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.

Richard Reed: how to turn your passion into a career

Want to start your own business?  Founder of Innocent Drinks Richard Reed explains how it pays to be prepared when starting out a new venture.

Start working on your plan

“Turning what you love into a career can be a series of small steps, not a massive leap into the unknown. While you’ve still got your regular job, spend some of your evenings, as well as time on the weekends working on your plan. It’s a bit like being a student – you’ve got to revise and prepare.”

Learn how to make the most of your spare time

“A fair amount of time passed from the day me, Adam and John (Innocent co-founders) came up with our idea, to when we actually handed in our notice. We used our spare time to work on our business plan, and make samples to sell at market stalls. We researched the shops we thought would be interested in our product, and tried and tested as much as we could to give us confidence.”

It helps to be cheeky

“Did I always want to come home from a hard day’s work and launch myself into my plan? Of course not. There were three ways I approached it. Sometimes I just had to get on with it. Sometimes I did decide to watch TV – I’m only human. But did I sometimes work on my own stuff during my regular job, when my boss wasn’t looking? You bet.

“You have to keep within the spirit of things, and certainly never be immoral, but it helps to start thinking creatively about how to get things done.”

Keep your home out of the equation

“I would strongly advise to any aspiring entrepreneurs, who are also homeowners: don’t gamble your home. Start squirrelling away as much savings as possible so you’re not at risk of losing your home in the process. And on that note, I would advise against using your home as the guarantee for the debt to start a business, it’s too risky.”

Enjoy the benefits of doing what you love for a living

“Doing what you love provides a better quality of life, helps you take control, and attracts like-minded people.

“I’m not for one second guaranteeing that setting up your own business will go smoothly, or that you should approach a career change without a clear direction. However, with proper planning the upsides of giving it a go are infinite – you gain all that learning and experience.”

 

 

 


First published in Travelers Companies

If you want to hitchhike across the universe…

Over 100 linguists are currently beavering away at Babbel HQ to develop the best language-learning app ever. Over one million active subscribers are already convinced. So who are these people and what are they doing so right?

 

If you are interested in languages, this article in Babbel Magazine is worth a read!

Are you sabotaging your own projects?

Seth Godin: Quieting the Lizard Brain from 99% on Vimeo.

You get a really good idea. That’s the first step. But we all get good ideas — how do we turn them into reality? That’s where Shipping comes in. That’s what Seth Godin calls it: getting it out the door. But, he says, our Lizard Brains conspire to keep us from shipping. Watch the whole drama from a 99 Percent conference held by Behance.

Don’t be a pigeon

A brilliant article written by Harold Jarche

Let’s say you are a consultant and have just received a call to do some urgent work. Feel free to replace the term consultant with freelancer, programmer, designer, advisor, or anything else. This post is for people who work for themselves and sell some type of intangible good, whether it be code, advice, reports, strategy, etc. Anyway, you got THE call. Now go ahead and do a little dance to celebrate.

Shortly after you say that you are available, you are asked about your hourly rate. If you say it’s $25, you’re wrong. If you say it’s $250, you are still wrong. Agreeing to work an hour for a given rate plays into the industrial trap, promoted by Catbert’s in HR departments everywhere. Many of today’s HR policies are still based on the Principles of Scientific Management developed in 1911, the dawn of the industrial age. These principles were built on F.W. Taylor’s flawed assumptions on how men shoveled iron and coal. And so began some of the modern myths of the management of ‘labour’.

Time and motion studies, such as those done by Taylor and others, were based on the assumption that certain types of work were of equal value. Labour, as defined by Taylorists, is replaceable. It’s all about standardized work and standardized recompense. But talent is unique. Talented people who set hourly rates give up their uniqueness.

