Principles of business document production and information management: an essay

There are nine main types of business document that may be produced within an organisation. These are Business Letters, Emails, Reports, Lists, Instructions, Newsletters, Minutes of Meetings, Advertisements, and Numerical Information.

Business letters can be either formal or informal documents, and are sent to specific recipients (usually external to a business) as a means of communicating. The format usually includes the name and address of the recipient, the name and address of the sender, a salutation and complimentary close, and paragraphing. (Figure 1 & 2)

Emails are a means of communicating electronically, either within a business or without. The formatting of an email will often include the name and email address of the recipient, the name and email address of the sender, a subject, and a signature. (Figure 3)
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Reports are written statements documenting what has been observed, heard, done, or investigated. The format of a report will often include a title, subheadings, a conclusion, findings, terms of reference, and recommendations. (Figure 7, 8)

Lists are documents with information ordered either numerically or alphabetically. For example, a list of tasks to be completed, or a list of items to be purchased.

Instructions are often similar to lists, but detail steps or rules to be followed. They are often listed either numerically or with bullet points, with short phrases in chronological order.

Newsletters are a means of keeping both employees and the wider public informed of happenings within the business. Their format will usually include columns of text and images. (Figure 6)

Minutes of Meetings are a formal record of a meeting that has taken place. The format of these will include a title, date, location, list of attendees, notice of any apologies, matters arising from previous meetings, order of business, action points, and the details of the next meeting. (Figure 4 & 5)

Advertisements are part of the marketing of a business, and have no set format or style, unless otherwise specified by an organisation’s “house style”

Finally, Numerical Information is data that can be presented in the form of tables, charts, and graphs. For example, records of spending, or details of the number of employees a business has. Content from georgiagoddard on wordpress
In order to produce this wide range of business documents, many different pieces of ICT (Information Communication Technology) and software are required. These can be categorised as Word Processing software, Desktop Publishing software, Database software, Spreadsheet software, Presentation software, and Customised software.

Word Processing software is most suited for creating documents such as reports and business letters. This is because the software will usually only contain simple text-creation and editing features, such as spell-check functionality, and formatting settings for fonts, colours, and text alignment. An example of Word Processing software is Microsoft Word.

For more complicated and word-heavy documents, such as newsletters and advertisements, Desktop Publishing software like Adobe InDesign is most suitable. This software makes it easier to create layouts that are more complicated, and to incorporate imagery. It will often contain considerably more complex functionality than basic word processors and allow a user to, for example, adjust typography and add decorative elements. Content from georgiagoddard on wordpress.
Database software is most equipped to aid in the storage and updating of data such as customer records, whereas Spreadsheet software (such as Microsoft Excel) is better for storing number-based data, such as financial records. This is because most spreadsheet software contains functionality that allows for complicated equations to be completed, whereas Database software is often bespoke and would contain ordering and search functionality.

When a presentation is required, there is no better software to use than programs like Microsoft PowerPoint, which are created specifically for presentations. This type of software contains functionality for slides, custom timings, and other, subtler features that make it easy to create an attractive and functional presentation.

Finally, when a specific function is required that no software created for general use will allow, Customised (or bespoke) software can be created for specific organisational functions, such as payroll or phone directories. Database software, as mentioned above, is often customised.

Once the type of document has been established and the appropriate software selected, it is important to agree the use, content, layout, quality standards, and deadlines of a document, for the reasons outlined below.

The first relates to agreeing the use of a document, which covers factors such as a document’s security, its storage, and its distribution. A document’s usage can be outlined in a business’ protocol and guidelines, particularly in the case of security. Agreeing the use determines who is authorised to see and read the document, where the document can be stored – and for how long – and covers any issue of confidentiality when it comes to data protection issues. It also concerns the distribution – can the document be published online? Are viewers allowed to share the document, and with whom? What licenses apply regarding sharing and “creative commons”? As such, agreeing a document’s use ensures that the document adheres to regulatory requirements in light of GDPR legislation, and guarantees that information is not spread to the wrong people. Content from georgiagoddard on wordpress
The next factor to consider and to agree is the content of the document. Agreeing the content not only makes it clear exactly what the document is to cover and contain, but also clarifies what a document should not contain. If the content of a document is agreed upon and understood, the end result is more likely to meet expectations and serve its intended purpose. Agreeing the content also ensures that the document follows both protocol and regulatory requirements when it comes to information sharing, along with copyright, intellectual property, and data protection legislation. There are also professional standards to consider – for example, some documents must contain slogans, or must not contain poor grammar or expletives. Those standards also tie in with ensuring that the document is appropriate for the intended audience in both its format and its tone.

