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  • Leon de Stadler

Remember: the text is also a graphic

So often when we talk about document design, we discuss the interaction between text and graphics as if these two elements are different aspects of the document. But in that distinction lies one of the pitfalls of document design: Not understanding that the text is also a graphical element, that we do not simply read the text, but that we also see the text as a picture. Even though you as the reader cannot really read all of the following example, you can still see the text (this example is part of a public notice published in a daily newspaper in South Africa a few years ago).

And as a graphic it is also communicating with you. Although I cannot know for sure what your impressions might be, I have tested this and other comparable examples with a large number of readers over the years. The (typo)graphical design of the text may convey messages like the following:

  • This is a formal text

  • The text has a burocratic source and therefore it might be less interesting to read

  • The text creates the impression of being difficult to read

  • The lines are long and justified, creating a rather gray and impenetrable look and feel

  • The text does not invite you to read - this might be one that you would want to skip

Compare this to an example to be found on the web. It was posted by Adobe Indesign, and I gladly acknowledge their ownership of this example, with the compliment that it shows what the possibilities are. And again you can hardly read the text, but you do "see" the document as a graphic.

By using different (typo)graphical mechanisms, the designer tries (and might just succeed, I think!) to create a more inviting document, one that quite possibly conveys messages such as:

  • This is a readable document, with text and graphics working together and the text not filling the whole page

  • The text seems to have a creative source and therefore it might be more interesting to read

  • It might not be too difficult to read

  • The text has an inviting look and feel

When considering the final design of your document - especially when it is intended for a broader public market - keep in mind that the text is also a graphic!

Want to know more about effective communication design? Contact me via my website or e-mail:


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