Visual Design Elements in Corporate writing: Lecture by Dr. Glen Thomas.
Readers access texts via form (such as a book or a brochure) and their design. The design gives visual
clues about the organization of the text, due to the hypothesis of familiarity (That is, if you’re
familiar with a form, they can access the content). Form and content should work together, or else
you risk confusing the reader.
Back in the old days when things were set in type, one would have to set up and fold the pages so
the pages would fall into alignment.
There’s a continuum of strategies to inform the reader, from textual cues (A novel) to visual (A
painting) and everything in between (A comic book, for example).
Design can change a message, either reinforcing or muting.
The reader actively interprets what they see, based on their previous experiences with similar
documents, based on their expectations and their backgrounds (A cultural thing: For example,
Japanese novels are printed back-to-front for western audiences. Other things that affect reader’s
interpretations include their understanding of the author and the author’s intent, their
interest/involvement and their own personal preferences.
The concepts of legibility and design preferences are cultural learnings, and sub-culturally
developed. With the aid of technology, we can experiment with design. People used to have to
design new typefaces, and the oldest typeface is probably Courier (Which is the standard for
screenwriting). Prior experience with formats, typographic colour conventions, charts and graphs are
important to readers, as well as iconic representations.
Readers like the familiar, so they respond best to the styles they are most familiar with. Part of the
skill with design is to catch the reader’s eye while presenting the message in a way that’s easily
In design, there are two major principles: Balance (which generally means the amount of text VS
white space. A big hint is to double-space everything.) and proportion (How the letters look. Stick
with fonts like Times New Roman or Arial). Other parts include Sequence (Everything should stand
alone and have a logical sequence), emphasis (what do we emphasize, and how) and legibility.
Readability is how easy the words are to read and understand, and is a text issue. Legibility is how
visible and readable the letters are. Legibility is influenced by typeface, type-size, leading(Back in the
days of lead type, each letter was made out of lead, and to separate them, you would need about a
bar of lead to get a space between lines. When you see stuff on the copyright page, you see the
type-size first and then the leading), kerning (The amount of space between letters, you need a
balance between over-kerning and under-kerning.), the amount of white space, the use of capitals &
variation in text. Line length (Keep it, as a general rule, to 60-70 characters per line) and the colour.
There’s quite a lot of argument about serif fonts (The ones w