In order to further ensure that a document is appropriate for its intended audience, factors regarding the layout of the document must be considered. A document’s ease of use can be affected by aspects such as font size, the inclusion of imagery, or subheadings; each will determined by the intended audience, whether the document is for a manager of another department or for the general public. The layout must also be suitable for the type of information contained and its purpose – for instance, a business letter usually provides information externally to an organisation, whereas a report is often created for internal information-sharing. The layout will often also be informed by the house style of an organisation. As an example, a particular font or certain imagery (such as a logo) may be required across all documents created on behalf of an organisation. Content from georgiagoddard on wordpress
Agreeing the quality standards of a document, as with the layout, also influences and is influenced by a document’s intended audience. A quick email notification sent across an organisation’s internal server will likely have far less strict quality standards than a newsletter sent to the stockholders of a business, and agreeing these standards beforehand ensures that the document represents the company in a positive way. Organisations will also often have a “house style”, as mentioned previously, which determines specific layout and formatting elements such as fonts or imagery. These house style guidelines will also affect the quality of the completed document, in addition to ensuring that there is consistency throughout all documents produced on behalf of the organisation. Content from georgiagoddard on wordpress
Finally, it is important to agree the deadline for which a document must be completed. Agreeing this ensures that the document is produced in plenty of time to serve its purpose as, if a deadline is not adequately communicated, the document could end up being rushed and therefore fail to meet professional standards. In the worst-case scenario, the document could be given a low priority due to the lack of a deadline, take too long to be completed, and become outdated or redundant before it has even been completed and distributed – thus failing to meet the needs of its intended audience or purpose.

Document version control and authorisation enables all of the above factors to be monitored and maintained, and makes it easier for a business to adhere to data protection regulations.

Document version control consists of making a copy of a document each time it is edited, instead of overwriting the original, and assigning it a number or name that indicates how up-to-date the information contained within is. Doing so not only ensures that group collaboration on a document is easier, as it helps a different user ensure that they are using the document that is the most correct and up-to-date, but also creates an audit trail that determines who made what change. This audit trail makes accountability for and correction of mistakes easier, as changes can often be tracked to a specific individual, and documents can be reverted to a previous version to void the mistake(s). Content from georgiagoddard on wordpress
Authorisation further minimises the chance of inaccurate information being added or distributed. By limiting the number of individuals who have access to a document, the probability of a mistake is lowered, communication is easier (due to fewer collaborators), and accountability is greater for each authorised individual. Authorisation controls also include the locking of a document while it is being edited, so only the current editor can make changes. This reduces the chance of duplication of effort and ensures that only one version is being updated at a time, reducing confusion. Authorisation is also a vital factor in adhering to data protection regulations, and making sure that personal data is not leaked to those who are not supposed to have the information. By using authorisation controls like password-protection to limit the amount of people who can access a document, an organisation can almost guarantee that sensitive or confidential information does not fall into the wrong hands.

Adhering to those data protection regulations, along with other regulations enforced by Copyright, Intellectual Property, and general security legislation and protocols, can sometimes affect the production of business documents in a significant, often negative way. In these cases, it is much more important for production to be inconvenient than for production to be against regulatory requirements, or even against the law.

The requirements regarding document security often slow down production, due to the extra time that needs to be taken to implement encryption or password-protection. In rarer cases, security regulations can halt production completely, particularly in cases of breaches in security. If a breach happens, the storage location of documents may need to be moved – for example, if a cloud storage site is hacked – and production must be halted in order for damage reduction to take place. The production of documents would cease while the source of the leak is investigated and preventative measures are developed and introduced.

