Can you read me?

This week has felt more calm yet more important. It has all been about readability, and how designs can look fancy and aesthetically pleasing, but also clear for the receiver. Remember, we are about people first, designers second.

I began with looking at one example of good design, and one of bad design. For some reason, I found it a little harder finding a bad design in terms of readability, and I think it is because the majority of designs these days are indeed readable. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because this means that designers have caught on with thinking about accessibility, and ensuring we know what we are seeing. Common sense? Very much so.

However, the ‘bad’ design I chose was from Clever Franke, a Dutch design agency focuses on data design and technology. To be honest, the spread was readable and was able to flow well, however the little yellow body text was indeed difficult to read. The tracking was way too big, and the colours were too similar to the content behind the text. That is not to say the spread is bad, or even bad design, it is just that there are opportunities available, and making sure the majority can access the information on the page.

Meanwhile, the ‘good’ design is from a book called "Oh Sh*t What Now" by Craig Oldham. He gives advice to new Graphic Designers and what they can do next. The book has been well thought of in terms of using a simple grid system to ensure all the text is readable, and uses excellent tracking and kerning to ensure each word, letter and character is comfortable for the eye. Titles either use green or pink and can be under the text, however is still clear and uses space well to put the main content first. The only critique is the use of five words per line and I would have preferred about six to eight, but it I guess it helps to get to the point of what Oldham is talking about.

This all led to a workshop based on creating layouts. I made ones that follow the rules, and also ones that break the rules. The ones that follow the rules are ones that I am most comfortable with. Although I want to be more experimental with my designs this academic year, I still want to keep the balance of readability, making sure the receiver can access the work and the design communicates what is going on.

The ‘refined’ follow design does this well. The heading is at the bottom-left of the spread, and intentionally broken into chunks for slower, more thoughtful reading. The paragraphs get longer the further you read, to reflect how domestic violence starts from one ‘blip’ to what is the worst outcome there can be. And even though there is a lot of content, it feels like there is less due to the broken chunks and tracking used. This layout was created in mind of the receiver and how the design communicates the article.

The experimental version goes even further. The headline is at the back at 39% opacity, putting the main content first. There is a varied range of type used, representing all types of emotions when in a domestic relationship. The subheading is at the lower-right as the eyes naturally drop for each word for the heading, making sense to use that space. The leading and tracking is minimal, similar to a chain as the person might feel trapped, isolated and unable to be free. The body text ranges in size, kerning, leading and tracking as it helps with raw emotion and emphasis on things that occurred.

You can view the rest of the mockups that lead to the final ones. This has been an interesting experiment to get myself out of my comfort zone, and see how I can create interesting outcomes whilst still being readable. See you next week!

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