Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Write Arm - Farmed Out

When you can't farm it out, you have to work it

One of the most horrendous things ever to come weasling its way into my ether landed in my inbox last month. It was a one page flyer for a nonprofit event and it was... scary.

It was nothing but text, lines and lines of text in Times New Roman (typeface) 11 point (font), all centered, and a liberal use of CAPS.

I know, huh?!

My fingers itched to take it apart, yet I was repelled at the same time. It was just too awful.

So let's talk about it.

Most of the time, when I want to talk about a flyer, it's usually the graphics I want to discuss - and we'll get to that - but right now I want to talk about how a small nonprofit handles an event flyer when their economics suck too much to be able to hire a graphic artist.

First, you need the basics

You may think you know them, but you'll save yourself a lot of irritation and do-overs if you have in writing and keep nearby for referral:
  • What the event is called (you can always use a placeholder, but be sure and note every place it's used)
  • When (date and time) and where the event is taking place (ditto the remarks above)
  • What it's for (don't just say "to raise money" - raise money for what? Be specific)
  • Who you want to attend (big spenders, grandmothers, general public? This will determine how you word things, graphics, etc.)
Only one person should be in charge of the finished product. You can have 20 reviewers and 50 approvals required (shudder), but only one person should be allowed to touch the file.

Word Processing or Graphics Program?

You may have a kick-ass graphics program at home you use for making posters and scrapbooking, but if no one has it at the office, don't use it. Stick with something everyone has got. That way, if you aren't around, they can still update it or change it. And even if you have a graphics program at the office, if you're the only one who knows how to use it, forget it. If you plan to release the flyer into the wild to be used by other people, create it using something that most everyone else knows how to use, even if it's the stupid slideshow program.

Now, about those pretty display typefaces...

You may have some nifty typefaces installed on your computer (I know I do), but try to resist the urge to use them in favor of more standard typefaces, unless you'll be converting the file to a PDF (a good idea if you're planning a wide distribution). If you use a typeface that others in the office don't have installed on their machines, their version of the software you used will substitute something else and that something else may not fit the same way, let alone look like it. And even if you are converting to a PDF, not all typefaces can be embedded in a PDF, so substitutions can be made and the results may not be pretty. If you don't know what I'm talking about when I mention embedded fonts, then definitely use more standard typefaces.

Now you can start working on the flyer. And even though you can't run wild with creativity, it can still be attractive - which I'll address in next week's post.


Seth Simonds said...


and papyrus.

I see them all the time. They make me want to vomit on my own creative energy and cry for all the readers.

Forgive me, I got caught up in typeface frenzy and got carried away.

Badly formatted fliers simply make me sad. The wild bit is when one tries to help, for free, and the response is "I think it looks quite nice. So and so and so said they really liked it."

And the blind park ranger continues leading the tour.

Robyn McIntyre said...

Your comment wouldn't be so funny if it wasn't true. I used to tell people back in the day that, without training & an artist's eye, page layout software could only make their ads and flyers look ugly faster.