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A few months ago I looked at the steps involved in the creation of a leaflet using the drawing program Corel Draw.
I’m now going to look at what might initially seem like a similar project, the production of a one-page programme of events. In fact the project is entirely different and requires a completely different approach. The amount of information to get over in the leaflet was relatively small and, even then, Corel Draw’s text handling was pushed to the limit. The amount of information to get over in the programme is far higher and so we must turn to the dedicated text-handling skills of a DTP program.
I’ve chosen to use the market leader, PageMaker, but the lessons and challenges involved are equally relevant to any of the professional DTP packages see Professional DTP box-out. The fundamental lesson, and the basis of all successful work, is an understanding of what good design does.
The purpose of design is to assist in the communication of information. This can be broken down into three stages: The ultimate test of a good design is if all the information it contains has been read and understood.
As such it’s clear that simple legibility and clarity are essential, but they aren’t enough to grab the reader’s interest in the first place. This interest is attracted by variety, but it can also be lost by it. A pull-out quote, for example, can draw the eye to an article, but equally it can distract and disrupt the reading flow and so potentially lose readers.
Good design accommodates this apparent paradox by playing off one element against another: Good design is built on this internal tension and the balance of opposites. Coming down to earth with a bump, it’s important to remember that good design doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but is determined by real world considerations.
The most important of these are the intended audience and the intended effect. If you are producing a mail-shot for a bargain-basement special offer, for example, a left-aligned mono-spaced letter that looks as if it has been knocked up on a typewriter will almost certainly be more effective than a lavish full colour brochure.
Just as important are the practical considerations of time and money. The typewriter approach would not only be far cheaper to produce, but also far quicker. For our project the parameters are clear. The publication is a programme of upcoming, mainly arts-based events organised by the French Institute in Edinburgh. It’s therefore safe to assume that the intended audience is sophisticated and that, with the events’ emphasis on contemporary art, the programme should be appropriately clean and modern.
Budgets are tight, however, so all of the information must be fitted onto a single double-sided page. Full-colour is also out of the question, and in any case many of the supplied photos are black and white, so we’ll have to try and maximize the impact of two colours.
OK, we know what we’re supposed to do, so how do we go about it? Basically the process involves six separate stages see Putting It Together walkthrough. First the layout grid is created by setting page size, margins and columns. Second the text is roughly laid up and positioned on the grid. Third the typography, the formatting of the text is determined.
Fourth the graphics are introduced, sized and positioned. Fifth the overall effect of the combined text, graphics and colour is fine-tuned to create the maximum impact. Finally, when the design is complete, the separated output is proofed prior to sending out to commercial print. The first decision to be made is the size and shape of paper to be used for the programme. Often no thought at all is given to this, which is why many beginners find that they have actually designed their masterpiece to the software’s default of US Letter!
In many ways, however, this decision is the single most important one we will make as it determines the canvas on which we are going to work. Psychological tests have shown that taller layouts tend to seem formal, while squatter designs seem more informal.
They have also shown that a particular shape, the golden rectangle, tends to be selected as the most aesthetically appealing – a fact the ancient Greeks discovered long before market pagemqker.
A0 is exactly twice the size of A1, which is twice the size of A2 and so on. What this means in practice is that an A4 sheet, for example, rotated on its side and folded in half will produce two A5 pages. This has huge advantages in terms of conserving paper and so in keeping costs down. Because the ISO pages are such universal standards they also have the advantage that they will easily fit into their corresponding envelope sizes – and into the post box.
Slightly reluctantly then, I think we should fall into line with the pagemakre majority of users and select A4 pagsmaker the page size. At least by selecting a landscape orientation we can break out page,aker the absolute norm. The next step is to set up the grid onto which we will fit our text and graphics. With a number of separate categories of events to include, together with background information on stp Institute and an eye-catching cover, our single A4 sheet will have to be divided into sections.
Folding in two would only give us four A5 pages, but folding into three will give us six taller sections. These will be slightly out of the ordinary, slightly formal and well suited for carrying large amounts of information.
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To set up the grid we have to set up the margins and columns. Again many users treat the software’s tutprial defaults as if they are givens, but each publication will demand different settings.
The general rule for multiple page layouts is to have a wider bottom margin than top and a wider inside margin than out, although like most design rules these can be broken for effect. It’s also important to be as generous as possible with margins as pagemqker resulting “white space” should not be seen as wasted, but as a crucial part of the overall look of the document.
