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Desktop Publishing Tips and Principles of Design Basics

written by: Haley Montgomery•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 2/26/2010

This article series offers tips and easy-to-implement practices for applying design principles in desktop publishing. Read on for five key questions to ask before beginning a DTP project and five graphic design tools to utilize for more effective DTP solutions for successful projects.

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    Five Design Questions to Ask Before Beginning a DTP Project

    Consider these five questions when applying design principles in desktop publishing projects:

    What is the DTP project designed to do?

    What is the project designed to communicate?

    What format will best communicate the project's message?

    What design constraints does the project budget impose?

    What design techniques will help the viewer understand the project's message?

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    What is the DTP project designed to do?

    A design solution must accomplish the project goals first and foremost. Will the piece be designed to raise awareness, encourage participation or enlist feedback? Will it market products and services or promote an event? Defining the primary goals of a DTP project gives desktop publishers and designers a framework with which to make key design decisions.

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    What is the project designed to communicate?

    Consider the desktop publishing project's message. What information about the event, products, issues or services will this piece highlight? Having a clear understanding of the target message will affect not only the verbiage in the piece, but also the tone, layout, color, and font choice. A designer can use all these graphic design tools to reinforce the primary message.

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    What format will best communicate the project's message?

    The format of a piece should be designed to make it as accessible as possible to the target audience. Will the piece fold? Will it be mailed? Will it be delivered with companion pieces or promotional products? Will the information need to be presented in a particular order? Take these into consideration when choosing a format and arrangement for your desktop publishing design.

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    What design constraints does the project budget impose?

    Budget is often a designer's least favorite topic, but an essential one. The design and print specifications of a particular design must fall within the designated budget in order to be produced properly. The desktop publishing budget can affect how many colors the design can contain, the paper on which it's produced and the number of copies that are feasible. Obtain printing costs before beginning the design process. It's much easier to add features to a design than it is to scale back once the design is complete.

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    What design techniques will help the viewer understand the project's message?

    Use graphics, fonts, color and spatial arrangements to emphasize the most important aspects of the message. Use repetition of design elements at various scales to reinforce the project's message and brands. Create balance and a hierarchy of information by varying the size of graphic elements and text. Use contrast to differentiate between key concepts.

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    Five Graphic Design Tools:

    Put these five graphic tools to good use when designing a desktop publishing project.

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    Space

    Give the viewer's eye and attention span the opportunity to breathe by reserving white space or solid color areas where possible. Although it's tempting to fill up every inch of the DTP real estate, space will actually provide greater emphasis on the message and enable the viewer to process it more quickly.

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    Fonts

    Choose typefaces that will follow the tone of the project and will enhance the desired look and feel. Limit font usage to two or three in order to maintain design simplicity. Keep readability at the forefront. Don't let font choices impede the viewer from understanding essential information.

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    Color

    Use color as a means of showing emphasis or creating a desired emotional response. Try cool, tertiary colors like blues and greens to convey calmness. Consider classic colors such as navy, maroon or tan to signify longevity and stability. Earth tones can evoke a natural, tactile quality. Color is an effective non-verbal communicator.

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    Illustration and Photography

    Well-chosen illustrations, graphic elements or color and black and white photographs can reinforce verbiage content and offer relief with text-heavy pieces. Repeating elements of an illustration at various scales throughout a design can reinforce the message.

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    Consistency

    Many desktop publishing projects are not used alone, but in conjunction with other pieces to convey a more comprehensive marketing message. Create consistency across multiple pieces for the same event or promotion by using the same fonts, illustrations and colors. Use relevant logos consistently. Consistency increases the power of each individual project's message and helps to keep the information at the top of the viewers mind.

Design Best Practices for Desktop Publishing

Easy to implement design tips that can make your desktop publishing projects more effective.
  1. Desktop Publishing Tips and Principles of Design Basics
  2. Best Practices: Tips for Creating Newspaper Ads
  3. 10 Basic Graphic Design Principles for Tri-Fold Brochures
  4. Best Business Card Design Practices