Design elements should help your content stand out. Good design and layout organizes and emphasizes your content. So, how do you make choices about what design and layout elements will effectively organize your important points? Following are a few suggestions to help you get started.
· Choose one or two complementary colors to use in heading text and to highlight key pieces of information, such as shading table cells or bordering a paragraph. Adding small details—for example, using one of your highlight colors for bullets or numbering (not the paragraph text, just the bullet or number)—can help lend organization and style to the page without overpowering the content.
· Use basic formatting, such as a border beneath top-level heading text or a left indent on body content, to help organize the page. Highlight colors, discussed in the preceding bullet point, can also help to organize the page when used for elements such as heading text and borders.
· Use graphics only when they help convey information more effectively. A picture is only worth 10,000 words if it conveys the particular 10,000 words that matter. For example, a chart of key data, a relationship or process diagram, or an image that demonstrates a core concept can convey much more than text. But using a piece of clip art just for the sake of adding an image to the page doesn’t emphasize your content—it detracts from it.
· Similarly, avoid graphics that talk down to recipients, such as block arrows on the page that do nothing but point to pieces of content. If the recipient doesn’t know how to read a document without those cues, creating the document is a waste of your time.
Program-Specific Layout Considerations
In addition to the preceding recommendations, keep in mind the following essential layout considerations for document-creation application like MS office.
· When working in Word, remember that tables are natural organizers. When you need a complex layout, it’s essential to keep it organized, or your important information is likely to get lost in the confusion. Using a table to lay out the page can help you do that with far less work and far better results than fussing with text columns or floating graphics.
· When working in PowerPoint, remember that the slide master and slide layouts exist to save you time and help keep your slides looking consistent. Slide layouts in PowerPoint 2010 and PowerPoint 2011 are customizable (functionality introduced in the previous versions of PowerPoint for both Windows and Mac), so you can alter layouts as needed to fit your branding or your particular document. You can even create your own layouts and copy them among presentations, templates, and themes.
· When working in Excel, remember that the document looks like a grid for a reason—it’s a spreadsheet. You can create beautiful layouts simply by placing a chart or PivotTable beside or beneath a table. But when you start adding tons of tiny columns everywhere to fudge a complex layout, or splitting and merging cells so that the grid is all but unrecognizable, the sheet will be difficult to manage for both you and the recipient and you’ll lose or complicate a fair amount of the most commonly used Excel features.