Being Friendly

Designing from the start

Most people think "design" is something graphic artists do after a publication is written. However in an effective publication the writing itself must be "designed". This means thinking about the readers' attention spans and "learning curves". It also means finding out what the readers' interests, priorities and perceptions are and structuring the publication to represent them.

For instance, your community organisation might think the director's annual address and the financial report are the most important contents of its newsletter. And yet what do your readers really want to know? Gossip and news of course! You don"t have to leave out the director's address - but the surest way to turn off your readers will be to put it on the front page.

People will feel good about using your publication if they feel it is relevant to their needs, can easily grasp its structure and quickly find what they want to know.

The first stage in designing a friendly publication should therefore be working out who the readers are and what they want to know.

Answer these questions.

  • Who are the readers?
  • What is important to them?
  • What are they looking for?
  • What are their expectations?
  • What are their needs?
  • If it's for sale, why should they buy it?

Then put yourself in the readers' place. Ask -

  • What's in it for me?
  • Why should I keep reading?

Note: It's a good idea to be cynical when picturing the reader eg. a computer manual for a manager who has just been told her job is on the line, who is in a hurry to get results and has six other things to do before going home to feed the kids.

© Les Robinson. Published by Social Change Media & Pluto Press Australia Pty Ltd ACN 002 843 601
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