My name is Stephanie Evergreen and I work both at The Evaluation Center and at Evergreen Evaluation, LLC. Why am I talking to a group of evaluators about graphic design? What we don’t know can kill our message:
Hot tip: Remember when Office 2007 reduced the default font size from 12 point to 11 point and we all thought that was too small? Well, as it turns out, 12 point font sizes tend to look too big and cartoonish on the printed page. So Office reduced the size, knowing how often we hit the “Print” button. Graphic designers would actually say that between 9 and 11 point font sizes are best for reading evaluation reports. For Web-based dissemination, you can comfortably go a little larger. You wouldn’t want your report to appear comical because of your choices in font.
Hot tip: Speaking of screen readability over print, differences also exist between fonts that can impair readability. Have you ever opened an attachment only to wonder whether the sender had consumed her requisite coffee for the morning because the text is wacky? Fonts don’t always translate across computers. Safe picks for screen reading are Verdana and Georgia. Helvetica and Times Roman are also quite likely to be on most computers and they were designed to be read on the printed page. Pick one or two fonts and keep them consistent across all of your evaluation work with a single client.
Hot tip: Fully justified text looks crisp, professional, and formal, if proper attention can be given to ensure wide gaps don’t appear on certain lines. Left justified text creates a more informal flow, but it is easier to read. Which do you want to communicate to your client? (Hint: Right or center justified text is difficult to read so use it sparingly only for headers or titles of reports.)
Hot tip: Graphic designers tend to disparage bullets as a way to establish emphasis in a written report. Try to highlight your evaluation’s main points with an indent, font change, alignment difference, bold, italic, or even symbols (NOT webdings. Sorry.). Just don’t overdo it. At most, pick two ways of highlighting to combine (i.e., italic indent) and be consistent about it in all of your communications with one client.
Rad Resource: I borrowed these ideas from Ellen Lupton’s (2004) totally awesome, totally accessible book, Thinking With Type. Her website, thinkingwithtype, has visual examples and games to underscore the Hot Tips I listed here, plus lots of others (like how we MUST stop putting two spaces between our sentences).
Want to hear more from Stephanie on Graphic Design for Evaluators? Sign up for her AEA Coffee Break Demonstration Webinar to be held on Thursday, July 22. Learn more on AEA’s CBD page.