Copyright requirements primarily concern gaining authorisation to use data or property that is owned by other individuals or companies. Copyright not only covers images, but also covers literary works, music/sound recordings, dramatic and artistic works (including film), and “typographical arrangements of published editions” (e.g. magazine layouts and content). Therefore, if a business document contains any of the above that is not created “in-house” and is sourced externally, it must seek permission for use from the owner of the copyright. This will often mean production will be halted while permission is sought and discussed, or delays can happen while alternatives are sought in case permission or license cannot be granted. The above is also true in the case of Intellectual Property, which is an umbrella term that covers copyright, as well as trademarks and patents. Nothing that is considered the Intellectual Property of an individual or company must be used without the permission of its owner, and the owner has final say on how the property is used, edited, stored, and distributed. Additionally, if the property is created for the company by an external designer, that designer still owns the IP. This means production can again be delayed if, for example, an edit needs to be made and the designer is absent or out of contact. Content from georgiagoddard on wordpress
Data Protection regulations tend to slow down production, as business protocols may dictate that authorisation from managers or individuals from other departments needs to be sought in order to use sensitive or personally-identifiable information. This would mean that agreements from multiple parties must be received, and more individuals must be involved in the process – including the owner of the data in question. Thus, production of business documents is slowed while authorisation is sought.

Another branch of Data Protection regulations is the requirement that all stored data must be kept accurate and up-to-date. Not only that, but keeping data used in business documents accurate is vital in order to shed a positive light on an organisation, to avoid the consequences of spreading misinformation, and to make the document seem professional. There are a number of ways to ensure a document is accurate, as outlined below.

The first and fastest method is the use of electronic spelling and grammar checks. While not completely infallible, these systems scan for misspellings and, in some cases, issues of poor grammar or syntax. These allow for a basic proofing of your document, at the very least. Content from georgiagoddard on wordpress

The next most thorough way to ensure the accuracy of your document is to proofread a document yourself, once it is completed. This means reading through the entire document, keeping an eye out for errors that an electronic spellcheck may have missed. For example, while the spellcheck can tell you if you have spelt “they’re” wrong, it won’t always correct you on the form of their/they’re/there to use. So if you have used the wrong “they’re”, theirs not always any indication. As an extra layer of proofing, it’s best to ask an authorised person to proofread your document, too, for an objective viewpoint.

If you are editing or updating a document created previously, sending drafts to the originator of the document is an effective way to check accuracy, in case the original point, purpose, or precision of the document has been distorted through newer amendments.

Finally, if you are using numerical data from a secondary source, repeating your research to confirm the data is important to ensure that the figures included are correct. This extra confirmation also ensures that the figures have not been changed, revised, or updated since the last time they were checked. In a similar vein, if you have any non-numerical information (such as information from a study posted on the Internet), it is important to cross-reference with at least one other objective source that is entirely unrelated to the first, in order to avoid using biased or “fake” information. Particularly in the case of the Internet, figures, statistics, and general information can be distorted or taken out of context in order to fit a particular bias. As such, it is important to make sure that multiple reputable sources have shared the same information with the same context. Content from georgiagoddard on wordpress
Just as a range of regulatory requirements and legislation affects the production of business documents, these regulations also affect how documents are stored and distributed within an organisation.

The first factor that affects the storage and distribution of business documents is security. In the case of storage, security regulations may dictate where hard-copy documents may be stored or archived, such as within areas where only authorised individuals are given access via key-cards or coded locks. The same regulations may also affect which sites or devices that electronic documents are stored or archived on. In addition, they could also affect the naming protocols for identifying stored documents, so that files can only be found with the correct search criteria or code. As for distribution, security protocols often also dictate that electronic files can only be transferred via secure sites – such as password-protected storage sites and emails within a secure network. Often, hard-copy documents must be distributed with secure postal services, such as private couriers or special Post Office services.

Another set of regulations that affect the storage and distribution of business documents is Data Protection legislation, particularly GDPR. According to these regulations, sensitive or personal data must be stored with access restricted to all but those authorised to view it. In addition, data may only be stored for either the duration specified by the owner of the data or the duration agreed at the point of collection, with informed consent. As for the distribution of said documents, confidential documents must only be shared with authorised recipients and, when distributing internationally, international regulatory requirements must be followed. Content from georgiagoddard on wordpress
Copyright legislation, or the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1988, only affects the storage and distribution of business documents if they contain the works of others under the following criteria: artistic, literary, music, sound recording, film, dramatic, or typographical arrangement of published editions. In these cases, the storage of the documents can only be maintained for the duration specified by the copyright owner, if at all, and copyrighted materials must be clearly indicated and declared when distributing a document. An example of this would be the use of a copyrighted image in a newspaper, in which case there is often a caption underneath with both a description and a credit/note identifying the copyright owner. Additionally, the copyright owner has final say on where and to what extent their material can be distributed.

