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21.3: How You Can Apply These Design Principles

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    Incorporating design principles into a publication has an immediate and compelling effect. Even text-heavy documents, such as academic papers or resumes, become more appealing and comprehensible with even minor restructuring.

    The example in Fig. 1 shows an unformatted resume. The lack of repetition, contrast, alignment, and proximity make the document unattractive as well as difficult to follow. There is no way to easily distinguish important information, like the applicant’s name and contact information. Sections run together, and no key ideas are clear.

    Fig. 2 shows the same content using the previously discussed design elements. The document is more visually appealing as well as being easier to review. Each individual design principle is involved, and their combination leads to a stronger design.

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    Fig. 1. An unformatted resume.


    Repetition is shown through the consistent emphasis and text used in the various sections of the resume. There is contrast between the size of the author’s name and the contact information, clearly highlighting the most significant information. School and business names shown in bold create strong contrast within lines of text. Text is firmly and consistently aligned. Text is easy to read from the left justification, and the author’s name is highlighted as the only centered text on the page. Proximity makes finding information simple, as section headings are placed directly above their supporting information.

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    Fig. 2. A formatted resume.


    The Basics of Style Guides

    Style guides are collections of conventions on everything from word choice to format gathered into one place and used in writing. Their primary purpose is to ensure that all documents in a given environment adhere to a certain look and consistent use of language, but they serve a much broader purpose.

    Style guides eliminate the guesswork in areas of writing that have multiple options. For example, both advisor and adviser are accurate spellings of a word; a style guide specifies which instance is preferred for the document you are writing. Style guides assure consistency in an organization’s publications, such as placing the titles and page numbers in the same area of the page for all documents. Finally, they make reading and comprehension easier for the audience by presenting similar information in similar ways. Readers who want to view the source material you’ve used in a paper, for example, will refer to your list of authors and publications. The format and even the title of this section will vary depending on the style guide you’ve chosen. The “Works Cited” or “Reference” pages provide the information on all referenced documents in a presentation different from the main text, making it easy to identify.

    Most academic disciplines follow a style guide. In addition, many companies and academic institutions establish their own style guides to supplement established style guides. In most writing courses, as well as other courses in the humanities, we use the Modern Language Association (MLA) style.



    21.3: How You Can Apply These Design Principles is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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