Without decent margins your design is always going to feel cramped. In fact it’s often worth shrinking your body copy’s point-size to gain space to add to margins, but that’s a luxury we’re not able to afford. Instead we’re going to have to be comparatively mean with left, right and top margins of 7mm and a slightly larger bottom margin of 1cm.
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The next step is to set the number of columns – three – and the “gutters”, the space between columns. Because each gutter is actually going to be a fold we have to make the width exactly twice the size of the left and right margins – 14mm – to ensure that each panel is correctly centred. With the basic grid ready, we can load up the text to see just what we’ve got to deal with.
PageMaker automatically picks up styles from supported word processors so features like the headings are already picked out. With frame-based packages like Ventura, the text would automatically flow through the columns from beginning to end.
That would be fine if we were producing a book, but for a folded leaflet we need to paste the text in non-consecutive order so that the pages read correctly when folded. PageMaker allows this to be done easily with its freeform text blocks which are positioned and sized manually. The process demands more intervention, but allows more control.
By sizing each text block so that the right text is positioned on the correct panel even if it runs over the bottom of the page, we can get a good idea of what’s involved. At the moment the text blocks are all linked so that if I drag up the window shade on one block the overflow text will automatically flow into the next.
To break the links, it’s necessary to select each block, cut it and then immediately paste it back. This is important as we need to know roughly the amount of space they are going to require before we take the next crucial step of choosing our body typeface.
This decision is determined by a combination of factors.
The typeface has to be appropriate to the intended audience, but also suited to the particular circumstances.
In our case this means a typeface with a contemporary but classic feel which reads well at small point-sizes. The solution I came up with is the sophisticated but highly legible Optima which is a modern interpretation of the Roman lettering on triumphal arches – if only it was the Italian Institute!
With the typeface chosen the next step is to choose the point-size and the interline spacing or “leading”. For easy reading of long sections of text, point-size should be between 10 and Unfortunately even at 10 point it’s clear that there would be no room for white space – or even the pictures – so I settled on 9. In fact on text-heavy jobs like this that’s by no means bad going and it also means that each line contains around 55 letters, within the accepted maximum for comfortable reading of In terms of leading PageMaker defaults to 1.
With our relatively long lines I’d prefer larger leading to make the travel easier for the eye, so I can afford to round it up to 12 points. This body copy leading is particularly important because it sets up the horizontal structure of the grid.
The reader probably wouldn’t consciously notice if they didn’t – so long as the bottom of the columns lined up – but subliminally the design is tighter and has greater internal logic if they do.
In other words, if I want my design to win an award it’s a must. The problem is that, as the grid is invisible, it’s very hard to work to.
However, this can be overcome with a bit of effort and with the help of PageMaker’s Grid Manager utility to add repeating baseline guidelines see this month’s Real World Publishing article. The formatting of our body copy is tutogial complete with only the indents and pafemaker to be decided.
In terms of first line indents these are only really necessary to indicate paragraph breaks, which will be clear enough anyway in our freeform layout, so they can be dispensed with. Setting the text to be justified produces a more block-like and so modern look and has the added advantage that it fits in slightly more copy into the given space.
It will also allow us to add variety and to highlight information by using left-aligned bullet points and dates. Of course all of these formatting decisions could be being applied directly to selected text, but far more powerful is the ability to pagemaekr attributes as named styles that can easily be applied and edited. Local overrides can always be added and are then marked in the palette by a plus symbol after the style name. Apart from the body copy, the most important items of text in rutorial design are the headings.
Their relative difference and significance has to be identified which is most easily done by increasing their point-size, emboldening, and centring.
This has to be done while still ensuring that the following paragraphs fall back onto the interline grid. This means ensuring that the combination of each heading’s leading and its above and below spacing adds up to a multiple of the point body leading. We also need to clearly identify the separate category headings but, with absolutely no room for manoeuvre, have to find other ways of marking them off. One of the most obvious ways to do this is by using upper case, but this is generally frowned upon because it interferes with the recognition of word shape that is the basis of easy reading.
For single word category headings, however, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Used in its bold condensed form this will give the category headings considerable weight while opening up some surrounding white space.
With the grid set up and text formatting established, we’re now ready to complete the layout by bringing in the graphics. It’s often said that a picture is worth a thousand words and it’s true that without them it would be very difficult to catch and keep the reader’s attention. Even so there are limits, and I’m baffled by the urge to introduce lame-brained, badly-drawn clipart on the slightest pretext.