As before, the legislation for Intellectual Property is very similar to that of Copyright, in that documents using another’s Intellectual Property (e.g. trademarks) can only be stored for the time specified by the owner, must be declared when distributing, and deletion of the property must be immediate upon the request of the owner. Content from georgiagoddard on wordpress

In order to distribute business documents, there are two primary channels that can be used; these can be characterised as electronic and hard-copy. Electronic channels – emails, for example – have benefits in that multiple recipients can be specified and delivered to instantly, files can be added as attachments, password-protection features are available, and most email systems require a username and password in order for access to be granted to emails. Additionally, the names and email addresses of recipients can be hidden from the other recipients, using the “Bcc:” functionality – in accordance with GDPR.

Hard-copy or paper channels, on the other hand, are not always as secure and instantaneous, but are the best option in some circumstances. These methods, such as internal pigeonhole systems or Post Office systems, enable an organisation to distribute documents that require manual sign-off. There is no cost for internal distribution systems, and there is a range of Post Office services that offer specific delivery conditions for any type of document (such as courier services or tracked delivery).

Different types of information require different methods of distribution, so it is important to understand the types of information commonly found in business organisations. These types can be broken-down as follows: Customer Records, Financial Records, Staff Records, Correspondence, Statistical Information, Records of service organisations/suppliers, policies, and procedures. Content from georgiagoddard on wordpress
Organisations store a wide range of records relating to customers, staff, finances, and suppliers. These can range from basic anonymous statistical data to sensitive personal data that is regulated by GDPR. Customer records are records of any individual or organisation that has received products or services from the organisation, and would contain personally-identifiable information. Financial records are details of all financial activity by the company, including profits, losses, and budgets. Staff records usually include banking details for wages, details of emergency contacts, and home addresses for tax reasons or other legal requirements, and will be subject to GDPR. Finally, an organisation will often also keep records of any service organisations/suppliers from whom they have received a product or service.

The other types of information – correspondence, statistical information, policies, and procedures – are less likely to fall under data protection regulations, but are still important to retain for the running of an organisation.

Correspondence refers to written communication, such as emails, that has been sent or received either internally or externally to an organisation. These will often be stored for future reference purposes, for example as a reminder of a meeting, or as a paper trail for accountability.

An example of Statistical information would be data from an organisation’s marketing department, where tracking of demographics or engagement on social media takes place. Statistical data can be defined as information that can be collected, organised, and analysed. Content from georgiagoddard on wordpress

Policies refer to guidelines, set either by the government or by the organisation, which act as aids in decision-making and procedures. These can be, for example, health and safety policies, or dress code policies. Procedures are in a similar vein, but can be considered as instructions for how to handle certain situations, in case a policy has been violated. For example, many organisations will have disciplinary procedures that all members of staff are made aware of, in case of a policy or protocol violation.

When so much information is present within an organisation, the safe storage and efficient retrieval of information is crucial if an organisation is to remain lawful and moral. If the method of storage that an organisation uses is secure, breaches and leaks of personal data are unlikely, and the organisation is less likely to be fined or sued for negligence. If strict and universal care is taken in the security of data, the company will find it easier to comply with all current and future Data Protection regulations. Content from georgiagoddard on wordpress
Additionally, processes that ensure the efficient retrieval of information are further key steps that can be taken concerning Data Protection. The current GDPR dictate that data can only be stored for the duration agreed by the data owner, and this data owner can request the retrieval or deletion of said data at any time, and the organisation must comply with immediate effect. If information is easy to locate and retrieve, it is far easier to adhere to these regulations, and continue to avoid monetary reparation.

Processes that ensure the efficient retrieval of information also save time and effort for any authorised employee that requires said data. If information is easy to obtain, the task(s) that require said information can be completed faster, allowing for better productivity.

When it comes to storing and retrieving data, there is a range of systems an organisation can use. In both cases, these can be categorised under electronic and hard-copy systems.

