constrained and must do this task yourself, be
prepared to spend considerable time at it to get the optimal results
if you are not so familiar with the many variables of laying out the
truly beautiful pages that you seek.

Tools range all the way from the free Scribus--which could do this
particular task easily enough--to the "ruling heavyweight" Adobe
InDesign. For advanced projects, I haven't spent enough time with
Scribus to overcome some frustrations--but for relatively simple
projects as you are probably referring to, it would be fine. (Also, I
haven't looked at it in detail in about two years, and these things
keep improving). Scribus: <>

However, if your budget will permit it, I'd probably still opt for
InDesign--it is well worth knowing if you're going to have recurring
assignments like this.

If the concept of a large learning curve and/or a great deal of time
to develop your project does not appeal, you might also look at the
free Lyx authoring program. If you can find a pre-existing template
for it that fits your requirements, the resulting output will be far
better than Word with far less effort involved. Lyx is based on the
LaTeX typesetting language and seems incapable of producing bad
typographic output even if you should try. <>

Whatever you do, I suggest you avoid the trap of using Times New Roman
or its many variants, or Arial for heads. Since you want to stand out,
you should have a very readable font choice but not one which screams
"the path of least resistance" to people long since jaded by these
particular choices.

I saw one piece a few years ago set with the body in Stone Serif, the
heads in Stone Sans (named for their designer, Sumner Stone). This
gave a very harmonious effect, while removing that particular issue
regarding compatability of your head and body faces--but there are
many other potential combinations.

There are *many* good typefaces that are free these days. On the Web,
sites like Six Revisions and Smashing Magazine run regular features
showing them and providing links. These are blogs read by many
publication designers, and their advice seems very reliable.

If your company has a branding initiative in place, you may have some
fonts selected for identity purposes that might be a good place to
start for planning marketing materials, by the way--not necessarily a
font used for a logo, but often there is a companion fonts selected
for slogans and such that accompany a logo that might be worth
exploring. I have done materials using a normal text weight of such a
slogan font that was in a heavier weight font with good success, for

Finally, try not to get "too cute" with your layout. The finished
pieces should never stand in the way of the message, but augment it by
giving potential buyers a feeling that they are dealing with
professionals. If anyone should comment on the layout or typography,
they are being distracted from the sales message--unless, of course,
you were selling typography and layout! 8:)

Best of luck with the project.


> From: Viv Crawford <viv_crawford -at- hotmail -dot- com>
> To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
> Date: Tue, 18 May 2010 16:32:08 +0100
> Subject: Page layout resources
> Hello
> We're looking at publishing a suite of marketing and pre-sales docs that need to be as flash as anything the big multinationals we compete with can produce.
> We've had front covers professionally designed, but the pages with actual content on still just look like Word docs. (Word docs with fancy, coloured headings, but Word docs all the same).
> As Word guru in residence it's fallen to me to stop the Word docs looking like Word docs.
> Do you know of any resources for learning how to do page design *for printed docs*? Or any tips? Or publicly available examples I can be inspired by? I've tried Google but found only resources for designing websites.
> These docs will likely be distributed as PDF so my constraint would be that I'd have to stay within the ballpark that would allow DIY printing.
> Thanks in advance,
> V

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