Thursday, April 23, 2015

Digital Design Theory: Design and Layout Matter

Ann Arbor is one of the “book capitals” of the world.  My favorite boss, John Lazaars, Typographic Insight, used to brag that there were more printing presses in Ann Arbor than in Heidelberg, Germany. The senior staff at the Computer Mamas grew up in the publishing industry. Jeanette was a proof reader for Edwards Brothers and I was one of the highest paid key liners.

Typographic Insight had dozens of typesetters who entered manuscripts into the system. The typesetting machines handled most business Fonts and sizes: Arial, Franklin Gothic, Helvetic, and Palatino. Specialized fonts were inked by hand and enlarged in the dark room.  

Rolls of Type:  A key liner was responsible for creating the actual books.  The type setting came out of the machines as long rolls of type. One roll would stretch across the office floor if you knocked it off the drawing board.  The key liner cut and pasted the type, chapter headings and graphics together into pages. These pages were actual size, ‘camera ready ‘for printing.

Printed Books:  There is a purpose to the layout and design of good books.  The font sizes and page layout are visual landmarks.

All chapters begin on the right page, not the left. The first page of the chapter is embellished, so it is easy to recognize and find again. It has been this way for over 500 years: This is our common history and experience that we have all shared.

Scrolls Online:  The early days of the Internet were interesting. Many people who had little or no publication experience were creating web sites.

I remember reading corporate web pages that seemed to scroll down through 20 feet of type. Sometime around the turn of the century people realized that the computer monitor, laptop, or iPad is horizontal, not vertical. Today’s webpages keep important navigation elements and headlines at the top of the screen.

Designed for Print:  Most books are still designed for print; portrait (the classic print layout), not landscape (the current digital layout). The eBooks, whether Adobe PDF or some online Reader, print out beautifully.

Reading an eBooks designed in portrait is a tedious task: scroll down, scroll right, scroll to the top of the next page. Repeat: scroll down, scroll right, scroll to the top of the next page. Repeat 3,146 times for the number of pages in the Microsoft Office Specialist certification books.

Design for the Device:  Our Computer Mama books fit on the screen. The ratio of height to width mirrors the current devices. There is no need to scroll left or right, up or down.

Our Users say they are easy to read. Imagine that: happy users!

“I have enjoyed updating my skills in general office procedures and learning new skills in Excel, Power Point, Word, and Outlook. I recognize the time and effort which was put into the text books for the MS 2010 software programs.

“The books are user-friendly and I liked the idea of adding a personal touch to the lessons by using pleasant pictures, words of encouragement, and extra information about an activity.

“I've had a very good experience and would consider taking more online classes in the future.

- T.L., Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Emmitt Kelly Jr., Artist at Work,  from the Precious Moments Collection of Marni Frank

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