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7 Tips for Amateur Type Designers

You, a type designer?

Of course you are.

You are if you make presentations in PowerPoint or Keynote, or if you have a resume, or create signs or brochures or ebooks or even a blog.

And sadly, it seems that the bar is low and most people have trouble reaching it!

So, at the risk of the one-eyed giving driving directions, here are seven tips. There’s a  PDF of the tips below (illustrated) right here. Feel free to share.(My goal isn’t to teach you the answer, it’s to get you worried about asking the question!)

At the risk of offending actual (talented) designers, here’s my quick list of seven (mostly for print… the web is a slightly different story):

  1. If you want professional results, hire a professional.
  2. Don’t use the built-in fonts that come with your PC. (Type is cheap. Invest.)
  3. Headlines in sans serif. Body in serif. (Easy tip—headlines are bold and condensed.)
  4. Black type/Light background. Don’t screw around unless you have some sort of design point to make. (Goth bands, it’s all yours).
  5. Headlines look great reversed. With two caveats: 1. don’t overdo it. 2. make sure you leave plenty of black around the border.
  6. TYPE SIZE! Too big is good. Too small is good.Just right might be a problem.
  7. Line spacing! Use less or more than the automatic. 14 point type probably deserves 15 or 16 point spacing.

Feel free to add your own tips or check out some books I’ve highlighted here.

Books worth your time

Rob Walker’s (great!) new book on the overlooked triggers of marketing ships this week.

Clay Shirky’s book on social media is a classic for the ages.

N. Kelby’s funny mystery ships this week as well.

Tom Vanderbilt’s book on traffic is out next month.

On a regular basis I see books that are rehashes of six books that came before (with the same anecdotes even!), or else are so focused on appealing to everyone (and offending no one) that they don’t actually say anything. I want a book to change me in some way. Show me a different way to think and you’ve earned my attention.

You can get all four of these for less than the cost of dinner in a restaurant!

Should you fire the voice mail guy?

Let’s say the person in charge of your retail operations does the following every single day:

  • Puts up a sign indicating which of five doors customers should use.
  • Locks that door.
  • Randomly unlocks another door.
  • When someone figures out which door to use, he runs out and kicks them in the groin, then locks the door.

Maybe, just maybe, after a day or two of this, and a few warnings, you’d realize that this person was doing serious damage to your organization, no?

I called a company yesterday, one that promises 24 hour a day response. I worked my way through four levels of voice mail choices, then got a recording, "Please call back during our regular business hours." Then it hung up. No mention of when regular business hours were, and no indication four levels back that they were closed but automated help was available.

And I’m guessing the voice mail system has been doing this every single day for months or years. Who is in charge of this? Why do they still work there? If the person in charge were stealing laptops or peeing in the soup, it’s unlikely he’d still be around, no?

It’s pretty obvious: the CEO would notice the angry crowds in front of the store, she’d notice the police being called and the riot out front if the person in charge of the front doors was such a jester. But voice mail trees are invisible and the CEO doesn’t notice them. She should. You have my permission to call your company and see what happens. If you’re not proud of it, let the CEO know. If this isn’t your biggest marketing emergency, I’m not sure what is. Invisible doesn’t mean unimportant.