Design Disasters to Avoid

Don't Abuse Fonts, Graphics, and Punctuation

Sometimes we can break the rules, try something different. But for most of us, these simple guidelines will give our desktop documents polish and professionalism. Keep the mark of the beginner out of your desktop publications.

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Too Many Fonts

Use Fewer Fonts
Taming the fonts; Image by Jacci Howard Bear

Tone down the type. Bored by the monotony of typewritten or single typeface documents, we go wild when confronted by the variety of typefaces in layout and graphics software. In most documents, two or three faces are more than enough.
Use Fewer Fonts

If you're bored with your current font collection, maybe you just need a single typeface to freshen it up. Consider some of these:

  • Best Fonts for Desktop Publishing including how to use decorative fonts, best fonts for books, newsletters, wedding invitations, and resumes, and themed fonts for special occasions.
  • Classy Halloween Fonts demonstrates a small selection of fonts that aren't dripping blood, paired with great clip art.
  • Featured Free Fonts in Use shows off the special attributes of a few really nice and sometimes unusual fonts.
  • Blackletter Fonts aren't going to work for body text but they are great for many other applications.

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Type in ALL CAPS

Use ALL CAPS With the Right Fonts
Ugly in ALL CAPS (usually); Image by Jacci Howard Bear

Stop shouting. On-line TYPING IN ALL CAPS is considered shouting and is frowned on in most cases. In print, shouting is never worse than when it is done with decorative or script typefaces. It’s ugly. It’s hard to read. Just don’t do it, PLEASE!
Use ALL CAPS with the Right Fonts

OK, there are a few exceptions. For posters and similar projects there are certain fonts designed to be used in all capitals, Here's a tiny few with examples:

  • Metropolis 1920 has two size of capital letterforms. Use this geometric font for creative newsletter nameplates or posters.
  • Rispa Regular is another font with 2 sets of all capital letters but the lowercase is not just a miniature version of the uppercase. Mix it up for some great text-based graphics.
  • Yesterday's Meal is an example of a comic book style font. It's a soft sort of shouting.

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Overuse of Frames and Boxes

Use Frames and Boxes With a Purpose
Frame It! Carefully.; Image by Jacci Howard Bear

Don’t be framed — again. Frames are wonderful — in moderation. A frame loses its ability to emphasize blocks of text if every other block on the page is boxed.

As long as you promise not to overdo it, I'll point you to all kinds of frames and borders you can add to your collection. Use them appropriately.


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Amateurish Punctuation

Use Proper Typographical Punctuation
Curl Your Quotes; Image by Jacci Howard Bear

Punctuate like a pro. Learn how to create proper typographical punctuation (curly quotes, apostrophes, em-dashes, etc.) and hanging punctuation. Some programs do it automatically.

Speaking of punctuation and similar marks and symbols, are you familiar with all of these?

  • Inverted Exclamation is not really used in English but maybe it should be.
  • Asterisks come in all sorts of shapes. 
  • Nittles are a whole bunch of punctuation marks thrown together in frustration.
  • Common Keyboard Symbols may have more meaning than you thought.
  • Advanced Features in Windows Character Map can help you find punctuation you never knew you needed.

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Excessive Use of Clip Art

Use Less Clip Art
No More Cheesy Clip Art! Image by Jacci Howard Bear

Cut the clip art clutter. Clip art is wonderful, abundant, and fun to use. It can spice up fliers, newsletters, and posters. Yet too many pictures on a page make it hard for the reader to concentrate on what the documents says. Use clip art with moderation and with purpose. Use clip art that supports your text or illustrates a point.

The right piece of clip art or other image can hold its own on the page without a lot of help. Here's some help finding just the right piece.

  • Clip Art offers a feast of original images by Dixie Allan. 
  • Free Clip Art at this site has some of my own creations mixed in there.
  • Cheesy Cartoons is a series I drew in Adobe Illustrator. Perhaps drawing your own clip art is the way to go?

Keep Improving Your Documents

Paying attention to these four areas will greatly improve your projects. Don't stop there. Explore all the tutorials for making your projects the best they can be.