For storage, the electronic systems that can be used include cloud/drive storage (such as Google Drive), USB drive storage, and company networks (shared network drives). In all those examples, there are methods of encryption and/or authorisation controls that can be initiated in order to protect sensitive data, and information can often be duplicated and distributed instantly. Hard-copy storage systems involve on-site and off-site archiving, such as filing in areas that can only be accessed by authorised persons. There may be less options for restricting access via hard-copy than via electronic, but there are also fewer ways a data breach can happen (as information has to be physically stolen or misplaced).

For the retrieval of information, electronic systems often offer convenient and prompt methods – such as file-naming functionality that allows for more effective and accurate search functions. If a business has solid file-naming protocols in place, anyone searching for a specific file will know what search criteria to use. There are also methods of retrieval that may not be faster, but are more secure, such as using passwords and sign-in sign-out features that enforce strict authorisation policies. Hard-copy systems for retrieval, much like hard-copy storage methods, are often slower and more cumbersome to retrieve information from, but using systems such as alphabetical or numerical filing systems make retrieval of specific information easier – as long as you know what you’re looking for. Content from georgiagoddard on wordpress
As mentioned previously, business information (particularly personal or sensitive information) is subject to strict regulations enforced by GDPR and data protection guidelines, and the storage of said information is no different. Data Protection legislation dictates that data should be a) only stored for the duration permitted by the data controller and/or the data’s owner, b) accessible to authorised individuals only, and c) regularly updated to maintain accuracy.

Additionally, there are regulations that apply to the storage of financial information, too. These requirements dictate that, like sensitive data, financial data should only be accessible to authorised personnel. It is also similar to data protection laws in that this data should only be stored for the permitted time – although guidelines regarding these limits are provided. For accounts, the limit is 7 years, and for personnel, the limit is 50 years.

If an organisation understands and adheres to all of the above, they can avoid fines and legal action regarding business document production and information management for the duration of their existence.

 

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The 33 Laws of Typography

Recently, I came across this series of blog posts about the 33 Laws of Typography, written by Alex Devero, while I was looking for this video by Jill Butler, of the same topic, over on LinkedIn’s Learning feature. So, cross-referencing the two, I’ve popped them into my own words, which can be found below:

The 33 Laws of Typography

Formatting a document

1)      Distrust default software settings

Most of the software you will use is not created by designers, and your needs will vary depending on the type of work you’re doing. As a general rule, make sure to at least control the default settings of your software, as “default” simply means what is best for the majority of users. For example, changing RBG to CMYK colour will affect how a document looks both printed and digitally displayed.

2)      Ensure good contrast between text and background

Regardless of the type of document, creating appropriate contrast between text and the background is essential to ensure the text is legible. Additionally, all of us are accustomed to reading black text on a white background, so using light text on a dark background can be somewhat harsh on the old eyeballs. Keep this in mind when designing text, particularly body text. If you are fluent in colour theory, you can use palettes such as analogous, complementary, and compound colours, to create a contrast that’s easy on the eyes.

3)      Avoid chart and page junk

Avoid unnecessary data in charts, graphs, and pages. Too much information at once can overwhelm a user, leading to misunderstandings or misleading connotations. Stick to the information that is relevant and important.

4)      Keep a consistent style with a document

Consistency is crucial in making your design work both in form and functionality. A document with too many different typefaces, for example, becomes overwhelming and distracting, as the user’s eyes have to keep adjusting to different letter forms in order to read what has been written. Stick to a maximum of 2 different fonts – header and body, and a consistent colour scheme with a maximum of 5 well-balanced colours (which will be easier if you’re familiar with colour theory).

5)      Maintain a visual hierarchy

Visual hierarchy simply means placing emphasis on elements of importance. Elements with a higher visual hierarchy (bigger text, bolder font, large images) will draw the eye of the reader first, then as the hierarchy progresses, the eyes are lead through the page. A basic example of this is headers and body text – your headers are usually in large, bold fonts, to announce a new topic; then the eyes are lead downwards to the smaller body text beneath. Remember to keep these separate elements consistent.

6)      Group related page elements together

White space is important for aiding a user in understanding which elements on a page relate to what, and what follows on from where. For example, a page with multiple sections would contain “white space” (which isn’t necessarily white, but is a blank area that provides rest for the eyes) between each, to separate one section from another. Then, within the sections, white space would be used again to separate the headings from the body text – but less white space than that which separates the sections. An effective use of white space could also allow for sections to be grouped together without the need for headings or separate formatting.

