Jelly

Thinking of doing a poster template in Word?

I often get clients asking me if I’d set up a Word poster template for them. The reason they want it in Word is, obviously, to be able to keep creating posters more quickly and cost-effective than by using a designer all every time. That all makes sense.

However, here is the catch: the brief is to make their word-heavy posters have more impact, to ‘stand out from the crowd’ when  pinned on that busy notice board…

So, how do you explain to your client, in as nice a way as possible, that you can’t easily have something that has impact, yet allow anybody to edit and fill the template with too many words, thereby ripping the carefully formatted table apart?

I’ve just had another one of those requests and, having carefully formulated a response email (for what must surely be the hundredth time), thought it worth posting it here for future quick reference. There must be so many other designers out there getting the same request, and having to explain the same argument every time. So, this post is also for you. If you think I’ve missed out a point, do let me know!

This is the email I sent:


 

Dear client

Just a short note to lay out the challenges with Word templates:

  1. To make a text-heavy poster stand out is harder, as there is less space available for graphic elements.
  2. A clean and formatted layout can help make it look clearer and better presented – but will require a strict word count to be adhered to.
  3. Word docs can’t be printed with a bleed, so no colour can go off the edges.

And, depending on design, the options:

  1. The design could simply be about creating a clean layout to help the message look better than at present. This is the simplest option, as it could be done with the help of a table grid in the doc (no visible borders).
  2. For more colour impact, an option would be to have a header/footer/side strip that bleeds off the edges. A base sheet would be pre-printed (lie a letterhead), onto which the Word doc body template then gets overprinted.
  3. Another option is to set it all up as a form pdf with pre-specified text fields. This kind of template allows for tighter design/layout control by fixing font sizes, colours etc. It means everybody will have to work within the strict confines of the template. The point of doing it this way is that the simple word template in point 1 can be ‘broken’ by anybody ie. by adding too much text etc. The pdf can not be altered except for the fields allowed for editing.

The main restriction for any design template will be word count, word count, word count!

For a designer, working with a word doc is a bit like nailing jelly to the wall. All elements can shift about, simply by adding too much text etc

To create a clean and visually strong design designers use all sorts of tricks, but most importantly it is structure and layout. Allowing other users to then edit these structured layouts and add too much text is the biggest challenge with Word doc templates.
If the main point of this design is to make it by visually stronger and stand out more, then editing/cutting down text will be the most challenging part. Only by reducing the amount of text can more colour/graphics be added to the design of the template, and larger, more impactful headlines be used.
But enforcing the discipline of editing text is not easy. Which is why perhaps using the pdf option might be advisable, as it forces the author to edit the text to make it fit the set style, as excess text will simply not show.
In the end, the big challenge is flexibility vs design control. Which is why designers rarely work in Word docs, and prefer the control inDesign offers.

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cguthier

I do design and copy for people and great causes.

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