Desktop Publishing

Getting Their Attention

In today's media-intensive culture, people often decide that reading an ad, brochure, or newsletter is not worth their time, so even if your publication is important, it may end up in the wastebasket. An unusual design, however, can spark their interest. Even the most sophisticated readers get bored with staid designs.

Bottom line: grab their attention first, and then keep them reading.

Jan V. White, author of Editing by Design: A Guide to Effective Word-and-Picture Communication for Editors and Designers, says that readers often look through magazines from back to front (and newsletters are specialized magazines), so you should use a hook to capture people's attention.

A hook is anything that contrasts against the uniformity of the text such as a photo, graphic, masthead, or a pull-quote hanging in a column of white space. Everything from the text to the paper it's printed on affects whether or not your publication is read with interest, so be creative.

We just have one word of caution. Readability. An effective page layout improves reader comprehension, so you have to balance the imaginative elements with the functional elements. In other words, a splashy graphic laid out at an unexpected angle is eye-catching, but three columns of centered text is a nuisance.

Good page design balances function with form, consistency with contrast, and places successful communication with the reader above all other considerations. Think of layout as a jigsaw puzzle. Every piece fits together to make the whole.

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