Creating documents can be fun, especially if they include graphics. But let’s face it, not everyone is good at this task. Some people are more creative than others. Some are great at writing interesting and engaging content while others are whizzes when it comes to graphics. We envy those rare individuals who are good at both. But there’s hope yet. It is possible to improve your document creation skills.
One way to ensure that you’re creating attractive documents is by following the rule of CRAP, Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity.
Contrast – This can relate to fonts, colors, shapes, whatever you’re using in your document. One basic example of contrast is changing a font’s style or appearance to draw attention to something. We see this all the time in articles that use bold type to draw readers’ eyes to subheads or lists. Increasing the font size or color is also eye catching.
Repetition – This has nothing to do with content and everything to do with design elements. For example, the style of font used in subheads should be consistent, or if you use a certain type of text box for pull quotes or statistics, you should use the same type of box every time. The color and style of the border should be consistent throughout.
Alignment – This one is difficult. It involves placing things in your document in a way that gives it balance. Graphics should never be inserted into a document in a haphazard way. Too much white space, for example, can make a document as unappealing as too little.
Proximity – This, like alignment, has to do with where things are placed in your document. Keep your content close to the headlines and subheads that introduce them. And of course, keep clip art and photos close to the content they complement.
The visual aspect of a document isn’t the only thing that has to be considered. Content, too, is important. Some documents, like reports, are meant to be straightforward and opinion free. But that doesn’t mean they have to be dull. Plain language works well, even with people who have huge vocabularies. So, taking the time to find the most common words to express your ideas is always a good bet.
If there’s room for a little fun, then by all means, take advantage of it. Remember your audience, though. If your document will be read by professionals, it’s all right to inject a little humor as long it’s inoffensive and maintains a certain level of professionalism. And stick to the salient points of information. Anything that’s irrelevant should be left out.
Remember my earlier comment about repetition? Well, repetition in content is as effective as repetition in design elements. Repeating a certain phrase, for example, helps readers stay focused on what you want them to stay focused on. Of course, this shouldn’t be done arbitrarily. There must be some kind of method to your madness.
Before sending it to the printer, make sure you proofread your document at least twice yourself, then have someone else proofread it. Typos and grammatical errors can be as distracting as bad CRAP.
Creating a document doesn’t have to be scary. Whether you’re only a whiz at creating content or only a whiz with graphics, it’s still possible for you to produce a document that’s interesting and visually appealing to your intended audience.