Formatting large bodies of text

7)      Set printed body text between 9 and 11 points

When producing typography for print, it is important to remember that print is a static format that, unlike responsive web pages, does not shrink or expand once printed. This is an advantage over digital display, as it allows for set, hard-and-fast guidelines for formatting your text. A good rule of thumb for body text, when printing, is to set it between 9 and 11 points (0.125 – 0.154 inches; 12px – 15px). Staying within this range means your printed text will always be legible.

On the other hand, working with text for the web means less control over how a user sees and reads your text. A 9pt-sized body of text will be experienced differently on a widescreen laptop than on a handheld smartphone. As such, it is best as a general rule to set text at a maximum of 16px, and a minimum of 12px, used sparingly.

8)      Set body text to 2-3 alphabets wide

Line length is another important factor in typography. Bodies of text where the lines are too long can seem long-winded and too wordy, whereas making the lines too narrow can be difficult to follow, and break up the user’s reading flow too much. As such, research suggests that lines of 50-75 characters (including spaces) are optimal. Of course, using your personal judgement and instinct is beneficial in cases of exceptions to this rule.

9)      Favour flush-left, ragged-right body text

Always use left-aligned text and never justification, unless you can justify it as a designer. When used well, justifying text can be effective, but often you will find that the gaps between words become too large, or characters are too close-together to be legible.

When this occurs, the flow of a page is disturbed, and the gaps can distract the user if the fluctuating character spacing becomes conspicuous enough. Additionally, large blocks of justified body text can put a user off, as it can seem overwhelming.

10)  Separate sentences with one space, not two

Using more than one space after a period is a waste of space and completely unnecessary. One is fine, and if you don’t think there’s enough spacing after a period, you should adjust the whole body’s character spacing and/or tracking.

11)  Don’t allow less than seven characters on a line

In typography, an “orphan” is where a single word is left on a line by itself. This should be avoided at all costs, either by adjusting the paragraph’s margins or spacing, or by adding/removing words to give the orphan some company. Don’t leave fewer than 7 characters on a line.

12)  Avoid bad paragraph breaks

In addition to orphans, there is a term for the last lines of a paragraph that has been delegated to a separate page: a “widow”. These widows are another example of bad formatting that a designer should avoid.

13)  Avoid line-breaking hyphens

Don’t let the hyphen be the last character of the line. Doing so interrupts the flow of your text and leaves a user hanging mid-word for longer than is comfortable. Make it less off-putting by bringing the whole word down to the next line.

14)  Signal new paragraphs once, not twice

There are two ways that a new paragraph can be signalled or introduced:

A blank line can be inserted between two paragraphs.

The first line of the new paragraph can be indented.

There is no need to use both, doing so simply wastes space and adds nothing to the readability of the document. Save the planet, signal a paragraph once and only once.

15)  Break up large blocks of text

Long content can easily discourage users from continuing to read past a certain point, or even attempting it at all. Justifying this text, as mentioned in a previous rule, just accentuates the problem, as does a lack of proper punctuation. Giving the eye space to rest at regular intervals using spacing and proper punctuation instead of allowing run-on sentences such as this one to happen reduces the likelihood of a user losing their place while reading or switching off in the middle of a sentence or paragraph and having to read the whole thing again in order to retain what they have just read and I don’t know about you but reading this back kind of makes me hold my breath even though I’m not reading it aloud so that’s not particularly comfortable.

A good rule to follow is to start a new paragraph after about five lines, according to Neil Patel.

Formatting smaller blocks of text

16)  Emphasize 10% or less of text

There is a fine line between too much emphasis, and too little. Too much emphasis can cheapen the effect and lose its impact; too little emphasis might mean some important information is skimmed over.

If you are in doubt, use the 10% rule, and only use emphasis on 10% or less of the text.

17)  Avoid all caps and underlined text

Typing in all caps can be very DISTRACTING TO THE EYE. CAPS interrupt the FLOW of a sentence, whereas studies indicate that reading lower-case type is easier. In addition, avoid underlined text, particularly in web design, as underlined text is usually indicative of and associated with a link.

18)  Set acronyms and initialisms in small caps

To avoid the effects of the above rule, in the case of acronyms and initialisations, set these in “small caps”; for example, NASA, ASAP, FBI. These can be found in Microsoft Word under Format > Font.

