I like Microsoft Word. It’s bloated, but it’s a good word processor. If I were creating paper documents all day, I’d be happy with it. There’s just one thing I can’t forgive it for.
Word actively dumbs down the design sensibilities of those who use it. Word makes it frighteningly easy for the casual business user to create bad documents. For example, Word ships with that memo template with “MEMO” in huge letters, as if “Memo” is the most important thing for the reader to see first.
The most annoying Wordism that gets out, though, is the randomly-aligned, too-small, all caps, Times New Roman sign. Here’s a photo from CNN.com, showing a perfect example of this design troll. There’s an important message to be conveyed: The park is closed because of increased security. I imagine someone called down from on high saying “We need a sign to tell people the park is closed. Bob, can’t you do that in Word or something?” Why didn’t Bob just get a black magic marker and write it out? It would certainly be more visible from a distance.
With just a few small changes, the sign could be a good deal more useful:
- Turn off the capitals. They make things harder to read.
- Put some whitespace between “Park Closed” and “Due To Increased Security”. In fact, drop “Due To”.
- Use a strong sans serif font. Word comes with Impact, which would be fine for this.
- Use more of the paper. Why is there all that whitespace? Be sure to decrease the margins to 0.25 all around, so that you have more real estate to work with.
- Increase the font size. You’re not limited to the 24, 36, 48, 72 that are in the drop-down box. It’s a combo box, so if 28 lets you fill up more of the paper, then use it.
- Look at using landscape mode instead of portrait. It probably makes more sense for two two-word phrases.
If I could hand out copies of
Robin Williams‘ marvelous
The Non-Designer’s Design Book, which just came out in a 2nd edition, I would. With a cover price of only $20, it’s one of the best buys in the computer industry today. It should be required reading for anyone who creates documents of any kind.