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Five steps to printing better documents

Marco Tabini, Macworld.com | April 12, 2011
Designing and printing documents can be complex, but there are plenty of resources that can help you achieve better results even if you're not a designer. Here are five ideas to get you started.

Creating a beautiful document means bringing together many different elements representing a large volume of choices; in a way, the physical act of putting ink to paper, while obviously essential to the end result, is only a small step in an otherwise complex process that involves a lot of decisions.

Regardless of the type of document you’re creating, however, there are a few easy-to-follow principles that can help you achieve the best result.

 

1. Picking the right style

The act of laying out a document should always take place independently of preparing its content. This way, you can focus on what you want to say first, and then decide how it will look.

While there are no hard-and-fast rules here, the most important thing to do is to keep in mind the audience you’re trying to reach: a formal document is unlikely to be a good way to attract guests to your birthday bash, and a fun-filled pamphlet with a playful look will probably not go over well at a medical symposium.

Your word-processing software is probably a good starting point for pulling together ideas. While technically not a proper design environment, many of these programs are accessible and come with plenty of document templates to help you get started on ideas for everything from brochures to reports. You can also find additional templates online—Microsoft, for example, provides an extensive collection through its support Website for Office.

If you have some time and an inclination to read, you will find no shortage of books and Websites offering ideas on creating all sorts of documents. A simple search on Google or Amazon will bring up a virtually unlimited supply of concepts you can draw from.

 

2. Understanding fonts

When picking a body font for your document, you should try to capture the message that your text conveys. A serif font will usually (although not always) provide better readability on paper than a sans-serif font will, for example. By the same token, a “script” font like Comic Sans will generally produce poor output—as a friend of mine loves to say, if you want your document to look like it has been handwritten, then write it by hand.

The biggest problem you’re going to have in finding a font, however, is that there are simply far too many to choose from. In my experience, it’s usually best to be conservative and look for a font that is easy to read, starting with those available by default on your Mac and then broadening your horizons with a bit of research on the Web.

 

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