19)  Hang punctuation in small chunks of text

In the case of small blocks of text, such as block quotes, punctuation should be “hung off” the aligned edge, to prevent accidental indentation of the text. For example, if the first quotation marks are “hung” off the aligned edge, a flushed left side occurs. To do so in Word, simply bring up the rulers in the document, select the text you want to be hung, then nudge the indentation arrow across to the left.

20)  Hang numbers and bullets in lists

  • The above rule also applies to lists.
  • Luckily, most word processors
    do this automatically.

21)  Avoid bad line breaks

A line break is the place in a paragraph where text breaks off
at the end of one line and continues again on the next. With bad line breaks, the
text alignment on the right-hand side of the body text
becomes too ragged, resulting in disruptions in reading pattern.

22)  Use symbols and special characters as needed

Use √ as many symbols ™ and special characters as required ∞ – just make sure they’re HTML-compatible if designing for websites, so users can see them correctly regardless of which browser they’re using.

23)  Use proportional old-style figures in body text

There are several text figures you can use in your designs, which change the lining of numbers within your text. These are: tabular lining, proportional old-style, proportional lining, and tabular old-style. The “lining” figures are of uniform height and alignment, whereas “old-style” figures have varying heights both above and below, and can add some extra interest to the body-text in your document.

The terms “proportional” and “tabular” refer to the spacing between the figures. In a proportional font, the space allotted for a number is proportional to its width – for example, the number 1 (sans serif) is narrower than the number 2, so in a proportional style its serif would be shorter, if they exist at all, and a 12 would be narrower than a 23. In a tabular style, every figure has the same amount of spacing, and so this style is better-suited for situations where vertical alignment is required; for example, in tables.

24)  Adjust leading and kerning for large text

Large text will often require extra effort regarding its leading, kerning, and tracking – some fonts that are spaced proportionally can seem messy or difficult to read if scaled upwards. On the other hand, tabular fonts can make the characters seem too far apart. Another example would be in the case of titles and subtitles – depending on how close the two need to be, it might be better to select a “lining” style, as opposed to an “old-style” font.

25)  Verify software alignments optically

Software isn’t perfect when it comes to typography and, as rule 1) suggested, don’t trust the defaults. If a font seems off to you, fix it – you are the designer, trust your judgement.

Using punctuation

26)  Connect thoughts using em dashes

There are three types of “dash” to use in different situations. The “em” dash, named as such because it is the width of the letter ‘M’, is used in a similar way to commas – to “connect thoughts”. They can also be used to replace parenthesis ‘( )’, and are best used in more informal contexts. Used well, they can add a dramatic flair to a body of text, due to their sudden and attention-drawing effects.

27)  Show ranges using en dashes

“En” dashes, once again named for the letter ‘N’ with which it shares width, are used for dealing with numbers; in particular, ranges of numbers, dates, or time. There should not be any spaces beside the “en” dash. Abiding by this rule will make your typography work 99.9-100% better.

28)  Clarify and improve readability using hyphens

Hyphens are the shortest of the three types of dash, and are used for word division and compound terms. Like with the “en” dash, there should be no spacing either side of the hyphen.

Using hyphens is a sure-fire way to show the relationship between 2+ words in a compound phrase, and improve the flow of your sentences.

29)  Designate feet and inches with prime symbols

Save space and time by marking units of measurement with symbols, not characters. For example, 3 inches (or 3in) is better marked with a “double quote”, whereas 3 feet (or 3ft) is best marked with a ‘singular quote’. To remember which symbol is used for feet/inches, think of the syllables – one syllable for one quote (3’), two syllables for two quotes (3”).

30)  Replace missing characters with apostrophes

Don’t use apostrophes for plural words. Apostrophes should only be used if there is a letter missing, and using apostrophes for plural words immediately lowers the professionalism of your document. There is no need for apostrophes in any of these words – unless they are a noun’s possession.

Choosing typefaces

31)  Limit typefaces to two per project

As mentioned previously, keep the number of different typefaces in your document to two – one for headings, one for body text. If you need any further formatting to further separate text (for example, for captions or headers/footers), remember that typefaces can be made to look rather different by formatting their size, weight, and style.

