Design, Maslen on Marketing

(Type) size matters

You’ve paid good money to a copywriter to craft a persuasive narrative about your product. Now you need the message packaged in a form that will interest your customers, moving them to the point of response.

In the case of printed matter, this will involve a designer. It’s their job to reflect the form and dynamics of the copy in visual terms. And to allow the information to reach the reader’s brain with the minimum impediment.

How puzzling, then, to observe how many designers strive to achieve the exact opposite. They place as many obstacles in the way of legibility and comprehension as their vanity and advanced technology can devise.

(Even more puzzling: designers who do this still get paid.)

How some designers reduce your sales

There are many tried and tested methods for a designer to sabotage the information transfer process.

Each one of them could jeopardise your chances of a positive reader response. Here are three:

  1. graphics running behind type, impairing legibility
  2. low contrast between type colour and background, turning reading into a search for peppermints in snow
  3. text split illogically over columns or even pages, destroying the rhythm and structure of the writing.

But one of the most common barriers to communication is also one of the most incomprehensible: type set too small to be read with ease.

Pretty basic, isn’t it?

No credibility without legibility

Set your type in a size that can be read comfortably by a normal human being.

Without optical pain, and without having to get so close to the page as to suggest an improper obsession with printed paper.

Yet it’s surprising how many designers don’t seem to have grasped this most fundamental of principles.

I have even seen the main body copy for a brochure set in a 6-point light sans serif type. 6-point type is for footnotes. Viewed in less than ideal lighting conditions by, say, a 35-year old, it’s verging on the invisible.

Take a leisurely look at your fellow humans. Observe how many of them are beyond the first flush of youth and 20-20 vision, and how many of them wear glasses or use contact lenses.

A lot of these ageing, sentient beings are your customers. They lead busy lives. They have better things to do than wriggling through visual obstacles to reach your sales message.

Like a person waiting for an interminable logo animation to open a website, they will simply log out.

So make sure the designer you use appreciates the importance of type size.

In conclusion…

Legibility varies enormously according to font, weight, and line spacing. But as a rule of thumb aim for 9- or 10-point as a minimum size for your main copy. And if it doesn’t fit? Use a more condensed typeface. Edit the copy. Change the format.

Type size does matter. And if the customer can read your message without even being aware of the type size, then it’s the right size.

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