When did we get so subservient to our new typeset-quality overlords that we have to apologize for anything done by hand? Why do we think that the Times New Roman Bold 24 point medium is more important than a well-written message?
Take a look at this sign from a high school drama department.
At the bottom, an apologetic addendum reads “Sorry for the hand written note… computers are not my friend today.”
Look at that sign. It’s wonderful. Its heading is clear, easily readable, and it catches the eye. The three bullet points are well-formed and thought out. The different colors help the reader differentiate between them.
Why would that sign have been any better if it was laser printed in Word? No clip art, or variety of fonts, or anything that any page layout program could offer, would make things better.
Where computers and printing help is in mass-produced items. Perhaps if this sign’s creator had to create a dozen of them to paste around the school, it might have been a work savings, but it couldn’t improve the quality.
In the World Of Business, there’s no reason to bow down to the God Of Laser Printing, either. In my web development department, we’ve got Gantt charts and task breakdowns and laser-printed output all over the place, and yet I asked my project managers to create this “dashboard” for each project:
That sheet of paper is from a standard 2′x3′ flip chart pad, taped up in our big common area, where everyone can see it from the end of the aisle of cubes. It’s not pretty, but it shows me everything I need to know. Each phase in the project is shown, with a red, yellor or green circle to show its progress. Check marks show what’s been done.
Pen and paper works on the small scale, too. Extreme Programming uses the concept of the “story card”, a 3″x5″ handwritten index card that shows high-level tasks to be done. They’re easily shuffled and reorganized.
Stop assuming that the computer is the way to go!
Step back and consider what your target format is. Is it something you’re mass-producing? Is it something that needs that “professional” look? Maybe you don’t actually the computer to take care of it for you…
(For an earlier blog entry along these lines, see
The Curse Of Designing With Microsoft Word.)
When do you leave the computer behind and take pen to paper?