Tag: print

design tips-3

Last Fall, in addition to running this business, I taught Intro to Graphic Design at the University of District of Columbia. Creating lessons gave me a chance to revisit what I love about design, as well as to remember some of the finer points that we often let slip by in our hurry to create the next big thing.

Graphic design is about ideas and problem solving, first and foremost, but to create GOOD design, you also need to pay attention to the details. Here are a few of the finer, but often forgotten, points of typesetting long documents:

Avoiding Widows

A widow is a single word on the last line of a paragraph.  Widows create extra white space between paragraphs and distract the eye. Widows call for manual adjusting of the paragraphs to eliminate the space.

Avoiding Orphans

An orphan is a single word or very short line ending a paragraph at the top of the next column or page. Orphans look out of place, and distract the eye of the reader. Again, manual adjusting of the paragraphs may be necessary to create an additional line, or to condense so the line ends the previous page or column.

Avoiding Rivers

Rivers are created in justified columns when spaces accidentally align to form a path through the type. Letter spacing can be manually modified to reduce the alignment issue.

Paying Attention to Rag

When setting text flush-left, rag-right, a good rag should flow in and out with small differences from line to line. It should not create a pattern or shape that distracts the reader and creates odd white space. This can be modified by letter spacing or soft returns in the paragraphs to create more even line lengths.

Good Kerning

Good kerning means that the letters have equal VISUAL space between them – so that no letter or group of letters is separated out. This is especially important in titles and headlines. While this may seem trivial, making something hard to read can completely distort the message. If you want to try your hand at kerning, check out this type game about proper letter spacing.

What other key points in Graphic Design do you feel get overlooked?


You know the drill. It never fails. You’ll find a great client, design a beautiful flyer or brochure, and things will be going great, when the dreaded question arises.  The question that strikes fear in the heart of designs everywhere.

“This looks great,” they say. “Can I get this in WORD?”

Now the above is meant to be comical, but seriously, why don’t designers design in Word? Let’s talk about this.

When you go to a designer looking for a page layout, they will likely be working for you in InDesign or Illustrator. This is not to keep you from being able to edit the files yourself. This is not to make sure you come back every time you need an update. This is simply to give you the best, professional looking design possible.

Side note:  If you hire someone and they say they design everything exclusively in Word, I would run – and run fast…

InDesign and Illustrator are created for desktop publishing and graphic design. They have the ultimate amount of flexibility when it comes to layout and placement. You can have photos, text boxes with two (or three or four) columns and text boxes with one column, all on one page AND be assured that the placement never changes.

When a document is created in these programs, the designer saves a working file to make changes, but unless you are a designer or have a designer on staff, they likely provide you with a pdf.  Delivery in a pdf means:

You don’t have to worry about whether or not you have the font.

You don’t have to worry about hitting a button and accidentally changing the layout.

You don’t have to worry about what version of Word you have versus what the designer has (versus what the viewer has).

You are assured that your final product is of the highest quality, and ready to be printed or emailed, depending on the agreement.

And then, the inevitable.

What about letterhead?

Letterhead is one of the exceptions. With so much correspondence happening via email, it makes sense to provide a client with a letterhead in Word. But this rarely necessitates any sort of extravagant layout. The header and footer of a design, done in InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop, is placed in the header/footer of the word document. In this case, we are using Word as it is meant to be used – as a word processing tool. All other design is happening outside the program.

All that said – I don’t hate Word. I use it for papers, letters, notes…  I think it is a great tool for writing, and its many templates have went a long way to put design in the hands of non-designers.  I just don’t use it to design.

At the end of the day, what I can provide a client in InDesign or Illustrator will far surpass what I can provide a client in Word – and if you are hiring me, you deserve the best I can deliver.


Why I still love it.

While I definitely appreciate web design, and all the possibilities that come with going digital, I will for now and forever more love print. There is something about a tangible design that I feel is rich and lush – a luxurious experience that a design on screen can’t quite emulate.

Take a wedding invitation, for example.  While e-vite sites are vastly improving with the development of sites like Paperless Post, most brides still opt for rich paper and extravagant printing methods like thermography or letterpress.  It feels special.  It feels expensive.  On-screen-only invites just don’t have the same flare.

At conferences, people still love tangible giveaways.  They pick up business cards, postcards, buttons… What they often don’t do is scan QR codes – and if you put your info on a thumb drive, they can’t see it until they get home.  People like stuff – particularly free stuff. It is yet another experience that we have not found an equivalent for in the digital realm.

According to Karlene Lukovitz at The Association of Magazine Media, printed magazines often fail when attempting to make the transition to digital only (Perception vs. Reality).  I think part of this is that we fail to celebrate each medium for what it is.  The virtual experience strives to get closer and closer to the actual physical experience…  This means that the print experience clearly resonates with the audience.  Why does iBooks implement a page flip function?  People still want books to look like books.

While I think both print and digital have their place, and are both amazing mediums, I feel that print is far from dead.  Long live paper.

layout terms

When you are hiring a designer to work on your ad, flyer, book, etc, it is useful to be aware of some basic printing and layout terms. This will help you communicate easily and clearly, and ensure that you get a better product. Below are some of the common terms that cause confusion for many designers and clients.

Justified Text

Justified text is text that is fully aligned on both sides and spans the whole column.

Flush Left Text

If text is flush left, it means that the text is aligned to the left side, and has a ragged right edge.

Body Copy

Body copy is the main text for the flyer, advertisement, etc. When you are asked to “cut copy” it means that the designer would like you to make the text shorter.

Heading 1

The largest heading or title text on the page. This would be your headline.


The gutter is a term primarily used primarily when working with books that have a spine. The gutter is the center of the book where the two pages meet. Since a book with a spine will not lay flat, you will usually want to leave a larger margin in the gutter to ensure text and images are easy to see and don’t fall into the “gutter.”


Bleed is extending the images, colors, etc slightly past the edge of a design so as to accommodate for shifting when printing. This will ensure that there will be no white edges on your document. A full bleed page has color to the edge.

Crop marks

This is where the printer will cut your document. If you have bleed, it extends beyond these markings.

Safe area

This is a common term when printing with an online printer.  If you see safe area on your template, it means that even if there is a shift when printing, anything within this area should still be safe from being cut off the edge.


Recto is a term for a right hand page.  This is particularly useful when laying out a book where every chapter opener needs to start on the right. A left hand page would be “verso.”

For my designers out there, what other common terms would you recommend your client take note of?