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Author Topic: A design and layout question  (Read 1258 times)
Matt Wilson
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« on: June 03, 2003, 08:54:17 AM »

Okay, since this forum says it's also for discussing design and layout, I've got a question in that department.

I'm aiming for something that's going to be downloadable, so I want it to be printer friendly and page efficient. But I don't want it to be too austere. Got any ideas about snazzing up a page without sacrificing readability or taxing the printer too much?
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2003, 09:14:23 AM »

Quote from: Matt Wilson
Okay, since this forum says it's also for discussing design and layout, I've got a question in that department.


Glad you're asking; I wish folks would inquire more here and elsewhere regarding layout issues.

Quote

I'm aiming for something that's going to be downloadable, so I want it to be printer friendly and page efficient. But I don't want it to be too austere. Got any ideas about snazzing up a page without sacrificing readability or taxing the printer too much?


Sure, lots! I would love to hear some more specifics about what you're working on so I might be able to offer some relevant suggestions. But, I'll offer up these general tips, and hopefully you'll find something useful here.

Lets start with type. Typography can really enliven a document. The problem is that utilizing typography well is more art than science, and people often have a fairly limited palette from which to work. The kicker is that typography will also be a huge determinant of readability. Choosing kewl fonts is not going to help make a readable document. The great thing about type is that it renders beautifully, and requires very little from your printer and/or download file size. After all, you've got to have the type there anyway, right?!?

Next, artwork. I don't know if you have any artwork. You certainly don't NEED artwork for an attractive, usable layout, but it often is a wonderful component. I find that line art (which means black only, no grays) works great for PDFs. Done well, it looks great. And, it requires very little memory as compared to grayscale image, or especially color images.

Somewhere between "artwork" and "layout" is a kind of page design element that can really help pages work well. As an example, I have a flat black barb-wire border at the top of the Dust Devils docment. This is a really simple-but-evocative piece I created in Adobe Illustrator. Similar elements -- interesting chapter intro pieces, elaborate "rules" that separate sections, or other marginalia for example -- can really help make your layout look great. These aren't always easy to create, but you do not need to be an artist or illustrator in many cases, either.

I've mentioned this in the last day or so elsewhere, but one key design tool / technique is elegant use of white or "negative" space. I often see layouts crammed together with little care about letting the text "breathe". White space can be a really effective weapon in making your downloadable product 1) slim and trim and 2) look really elegant and engaging. If you have any doubts about white space, compare Nobilis to .. . well, lots of stuff. James Wallis did a really bang-up job there.

On resolution: I find that 150 dpi (dots per inch) resolution works best for PDFs. I used to do them at 300 dpi, in hopes that folks would be printing the documents out on nice printers. But, this high-resolution quality really isn't necessary. 150 dpi still produces quite nice resolution in most "normal" printers. I prefer not to ever do 72 dpi resolution in PDFs, because my experience is that it does not do print-outs justice. It is fine for screen-only PDFs, though.

Finally, lots of this stuff just takes experience and some know-how. I'm always happy to offer up some more specific suggestions (with a bit more info., of course), and I can always take a peek at something to offer a critique.
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Matt Snyder
www.chimera.info

"The future ain't what it used to be."
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Matt Wilson
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 1121

student, second edition


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« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2003, 09:32:53 AM »

Quote from: The other Matt
Sure, lots! I would love to hear some more specifics about what you're working on so I might be able to offer some relevant suggestions.


I'm thinking about doing a print version at some point, but this will be a downloadable pdf. You can check out a game blurb here: http://www.parasitegames.com/primetime.html.

With some quick mockup layout, it's clocking in at a little over 30 pages. But the art I end up with will affect that a bit.

Quote from: The other Matt
Lets start with type. Typography can really enliven a document. The problem is that utilizing typography well is more art than science, and people often have a fairly limited palette from which to work. The kicker is that typography will also be a huge determinant of readability. Choosing kewl fonts is not going to help make a readable document. The great thing about type is that it renders beautifully, and requires very little from your printer and/or download file size. After all, you've got to have the type there anyway, right?!?


Type I gots. I've got xp in doc layout, but of the un-snazzy sort. I loves me my fonts. For reference, you can check out a mockup layout here: http://games.itsmrwilson.com/practice-layout-screen.pdf. The logo is all messed up, but I didn't have another image handy here at work.

I think it's clean and readable. Just a little dull.

Quote from: The other Matt
Somewhere between "artwork" and "layout" is a kind of page design element that can really help pages work well. As an example, I have a flat black barb-wire border at the top of the Dust Devils docment. This is a really simple-but-evocative piece I created in Adobe Illustrator. Similar elements -- interesting chapter intro pieces, elaborate "rules" that separate sections, or other marginalia for example -- can really help make your layout look great. These aren't always easy to create, but you do not need to be an artist or illustrator in many cases, either.


Yeah, that's where I'm lacking. I can't draw to save my life. My gf made the little tv on the web page, and I've considered adding in something like that.

I will have some kind of art by the time it's done. Not sure what, though.

And thanks for the dpi tip. I'll try that out.
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