This article will provide a variety of easy and down-to-earth typesetting and layout tips that can make your marketing pieces shine-attracting interest more effectively and motivating your prospects to action. I've accumulated these tips through my own long learning process and through extensive reading and research into advertising.
When I recently shared a draft of this article with the marketing coordinator of a large company in the window fashions industry, she laughed and admitted she made every one of the mistakes I discuss in her first week on the job! Here's my personal advice to you:
• Avoid too many typefaces. Limit the number of typefaces (also known as fonts) in a single marketing piece to two or three at most. Because we pay a lot of money for the dozens-even hundreds-of wonderful type styles that come with the desktop publishing software on our computers, it's natural that we want to use them all, all the time. Don't! Instead, choose one to three type styles, then take advantage of bold, italic and bold italic versions to provide typographical interest in your piece.
• Use serif fonts for body copy. There are two types of fonts in the world, classified by the presence or absence of ornamentation (or serifs) on the letters. One is called serif; the other sans serif. Because we learn to read using serif type styles and our eyes use the shape of the ornaments to quickly identify letter shapes, it is faster, easier and more inviting to read large amounts of copy when typeset in a serif style.
If you take a close look, you'll find that most books, magazines and newspapers use serif, or ornamented, type for all their body copy (long columns of text). For small doses of copy, like headlines and subheads, it's OK-and often preferable-to use sans serif type (like Helvetica) to add boldness and accent.
• Be consistent on word usage and spelling. Take the time to devise a one-page, informal style sheet in which you keep track of the way you spell, capitalize and abbreviate certain terms so you can make sure to be consistent in all your marketing materials. For example, the spelling of a word-is it mini-blind, mini blind or miniblind? Or how to express a telephone number-is it 1-800-123-4567, or (800) 123-4567? Or how to capitalize a word-is it Pleated Shade or pleated shade?
• Beware of borders. Except for advertisements (which need a strong border to separate them from the rest of a publication's text), most marketing pieces-including brochures, direct mail and flyers-don't need borders around their perimeters. Borders take up space that can be used for the real message.
The edge of the paper-or the folds of the piece-form the border of your message. Save the use of borders to enclose and highlight a particularly important piece of information, possibly the action step you want your prospect to take, a special bonus offer or a deadline date.
• Emphasize one focal point and avoid clutter. Make one element on each page the focal point, and select it as the information you most want to emphasize. One dominant item on a page helps your customers' eyes find a place to settle and start reading.
If everything on your page is the same size, value or texture or if your page is cluttered with a variety of unrelated pieces of information, your readers' eyes will dance around the page instead of finding a place to start reading and understanding the message.
• Don't be afraid of white space. Most new desktop publishers feel uncomfortable with any space left blank on a marketing piece they create. Especially when you've paid top dollar to place an advertisement in a publication, the temptation is to fill up the expensive space you've paid dearly for. Don't!
Take a look at effective marketing messages around you. Most have large unused areas of space which, in fact, scream for your attention and draw interest to the areas that do include type or graphics. Becoming comfortable with white space also can help you avoid clutter and emphasize a single focal point.
• Use one space after a sentence, not two. When we learned to type, we were taught to use two spaces after a sentence as a hard and fast typing rule. However, typesetting is a different discipline. In typesetting, one space after a sentence is the convention. This smaller space between words helps create a smoother flow between sentences and allows more type to fit in a limited space.
Look around at the marketing materials you see-including this magazine. You'll see that real typesetting always places just one space after a period, semi-colon or colon.
• Use multiple entry points to entice your reader. When you create a marketing piece with quite a lot of copy like a newsletter, brochure or long advertisement, giving readers several ways to get involved in the message can help increase response.
Multiple entry points give prospects more opportunities to get involved, then continue reading even when their interest wanes along the way. Here are a few examples:
• Subheads that announce major topics.
• Sidebars that introduce new ideas in a different format.
• Charts that repeat information in a bold, easy-to-understand look.
• Pull quotes that attract interest with large repetitions of a small piece of copy.
• Drop caps (large letters at the beginning of sections or paragraphs).
• Use correct typesetting symbols. Take the time to learn the subtleties of your software and how to access the correct symbols and punctuation marks. You might have to consult the reference guide for your software to find them! For example:
• Use real quotation marks (" and "), not straight quotes (" and ").
• Use real apostrophes, not the straight ones.
• Use the real symbols for ®, [TM] and ©.
• Use real bullet points (•) not open circles that you fill in.
• Avoid gimmicky font styles. Type styles that especially shout out beginner status and appear unprofessional on marketing materials are shadows and outlines. Instead, use black, bold, italics or all uppercase letters for emphasis.
Italics and script type styles often are difficult to read and should be used sparingly-for emphasis, to highlight key words or to add flair to an elegant invitation or announcement. Heavily ornamented and stylized typefaces also are difficult to read-use them sparingly for a special distinction.
• Practice by copying. If you're new to desktop publishing, you can learn to use your software and develop your skills by selecting an advertisement, flyer, brochure or mail piece you like and trying to recreate it. This will give you valuable practice with the many tools available in your desktop publishing program and fine tune your layout skills.
• Read desktop publishing magazines. Many software companies publish magazines and mail them free to registered owners of their software. Other desktop publishing magazines can be subscribed to or purchased at the newsstand. Both types of publications provide excellent tips and how-to articles.
Study the layout makeovers they publish to get ideas for improving your own pieces, and review the marketing materials that win their design contests to get a feel for some of the best work around.
If you're currently making any of the mistakes I've discussed in this article I hope you haven't been offended. At one time I, too, committed many of these errors. My purpose is not to ridicule, but rather to help you improve your skills so you can create marketing pieces that are successful at attracting and soliciting action from your prospects. Good luck!
Kay Pegram is founder of Kaymar Communications, a Playa del Ray, CA-based independent marketing services firm for companies in window fashions and other industries. Pegram's previous window coverings industry experience includes serving eight years at LouverDrape and as director of marketing for the Tempo companies.