32)  Use typefaces that reinforce a document’s mood

Generally-speaking, serif fonts are used for formal documents, and sans-serif fonts are used for more informal contexts. Typefaces can be further categorised into decorative, handwritten, slab, script, and blackletter. Each style comes with its own connotations, and will affect the mood of the document in a big way – especially if used incorrectly. For example, a wedding invitation will often use a script font to formally invite guests, whereas a quirky shop selling handmade gifts might use decorative fonts to advertise their kooky crafts.

Regardless of the mood of the design, never use fonts like Comic Sans, Papyrus, Jokerman, or Curlz. These fonts have a poor reputation, and use of them screams unprofessional amateurism (plus, some of them are rather illegible) – and even if that’s what you’re going for, don’t use them!

33)  Choose serif or sans-serif, based on aesthetics

While the general rule (see rule 32) is that serif and sans-serif can be separated by formality, there may be some cases where an informal design calls for a serif font, and vice versa regarding formal designs. It is good practice to pair serif and sans-serif fonts, using one for a header, and the other for body text. Use your own judgement as a designer.

Any questions or comments? Leave me some feedback!

Georgia Goddard is a Graphic Designer and Illustrator based in Ipswich, UK, specialising in colourful fantasy illustration and portraiture. Click here for examples of her work.

Gallery

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Sketches and linework [NSFW IMAGES]

Sketches and Linework

Sketches and linework are my most basic commissions. Sketches can be in either pencil, biro pen, or a digital sketch – and full linework can be either digital or traditional in pigment pen or ink. (Please bear in mind digital work will always give a smoother result.) All traditionally-created pieces are scanned and touched-up in Photoshop.

Sketches range from £5 for a quick portrait sketch with minimal shading, to £15 for full body, complex images. Lineart ranges between £5 and £20 depending on complexity and medium. Please be aware there will be extra charges for intricate details such as tattoos, extra characters, and complex details like mech or armour.

Coloured sketches are also available – these are pieces with sketchy linework, but with colour added to make the piece smoother and more polished. Adding colour has a fee of £15 on top of the prices set above. Examples can be found below:

Inkwork

Inkwork

For my ink illustrations, I simply use fountain pen ink and water. This sometimes gives part of the images a purple tint. Images are then scanned and touched-up in Photoshop to remove dust and lighten the background.

Ink illustrations range from £15 for a simple portrait, to £30 for a full painting with intricate details.

Flat Designs & Illustration

Flat Designs & Illustration

Flat-colours are literally that – smooth-lined images with little-to-no shading, focusing on quickly fleshing-out the subject itself without getting caught up in shading/lighting. Great for character concepts, print & shirt designs, and icons/mascots.

My illustration commissions are flat-work images with subtle “soft” shading – see below:

ringmaster

Starting at £10 for a low-complexity, 1- to 2- colour scheme image (such as Stitch and my Inkubus mascot above), to £30 for a soft-shaded, full-body & colour image. In addition to the base prices, it’s an extra 50% for each additional character/pose, complex background, and intricate markings/tattoos.

Rendered paintings

Rendered Paintings

“Rendered paintings” are paintings with a focus on a smooth, semi-realistic finish. Multiple textures and custom brushes are applied to add dynamic effect, and details are worked-into for maximum definition.

A further stylised style is also available, as in the piece below:

wip
Images can be further stylised by adding outlines. This style works well when seeking a “game art” aesthetic.

Rendered paintings start at £50 for 4 hours (which is the usual amount of time taken for a headshot with a somewhat simple background), and £8 is then added per extra hour. (E.g. busts add an extra hour, etc) Expect higher end prices for: complex backgrounds, full-body images, intricate details such as tattoos and markings, and fur.

Speedpaints

Speedpaints, simple background

A speedpaint is where details are mapped-out, but remain somewhat rough and not fully rendered, a cross-hatched custom brush is used to add interesting texture to less refined areas. Areas of non-importance are left rough.

For further stylisation, please feel free to refer to a particular piece from my Gallery, to provide a reference on the technique I will be required to use.

Speedpaints start at £30 for a portrait, £45 for a half-body, then up to £70 for a full-body, depending on complexity. Add £10 for: each extra character, complex backgrounds, intricate details such as tattoos (think tribal patterns, Dalish vallaslin, detailed tattoos/markings), fur, extra stylisation.