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Plain Language Graphic Design / Plain Graphic Design

in Flora's suggestions, Plain Graphic Design, Plain Language Graphic Design by Flora Gordon Comments are off

This past weekend, I spoke at the Editors’ Association of Canada conference about Plain Language Graphic Design. I really enjoyed preparing and presenting an overview of a topic I am passionate about — accessible graphic design principles. I have also developed a course on this topic with Simon Fraser University.

People don’t usually put the words “plain” and “graphic design” together. The term is based on the plain language movement, which strives to make writing accessible and appropriate for the intended audience. Read more about plain language writing here.

In my talk, I addressed typography and other factors that can aid or hinder readability. Graphic designers can have a central role in helping to deliver information in a clear, accessible way. This type of design is really important for communications projects that need to reach a wide range of people. Plain language graphic design (or plain graphic design) is also appropriate for delivering vital information that people need, such as how to access public services.

Not all my designs would qualify as plain-language friendly, but I certainly look forward to further applying what I’ve learned through research to current and future projects. I am also keen to keep researching so that I can help make the best design decisions. I will be providing more blog postings on this topic.

Thanks to everyone who attended or helped me prepare for my talk, and to the Editors’ Association of Canada for hosting me.

Pre-Print Checklist

in Flora's suggestions, Pre-Print by Flora Gordon Comments are off

Checklist10 Reminders for Proofing Documents and Promotional Materials

Are you about to print business cards, a report or send an advertisement to the newspaper? Before sending your document out, make sure to review it throughly, use a “spell check” tool if possible and get a second set of eyes to review it. I recommend working with a professional editor or copywriter. Here are some tips that can help you ensure your work is accurate:

  1. Check all the contact information. Try the web URL and call the phone number you’ve provided. Make sure all addresses are current. I once heard about someone who mistakenly used .ca instead of .com in an advertisement and had to buy the .ca website and make the URL forward in a hurry.
  2. Check all the dates. In January of a new year, it’s easy to have the previous year listed by accident or forget to update the day of the week or date from an old document. Make sure all dates listed, including expiry dates, are accurate.
  3. Do the Math. You don’t want to accidentally give someone 50% off when you meant 5% off, but I’ve seen similar things happen. Check all your special offers and any percentages you have listed.
  4. Read the Fine Print… And the Headline! Surprisingly, people are typically so focused on the body of the document that something as obvious as a headline can go un-reviewed. Also, make sure you review fine print and captions.
  5. Do an Inventory. Do you have all the document elements? It’s easy to miss one when you are multi-tasking. Compare your document to another one to make sure you have all the pieces, such as a call-to-action, company logo / branding, contact information, legal disclaimers / fine print (if required) and so on.
  6. Check the Size and Format: You and any others who put together the document must be aware of how it’s being produced – the size, page orientation (horizontal or vertical), imposition (single- or double-sided), printing method (colour or black and white) and the file format needed to take it to the next steps.
  7. Get Approval. Make sure you have permission from everyone who needs to approve the document, or give permission to finalize the document. If there is a disagreement, you risk having to revise and reprint your document.
  8. Consider Your Images: If you have original photographs in your publication, make sure that any people in the photos have consented to having their likeness published. Avoid pulling images from the internet without authorization from the owner or copyright holder, as it’s generally considered copyright infringement. If necessary, remove images you don’t know the source of, and replace with purchased original or stock photography.
  9. Do a Test Print at Actual Size: Whenever possible, review your document at actual size. If you are printing from Adobe Acrobat, turn off “page scaling” or set page scaling to “none”. Or if you are sending something to a printer, ask them to produce a hard copy proof you can review. This way, you can make sure your text is readable.
  10. Check the Spelling of People’s Names. Make sure you have people’s names spelled correctly and their current / preferred titles. This is a great way to keep friends…

Being a Creative Consultant

in Flora's suggestions by Flora Gordon Comments are off

Clients have often remarked that collaborating with me is vastly different than working with many other graphic designers because I’m not a “yes-person”. I believe in providing my clients with honest, realistic advice about their projects, based on over a decade of professional experience. This experience has allowed me to anticipate needs, challenges, and opportunities my clients will face with publishing work.

When I receive a project from a client, I ask a lot of questions. The more I understand about the client’s business or organization, the more I can tailor my designs to meet their objectives. Once I fully grasp the desired outcome, I can ensure that all the graphical elements are consistent with their branding guidelines and overall communications objectives. This also allows me to create deliverables that are both useful and easy to use.

For example, I had just finished designing and laying out a 50+ page report for a client that would be both printed and posted online. The client asked if I could also extract the executive summary from the document as a separate file that could be posted online. I did this but also provided an alternative document which would work as a stand-alone piece (removed page number and added the client’s log and a document title to make it clear what was being summarized). I sent both the requested material and my alternative so the client could choose which would best suit her needs.

I’ve worked with marketing coordinators, communications directors, and independent business owners who rely on me as a creative consultant to help them determine how visual communication can support their business objectives. Questions I have answered include, “What do I need to know when I hire someone to design a logo for me?” or “If I’m starting a company, what design items should I prioritize?” I follow a design process that is efficient, accurate and effective. If I’m not the right designer for their needs, I recommend another one because I want their project to be a success.

I want everyone to have a positive experience with graphic designers which is why I hold myself to the highest standard. Putting my clients first has resulted in more than a decade of loyal customers and referrals.

Call me before things get ugly!

Talking Behind Your Back

in Flora's suggestions by Flora Gordon Comments are off

Your printed promotional materials, such as business cards, talk about you behind your back. When you are not around, they have to speak on your behalf. Clear, accurate and visually appealing business cards are a great way to help influence your target audience.

Talking Behind Your Back

I have a specific process when working with clients who want to revamp their business cards, based on my experience as a communication designer. Here are some top complaints I hear when meeting with new clients who want to replace their business cards:

  1. they don’t truly visually represent the person or business
  2. the text is small and hard to read
  3. the information is out of date or key information is missing
  4. the printing, paper stock, or finishing is not what was intended


And here are my suggestions for helping them:

1 – In order to make sure the business cards are a great representation of the person or business, we look at several design options, as well as surveying designs from the competition and other industries as well. A visual audit such as this helps instill confidence in the final design choices.

2 – One easy way to ensure the text on a card is readable is by reviewing a printed proof, printed to scale. This will give the client a chance to see exactly how big the text will be and is much more telling than a proof on a computer screen. I also discuss paper stock and printed contrast with my clients, as these are key elements of legibility.

3 – As for information being out of date, I start the process by asking my lots of questions. If you suspect your personal contact information is going to change (such as a name or designation change, or address change, for yourself or your business), I recommend doing a small run of cards and we can update them and print more when you get settled with your new info.

If it’s your first run of business cards, we should also start small, because chances are you’ll discover something a few weeks into having your cards. For instance, you may notice you are constantly giving out your Skype address and wish that had been on the card. Or you may wish that you didn’t put your personal cell phone number on the card, because a few customers called you after business hours.

When a client is more certain with their content, we can get a full run of cards, which is more cost effective and often higher quality.

4– In order to ensure great results, it’s important to invest in quality printing. I only work with professional printers who consistently produce great work. Because of the volume of printing I do, I can ensure value for my clients, but I am focused on making sure the design intent is carried through with great printing.

Having business cards you can be proud of takes some planning, but having cards your customers will remember is very rewarding. If you’d like to chat about how business cards or other printed materials can enhance your visual reputation, please contact me.