Dan’s blog ‘Online is the way forward’ examined the impact of technology on sales and employee incentive programmes and the growing trend for them to be run online. Before I briefly consider the effect George Michael has had on graphic design, if you are a part-time designer there are a few tips I want to share to help you engage your staff through your online employee engagement programme simply by making the best use of typography:
1) Make it easy. Don’t expect everyone to read everything you’ve put on the page; it could be the best content ever written, but if it looks like a typewriter has thrown up it will be ignored! Make the layout clear so when they log in to the site, they don’t need to be told what to do. Get rid of the text that tells them to hit the ‘submit’ button when they’ve finished. If the site is designed properly, it should be obvious. After a few trips to the site that introductory text becomes a chore to read and people will then just avoid it.
2) The devil is in the detail. Out of all the members of the Star Trek enterprise, Captain Kirk would have been the best graphic designer, for he knew space was the final frontier (bah-bum-chh!). There are three very important tools in the graphic designer’s box of magic: kerning, leading and phaser guns set to stun. Ok, well, one of those is a lie. But kerning is essential – it’s the space between the letters. Like the class geek back at school that sat a little further away from all the other, cooler kids, sometimes letters do the same thing. What’s the problem? Well, generally in amongst lots of text – nothing - you’ll get away with it. But when you write a title, the little gaps look more obvious, they stand out, like the geek at school, they feel awkward and end up becoming a graphic designer writing blogs for fun… no hold on, what will actually happen is it will just look a little careless. You’re the employer so you need to give the impression you haven’t just rushed to set up your incentive programme. Take time to get the details right.
3) Leading is the other essential tool in the graphic designer’s tool kit. More commonly known in the coding world as ‘line height’, it is, simply, the space between each line of text. This is the most important tool you’ll find in typography. Don’t just use the automatic setting. Many people believe that simply increasing the size of the text will aid readability – it won’t. If you increase the size of text, the amount of space around it gets reduced and you’ll get a headache reading it. The first thing you should do is increase your leading, or line height. All of a sudden your text will look clearer, letters become distinguishable from the others and, more importantly, when you come to the end of a sentence and your eyes track back to the start of the next it’ll be much easier to find. Visual bliss! Your employee can concentrate on what’s being said rather than concentrating on the letters or joining up the sentences. Equally with small lone paragraphs, close up the leading –I like to think of the words as penguins huddled together keeping warm.
4) Bite sized is best. Columns are a brilliant way to make the text easier to read and look like small bite size chunks of easily digestible text. They work wonders when you have lots of content. Newspapers use this trick excellently. Equally, in the same amount of space you can fit in perhaps an extra twenty five percent more than you would in a normal single column layout. I don’t know how, it’s just magic.
5) Wham! There are countless other techniques to help you communicate with your employees more effectively through the use of typography, like choosing the right font, but by now the world should know Comic Sans is a no-no designed by Beelzebub himself. At the risk of already disobeying rule one I’ll finish on one last point about gradients: don’t use them in text unless you know what you’re doing! If you don’t know what you’re doing, they’ll look like a tie-dyed shirt a member of Wham wore in the 80s - I shouldn’t need to tell you this is not cool. If I do then you need to wake up… before you go-go. Ahem.
Jack is Head of Design at Corporate Rewards and has a wealth of knowledge. Comments are welcomed on all blogs.