No matter the format, all text should work, both as a standalone element and in terms of the overall design around it.


Even in this age of algorithms, SEO and keyword research, text that hasn’t been written with consideration for the human audience in mind is a failure. Text always represents the organisation behind it and needs to be considered a key contact point between brand and audience. Which is why we’d go even further and say that all copy should be designed to be read too. Well written copy is all well and good, but if it hasn’t been designed with the user in mind, then it doesn’t even get past the first hurdle.


Designing text is an important aspect of the designers job, both in terms of how it fits into the design around it (macro typography) and how readable the words are themselves, the micro typography.


Here are our top tips for designing text that is easy to read (no matter the format):


A wall of text is rarely a good idea. Unless you are writing a thesis, or a broadsheet typesetter (and even they are succumbing to internet reading habits), you should take care to know that non-scannable texts are intimidating and likely to put off all but the most committed of readers. We’d say that most text should be designed as if for online now, using techniques that make it easy to scan and draw readers in. Using bullet points, short paragraphs and avoiding erudite vernacular utilized irrespective of necessity are good places to start. Good layout guides the eye to the pertinent parts of the page and reduces the chance of the reader disappearing without having found what they came looking for.


Design should influence the way you write and a good designer can help her copywriter by pointing out that sticking, where possible, to one sentence will increase the impact of the message behind the design as a whole. English Lit. instructors might preach a paragraph with around three to five sentences, but for many advertising contexts, one purposeful sentence will do just fine. No design element should take precedence, and that includes the copy, no matter how precious the copywriter (present company excepted naturally).


On the same note, write your copy according to good user experience design principles. This isn’t just a keyword/online thing, but an important part of the way we scan almost all text now. Start blocks of text, paragraphs and subheadings with important, information rich words. This will give your copy a better chance of delivering its key messages and maybe even being read all the way through.


Text needs to fit into the hierarchy of the overall design, but a great deal of care needs to be given to how readable the text is itself. The micro typography considers the typefaces, size and spacing you can use to make the text, the design, and the message behind it, inherently more legible.


Do we need to say that, regardless of format, the colour of the text should be radically different from the background? People get upset about this so make sure your text is legible wherever it’ll be used. Conversely, also avoid using too much colour. Neon and rainbow colours will get you noticed but likely not read (or taken seriously) as they make for a harsh and invasive environment.


By Oliver Brown