Jill Bell’s Simple Design Tips

1. Organize your material into levels of importance. Make sure the information is logical, clear and assessable.

2. Edit. Eliminate everything that is fluff. Make sure you have the journalistic essentials of five W’s and one H: who, what, where, when, why and how (if appropriate).

3. Choose your typefaces. Decide what typefaces reflect the subject matter the best. Consider who your reader/audience is. Decide what will be used as headlines, sub-heads, and the body copy. Check to see if there are any special characters you need in your font.

4. It’s much easier to mix a serif font and a sans serif font than it is to mix two serif fonts or two sans serif fonts. Simplest method for a good, cohesive look: choose an extended font family with italics and different weights and stay with it.

5. Serif fonts are generally better for text, sans serif for headings and titles. Serif fonts tend to be more readable, sans serif more legible (why they are also used more in signs).

6. Keep line length short for improved readability. Flush left makes the type look and read better if the design allows. 10-12 point type is generally the easiest, quickest read.

7. Don’t use all caps for text. It’s just not very readable and you’ll loose your audience.

8. Use pictures or graphics. The adages say it all: “A picture is worth a thousand words” and “variety is the spice of life”.

9. Less is more. Don’t get carried away and try to put everything in. One picture may be better than five. White space is good and adds clarity and sophistication.

10. For print: your text and logo will probably look better smaller than you think it should be.

11. For online: your text will probably look better bigger than you think it should be. Separate out long pages of text onto their own page or create a PDF: your average internet surfer doesn’t want to wade through a lot of text, and those who do want to read articles want to be able to print the text out with one printing command.

12. Jill’s surefire rule of 3: Limit yourself to three colors (background counts as one), three typefaces (two should be in the same font family), and three sizes of type. One color, typeface and size of type should occupy 2/3 of the piece, the second element 2/3 of the remaining third, and the remaining 1/9th should be the accent color, the headline type and size (or footnote size and type).

13. Jill’s primary colors: black, white and red.

14. Proofread. Proofread again. Have someone else proofread it. Proofread it again.

15. Break all the rules.

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