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Document design resources

For those of you who need to think about document design as part of your final projects (and really, this is all of you) Here are a couple of quick resources. I’ll be happy to have further discussion about these issues with you, either one on one or in small groups in studio over the next couple of weeks.

This is a web article I like about visual hierarchy. It focuses on screen design, but it’s discussion of how we read in in the Western world (from top to bottom, left to right) and how those reading patterns effect how we should design documents is useful. It describes some design layouts that break up text and help you to think about how to use headings, alignment, typography and whitespace effectively to increase readability.

Keep in mind the peer review exercise we did where I asked you to scan memos. Good document design takes seriously the 3 sec/30 sec/3 min rule.

The other resource that might be useful is a Powerpoint I borrowed from another instructor on effective resume design. All of the principles outlined in this presentation apply, not just to resume design, but to designing easily scannable professional documents across genres.

The CRAP design principles (contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity) are useful for most kinds of visual design.

Finally, I’ll recommend a design book I like. It’s been a staple of graphic design teaching that is in its 4th edition. The Non-designer’s Design Book by Robin Williams is an inexpensive, useful primer. There’s a copy in the library, and I have one I’ll bring to studio time this week.



I am a PhD student in Rhetoric and Composition and Purdue University. I currently teach first year composition. My research interests include threshold concepts in composition, invention strategies, service-learning, community engagement, and professional and technical writing.

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