Collect as many newspapers, newsletters, magazines and brochures as you can. Start by going through them and dividing them into the ones that immediately look easy to read and those that don’t. Is this due to the typefaces used, the way the type is laid out – the number of words per line and the column width, or its alignment?
Work out from your examples what the designers have done to make things more legible and readable.
Examples of Printed Material Which is Difficult to Read
Craft & Design Fair Flier
There isn’t much text on this flier but I find the whole page quite difficult to make sense of. I find the mix of colours quite jarring. The image styles are also incongruous, mixing an illustration with two photographs – these two styles do not work together and for one image I can’t tell what it is (a table top?).
The mix of colours of the fonts also doesn’t work for me. I am also questioning why just the words ‘Christmas Contemporary’ are in a serif font. The text on this flier is printed small and is cramped into the bottom of the page, with all points running one after the next. For me, the design of this flier is so chaotic and jumbled that I don’t have the energy to read the text.
The front cover of this restaurant takeaway menu is too busy with too much information crammed onto it. There is some consistency with most of the text being in different weights of the same font but the different colours, font weights and sizes, images and decorative backgrounds all make the page look too busy. Information is broken up over a series of centre justified lines but I think the lines of text are too close to each other. I find that my eyes wander over this page without actually taking anything in.
Veterinary Financial Information Page
This document provides a lot of quite technical information. Text is broken up with bold headings and bullet points, and the most important information is in red which makes it stand out. My main difficulty with this document is that the text is too small. This combined with the fact that the paragraphs are quite long just make this document feel like a chore to read. It doesn’t help that I know that financial information is already going to be a dry read.
Fortnum and Mason Christmas Flier
The main message on this flier is illegible!It is printed in reflective gold foil and the very cursive typeface used is printed directly over a really busy background illustration. Its a beautiful document but it would have been better without the ‘Together we’re merrier’ (or is that ‘terrier’?) printed on it.
Examples of Printed Material That is Easy to Read
Financial Marketing Brochure
There is a lot of text on this page, the subject matter is quite dry and the body text font size is very small but, despite that, I do find this document quite legible. Even though there is a lot of text, it is broken up into short paragraphs with a generous line break between them. The information is broken up into sections with bold headings and the text is further broken up into three columns, so the lines of text are quite short. This all makes the text much less daunting to read. Only two typefaces are used and the colours on the page are a harmonious dark and light blue and shades of grey so that the graphics don’t distract.
Craft Fair Flier
The key informaton on this flier is printed in large font sizes and is centre justified. There are only two images on this page which are quite large but they are positioned symetrically which makes the design feel balanced. There are quite a few colours being used but they work well together and more importantly, there is a logic to their use. The two events on this flier are being differentiated by the use of colour with one in gold and one in purple. Because the colours are harmonious and the layout balanced, I am much more inclined to read the text.. I didn’t even notice the single use of the serif font at the top of the page!
Waitrose Magazine Article
Interestingly, I find it is the image here which is really contributing to the legibility of this article! I like the illustration and am intrigued by it which is making me want to invest the effort into reading the article.
There is quite a lot of small sized text on this page but text only fills the bottom third of the page. The text is split into short paragraphs, there is no line break between them but the first line of each paragraph is indented. The text is further split over two columns making it more manageable. Key pieces of information in the text are in bold.
The title of the article is printed in a large font and is easier to read, and serves as a good introduction to the text. The line drawing, white space and tiny hints of colour give this page a calm and balanced feel.
Based on my analysis of various documents, text on a page is more likely to be legible if:
Text does not require effort to read. It is not an issue if the text size is small but breaking the text up into short paragraphs which are easily discernible and splitting larger blocks of body text across columns, so that the length of the line that the eye needs to scan is shorter, all help .
Images add to rather than distract from the text. I am more likely to invest the effort into reading text if I am not being distracted by confusing images with jarring colours. It also helps if the image placement on the page is balanced.
White space is used to allow text to ‘breathe’. Rather than cram text onto a page, text is more readable if it is broken up and de-cluttered with white space.
There is a logic or harmony to the use of typefaces and fonts. I was more comfortable reading documents where the use of fonts had a clear purpose, such as a sans serif font for headings and a serif font for body text. More chaotic or unstructured use of type was confusing and more challenging to read.
Text is not overlaid on a busy background. Text on plain backgrounds (with good contrast between the background and the text colours) was easier to read.