Design for Non-Designers

Anne C. Miles > Writing > Design for Non-Designers

I had a lovely conversation with an author friend. She asked me about her cover. I am a graphic designer and have been a graphic designer for 20 years. I have my degree in visual communications. I work in the field daily. It’s my thing. I mostly do website design and logo design but I have been known to design children’s books and print collateral. I have done a lot of business cards. LOL. Anyhow. you get the idea.

There are some basic rules designers know.

These are very basic. They have to do with readability.

1. Don’t center your body copy. That’s the long narrative text used in a blurb. Also, it is the meat of the story or article. Do not center the text.
2. Don’t use all-capital letters on your body copy. Small caps are not lowercase. Body copy needs lowercase elements.
3. Use contrast with typefaces. Your title font should be different than the other fonts. VERY DIFFERENT. The contrast has to be big. A serif with a sans-serif. A thick font with a thin one (not too thin if the type is reversed or it is hard to print) Sans serif works best on a dark background. You can break this rule, but make the fonts larger.

For more info, buy this book and read it. I think everyone should read it. It’s a great book.

With my own design, I am frequently someone who goes TOO ORNATE or TOO BUSY and then scales the busy back. It’s my weakness in design. I know I do this. But that’s me being me. I tend to be much more conservative when designing for others.

Centered text is for wedding invitations. Don’t do it!

And this is more of a pet peeve? But don’t use the word verbiage. Verbage is literally verbal garbage. Verbiage means “wordiness.” It has come to have an alternate meaning because so many people use it wrongly. There are just better words for wording. The word for wording, especially in marketing and advertising? That word is copy. Body copy. If you say verbiage I will know what you mean, but you will lose points with me. It’s like fingernails across a blackboard. It’s like pairing Helvetica with Arial. Just. Stop.

You don’t have to listen to me. But if you want to know? There it is. I can make a sandwich, but I am not Gordon Ramsay. You can design a thing. Anyone can. But if you want to do it professionally? There are rules.


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