Text and design need to work together

It’s one of the most common bits of advice for writers and designers: make sure that the writer’s words and the designer’s design work well together.

Writers/editors and graphic designers can’t work in isolation from each other. They need to collaborate to ensure that the writer’s words make sense with the designer’s layout.

This particularly seems to apply to headings. The example below appeared in my local newspaper this week.

I guess that the writer has written a complete sentence: ‘Join us for a night of comedy as The Brook Hotel presents Faulty Towers the Dining Experience’.

But the designer has imagined a layout with a banner at the top and the most important text (the name of the event) in the centre.

So we end up with a banner that doesn’t make sense: ‘Join us for a night of comedy as The Brook Hotel’.

The trouble with this design is that the text only works if readers adopt one reading order: banner first, centred text next.

Readers are likely to read the centred text first (‘Faulty Towers the Dining Experience’) – which works fine by itself. But then their eyes are likely to shift up to the banner at the top, and the line of text simply doesn’t make sense by itself.

I’m left with a great desire to make two changes: (1) replace ‘as The Brook Hotel’ into ‘at The Brook Hotel’ and (2) remove ‘presents’. All would be solved.

The lesson here is that layout creates sentences and sentences fragments, event when they are not punctuated as such and even when the writer didn’t intend them to be there.