Let’s talk about the intersection of document design and writing.
The appearance (design) of how information is conveyed can either enhance or devalue the validity of the subject matter of a document. Different types of documents have different design requirements. For example, a technical manual that has casual or cartoonish graphics and is written as if two people are having a conversation doesn’t fit the purpose of that type of document. Presenting an executive summary with detailed schematics or photos with step-by-step installation or operation instructions doesn’t make sense, either. An executive summary is just that, a summary—its content should convey a high‑level overview of a project or proposal. Combining the design and the writing of a document so that they are consistent with each other helps the reader to better understand the information that is being presented.
There are times when a heavy subject needs to be handled a bit more casually than its verbiage. If this is the case, be subtle. There may be occasions when a design template cannot be changed, so be sure that you tailor the words so that they fit the audience as well as the formality or informality of the design. Whether you are working on an article, a website, or an operating manual, the tone of your words and the needs of your audience require a connection to the peripheral design work that you should not ignore. For example, an operating procedure for a process in a refinery needs little more than the well‑thought out organization of the text and the logo of the company in the header or footer. The design and writing should be concise, easy to read, and simple.
Website articles or capability statements, on the other hand, can certainly use more color and visual imagery, but the design still needs to fit your topic and should not distract from your words. Don’t put cartoonish clipart images in a presentation on a new workflow process that is meant for your supervisors and colleagues. Do put them in a marketing campaign that is meant to be light hearted. Are you unsure of whether your document design fits the words in your report, manual, or procedure? Let us help by doing a complimentary document assessment.