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  • Michael Brady

When helping is not helping

Updated: Feb 24, 2023

It’s okay to think like a designer, but it’s really not necessary for you, the client, to do “helpful” things like styling the text in the word-processing document, putting text in boxes, applying color or other effects to the type, and the like. In fact, ultimately this does not help. It just costs time and effort—yours when you do it and the designer’s when he or she undoes it.



But there are a few things you can do that the designer will keep. Type the text, properly capitalize it, proofread it, and italicize what needs to be italic.


The designer will discard or change almost every other thing in your file, including:


Typeface and size

Underlined text

All caps in subheads (but not acronyms)

Boldface in subheads

Multiple tab spaces in text and tables

Superscript ordinals (-st, -nd, -rd, -th)

Double spaces after a sentence period

Boxes around text

Tab spaces used to indent paragraphs

Blank lines to position text on the page


Designers use professional design software that controls every aspect of type and layout. There is very little you can do in a word-processing program to prepare the text for the designer, unless you are willing to learn an entire set of new skills for preparing text, including such things as coding and tagging. This is probably not a feasible expectation, so it’s better for you not to try to help the designer in this way.


From Thinking Like a Designer, pp. 12–13. © 2009 by Michael Brady


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