A disclaimer:  I do not have a background in design or art direction.  However, after being in technical communication for more than 20 years – including productive sidetracks in web design work, multimedia production and e-learning development – I would like to think I have a pretty good idea on good, effective page layout.  It’s kind of like the definition of pornography handed down by U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justic Potter Stewart:  I know it when I see it.

What I never truly considered is that typography makes up 95 percent of graphic design.  Those of us who make our livings based on words and pictures on a page (regardless of the medium) need to consider that every time we start a new publication. 

I’ve contracted in shops where document eyestrain was the norm, but no one seemed to care about making the design easier to read.  And the excuse is always the same:  “Our people are used to seeing it like that.”  My questions:  “When’s the last time you did usability testing?  When’s the last time you went to your users and asked what they’d like to see?  When was the last time you prototyped a new design and tested it on your audience?” 

At the same time, I’ve worked with clients who have good typography and design standards, whose templates are a breeze to learn and use, whose outputs (print, web, interactive) are crisp and professional-grade. 

I’ve heard that content is king, and that design is king.  But typography trumps them both. 

And we should know it when we see it.

(h/t:  @Creativesuite)

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