National EMSC Data Analysis Resource Center
All readers, regardless of your audience, are more likely to read something that is visually appealing than something that is not. No, you don’t have to be a graphic designer to make your document visually appealing. You just need to know a few simple tricks.
Don’t crowd your document with too much text and other stuff. Most people would rather read a four-page document with effective “breathing” space than a jam-packed, text-heavy two-page document.
So keep your margins big, and incorporate other areas of space throughout your document.
There’s nothing worse than
seeing tons of monotonous text. Try to
break text into different sections.
Pull some areas of text into a side-bar –
away from the main body of text.
A great way to break up long areas of text is to to break up the different sections and paragraphs. This will make your document look more interesting, and it will also help people jump around to the sections they are most interested in.
In addition to headings, you can also differentiate different areas of text through font sizes, bold, and italics. These techniques help to draw emphasis to certain areas and provide variety and interest to your document as a whole.
Fonts can also be used to help differentiate text in your document. Just don’t use too many fonts; generally two or three is all you’ll need. A simple rule is to try to use blocky sans serif fonts for headings, such as Arial or Trebuchet, and serif fonts for the areas of lots of text, such as Times New Roman or Garamond (the web is the only exception to this rule - serif fonts are difficult to read on a web page).
Color is one of the greatest ways to add visual appeal to any document. Again, don’t use too many colors or it will look unprofessional. Often just adding one or two colors (besides black) can dramatically spice up your document. If you aren’t able to print in color, you can do a lot with different variations of black-and-white shading.
Pictures can replace a thousand words. It’s really true. Pictures can replace a thousand words. It’s really true. You can try to describe the senseless pain of a sick child, or you can show a picture of the child and the job is done for you. Make sure you use pictures as much as you can. Often you can turn data and even words into pictures, which will make concepts simpler for your audience to understand. Just make sure your pictures help communicate your message and don’t distract your readers from it.
These are just some of the simple, established techniques for turning a boring old document into a visually stimulating one – one that your readers might actually want to read. Which is kind of the idea, right?
How do you know if your document is visually appealing enough? Test it. People are often very happy to share the opinions about visual appeal. You may in fact get more opinions than you want! But certainly, many people will be able to suggest simple techniques you can incorporate to give your document a visual face-lift.