A few years ago I was offered some research work that the client had calculated would take one week at $40 per hour. The total amount was not that attractive to me but I looked at the scope of work anyway. Much of the research was work that I had already done, with my ongoing PKM practices and other projects. I realized that I could complete the report in a few hours, by curating my own blog posts, social bookmarks, and other resources I had. Someone relatively new to the field of workplace learning, the subject of research, would have taken much longer and possibly more than one week to produce something similar. I accepted the work, under the condition that I not be paid by the hour. Why should I have been paid $120 for high quality work that would earn a less experienced person $1,600? Time at work is an antiquated concept.

You are not a ‘Human Resource’ and you do not have an ‘hourly rate’
(repeat as necessary).

I know that it is often the easiest route to just agree to an hourly rate when it comes to securing contracts. But can you really equate an hour of my time with yours? Does it matter? What matters is what is produced.

Instead of agreeing to an hourly, or daily, rate, start by asking a few questions:

  • What does the client want to achieve?
  • How will the client know it has been achieved? What are the indicators?
  • What is the smallest thing that needs to be settled first?
  • Is this something I can do for the client?
  • How much is that worth?
  • Does the client care how long it takes? Then set a deadline.
  • If I take longer, will the client pay me more? [probably not] Then why would the client want to pay by the hour?

Hourly rates only help to put you into a pigeon hole so that HR and Purchasing can easily classify you. You are not a pigeon.

 

How to read people instantly by asking just one simple question

You’re in the break room with a new coworker you don’t know very well, and that person strikes up a conversation. You’re a little guarded, and on top of that, you’re an introvert. Is this someone you can trust enough to want to build a connection? How can you tell?

As it turns out, science has got your back. You can find out plenty about a person with one magic question with the power of a Vulcan mind meld. But before I give it to you, here’s some quick background on the research.

“Your perceptions of others reveal so much about your own personality. Seeing others positively reveals our own positive traits,” says Dr. Wood, lead author of the study.

The study also found that how positively you see other people shows how satisfied you are with your own life, and how much you are liked by others. Now I’m itching to give you the magic question for that new coworker in the break room you’re not sure about, but bear with me.

On the flip side, if someone’s tendency is to speak and describe others in negative terms (even if the person being described does have negative traits), it’s a bigger tip off that the person you’re speaking with will have higher levels of narcissism and antisocial behaviour.

The magic question?

It is all very simple: Asking that new coworker in the break room you’re not sure about what he or she thinks about someone else…  reveals much about his or her own personality. The reason? People tend to see more of their own qualities in others.

Now that you’ve got your secret weapon, lets get back to the break room scene with that new coworker. Your question should sound something like this: “So tell me, how are you liking it here so far?” Followed by, “How do you like working with [coworker/boss name]?”

 


You’ll find the study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2010. Article by Marcel Schwantes @ inc.com

Too fast to think

Our lives are getting faster and faster

Wouldn’t you agree?

We are engulfed in constant distraction from email, social media and our ‘always on’ work culture. We are too busy, too overloaded with information and too focused on analytical left-brain thinking processes to be creative.

This inspiring book, Too Fast to Think, exposes how our current work practices, media culture and education systems are detrimental to innovation. The speed and noise of modern life is undermining the clarity and quiet that is essential to power individual thought.

Our best ideas are often generated when we are free to think diffusely, in an uninterrupted environment, which is why moments of inspiration so often occur in places completely separate to our offices.

To reclaim creativity, Too Fast to Think teaches you how to retrain your brain into allowing creative ideas to emerge, before they are shut down by interruption, distraction or the self-doubt of your over-rational brain.

This is essential reading for anyone who wants to maximize their creative potential, as well as that of their team. Supported by cutting-edge research from the University of the Arts London and insightful interviews with business leaders, academics, artists, politicians and psychologists, Chris Lewis takes a holistic approach to explain the 8 crucial traits that are inherently linked to creation and innovation.

From artists to a military officer and clergyman, while researching Too Fast To Think Chris asked a range of people the same question: where are you and what are you doing when you get your best ideas? “The response was striking,” he says. “They all said that they were not at work, always alone and not trying.”