Nora, I'm so gratified to know that, even when I had a DIY website, I never fell prey to any of these mistakes except the double-spacing-at-the-end-of-a-sentence one. I'm SO with you - it's a remarkably hard habit to break. If only my yoga habit were that strong...
Tell-Tale Signs of DIY Design
Industry professionals and consumers alike expect professional design, and, even when they can’t put their finger on it, they can tell a do-it-yourself designer from a true professional.
Today's desktop publishing software is more easy-to-use and more accessible than ever—and it’s a far cry from what it looked like close to two decades ago, when I entered the field of graphic design. Despite these advances, industry professionals and consumers alike expect professional design, and, even when they can’t put their finger on it, they can tell a do-it-yourself designer from a true professional.
Take heed: so, if you cut corners on design, it could be more obvious to your target market than you might think! Most tell-tale DIY design issues are a result of an attempt to use software that’s simply not built for graphic or typography design. These programs (*ahem* Microsoft Word) don’t give you the authority to manipulate the text as you see fit. Basically, these programs think they’re smarter than you: because clearly, it knows more about “proper” typography than you do.
Tell-Tale Signs of DIY Design:
- Straight Quotes. Actually, straight quotes (two straight hash marks) are inch marks, while single straight quotes are foot marks. Real opening and closing quotation marks curve toward the words housed between.
- Double Returns. Sure, hitting the return or enter key twice between paragraphs (or after headlines) separates the text—but it also creates huge, awkward gaps in your layout.
- Two Spaces Following Punctuation. I’ll admit it: I still fall victim to this one. It was my ninth-grade typing teacher; she was way too good at her job! See, using two spaces after punctuation made sense back in typewriter times. Standard monospaced typewriter fonts, like Courier, made it hard to distinguish between the one space between sentences and the one space between words. Since the advent of the computer, fonts have grown smarter. Most fonts used today are proportional fonts, designed to tuck the letters closely together, when need be, avoiding unsightly gaps in your body of text. This particular “rule” is one I still have to work to forget. (Stupid typing class.
- Centered Alignment. Most amateurs use centered alignment. For everything. Here’s the news: unless you’re laying out a formal invitation, don’t even think about using centered alignment. Why? Because it’s simple and safe, and therefore B-O-R-I-N-G!
- Borders Around Everything. This is another “safe” technique: containing your text in a box. This has the opposite of the intended effect, because, more often than not, the text looks trapped and suffocated—those barriers are only stifling the message.
- Half-inch Indents. I know, I know–if Microsoft thinks it’s okay, then, hey it must be ok! I mean, how could a multi-billion dollar company (designed by computer geeks, at that) get this typography tidbit wrong? And though your ninth-grade typing teacher might agree, this is an overused and outdated standard. Paragraphs can be indented with as few as two spaces, depending upon the other properties of the typography.
- Underlining. DO NOT be tempted to underline text for emphasis, even though your software will almost always give you the option. Underlining is completely antiquated. It does nothing to emphasize text; it actually decreases legibility.
- ALL CAPS. Our minds read words based on the specific shapes of the letters combined—in other words, we read more smoothly when we can easily identify the shape of each word. WHEN EVERYTHING IS IN ALL CAPS, you lose your ascenders and descenders, so all the words have the same shape.
Learn more about the author, Nora Richardson.
Comment on this article
Posted by Kathleen Watson, Carver, Minnesota |
Jul 05, 2012
Posted by Pam Johnson-Bennett, CCBC, Nashville, Tennessee |
Aug 04, 2012
Ugh, I still have to remind myself not to do a double space after punctuation. When you learned to type on a typewriter it's a hard habit to break. But I also still stay "album" instead of "CD" when talking about a music artist and my kids fell on the floor laughing when I told them I was "video taping" something. They said they didn't see any tape anywhere on my iphone.
Posted by Nora Richardson, Charleston, South Carolina |
Aug 05, 2012
Pam, It is VERY hard to break the habit of the double space. It is a conscious effort, believe me.
You're not alone, I still catch myself saying "album" and "video taping," too. It is just a generational thing. But you can tell your kids that in fact you are correct when you speak of albums. An album can be the packaging around an LP or a CD!
I can't help you on the "taping." :)
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