Bitter Grounds Magazine

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Feb 24, 2021

For want of a good proof-reader – layout tunnel vision

Written by catpaw

September 08, 2017

We’ve all seen posters/signs that make us shake our head and mutter “whoa, what were they thinking”.  It’s usually an amusing typo or a grammatical error that raises our eyebrows. Occasionally it’s the layout that causes us to stop in our tracks and ask “wait, what?” We all lay clangers and, sometimes, we don’t spot them for months. It’s not easy catching your own mistakes, which is why a ruthless proofreader is worth their weight in dark chocolate.

A sign making the rounds on the Internet lately that had me blinking a few times in a bit of disbelief.

A badly designed poster example that appears to advocate abuse, rather than prevention

Proofing isn’t just about catching typos and grammatical errors. It’s also layout and how the product flows. And oh boy, a fresh set of eyes would have caught this before $ were spent.

I’ve made a couple things that looked ok on the monitor but when printed, it became obvious the layout altered the message. I find it endlessly fascinating the difference between design for a monitor or small screen and print. What works for an iPhone may not translate well to a large poster and vice versa. The above sign drives home how tricky even a basic sign can be. Our eyes follow natural paths that can have unintentional consequences. A bad case of designer tunnel vision can blur the message. Everyone involved in the poster design knew what the message was, but didn’t stop to see it through new eyes. Lots of words to incorporate, really want to stress the primary message and not seeing how the words flow.  “We Support” is great – nice use of a friendly font that draws the eye to it. Then the mistake occurs. The focus is on child abuse not prevention. Such an easy mistake to make. Shrinking “child abuse” would have solved the problem. Increase size of “prevention” so it fills the sign, bumping month below to match the other 5 letter words would have created an interesting flow that would have emphasised prevention, which is kind of the point.

I have a folder with signs and posters that should have worked but didn’t for a variety of reasons. I keep them as a teaching tool for myself. I filter through them trying to figure out how a small change would have made a difference. I also have a folder holding what I think are spectacular examples of beautiful layout. I spend quite a bit of time looking at them, trying to figure out what makes them so successful. I have a thing for professional designers. Their work can have a profound impact on how we see the world around us – signs on buildings, posters, movies titles, magazines and books but we’re oblivious to the person(s) who created the work. Most of us flatter ourselves we can whip up a poster in no time because hey we have the software and a computer. But good design is so much more than knowing how to use the software. It’s an eye and feel for the work. It’s knowing how to communicate with an audience. Good design also means good proofreading. You can’t have the first without the second.

 

 

 

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