Everybody has heard of the fact that, “a first impression lasts for 7 seconds” or “you can’t re-do a first impression”. Although I don’t take these kinds of statements too seriously, as a millennial about to go into the professional business world, I do know that first impressions have a lot of influence. Many millennialswill agree that it is important to always put your best foot forward; in your work and in your self presentation. I think that is because we are beginning to witness the importance of networking and connections as we start our job-searches for post-college life. One thing I have recently learned that I wish to share with you all is the power of design. It’s incredible what a few strategic moves can do to change the entire visual of a document, and thus, establishing a (hopefully positive) first impression for the reader before they even get into the content. As a follow up to last weeks’ post, this post is going to dive further into the use and effectiveness of user-centered design and how we as millennials can up our writing game.
As a brief review, user-centered design is basically knowing who you are writing to. You can think about it this way: the user should be the center from which you create your writing piece. Keeping the audience in mind from the beginning is imperative for strong, effective workplace writing. It not only helps define the tone of your piece, but you can tailor the design of your document or presentation around what your audience will connect to the most. This article from Boxes and Arrows, a design website is a little dated, but still very applicable to us millennials. The author lists a few simple steps to stick to when writing a document while keeping the audience in mind. Starting with, you guessed it, knowing your audience. By knowing who your audience is you can identify their needs, your needs for writing to them, and connection that can seamlessly bridge the two together. This quote from the article really stuck with me, “One effective way to help people learn and understand these concepts is to present them as narratives: Instead of thinking of your document as simply a well-organized collection of specifications, descriptions, illustrations, and diagrams, try telling a story”. This is a great way to have the tone of your piece speak out in more than just the use of words. If you can create a document that has figures and diagrams that flow with the natural eye, you’re essentially telling a story and connecting visually with your reader.
This PDF from a marketing Communications and graphic design company had very interesting design strategies more geared toward typology and how your words look on the page. With tips like, don’t be afraid of white space and don’t use more than 3 fonts in a document. But there were other interesting rules that I never thought about which really can be effective when brought to mind. Such as watching out for “widow and orphan words”. When you’re writing and one word just happens to be all alone on the last line – that’s a widow. And an orphan is essentially the same thing, just at the top of a page. And did you know there are different types of hyphens? And a right and wrong time to use them? There are so many helpful tips like that within this. Seriously take four minutes to skim; you won’t be sorry.
Lastly, to put the cherry on top of any design questions you encounter from here-on-out, here’s a handy website from Gonzaga University that has basic formatting and organization rules for any and all types of business documents. Tips and templates for formatting e-mails, memorandums, letters, documents and more. As young adults, we know that the internet can help us with almost anything. As we enter the working world sooner or later, (more like sooner in our case), we have all the tools needed to be strong, influential worker-bees. So let’s get out there, write and design some awesome professional documents, and prove those millennial stereotypes wrong.